7 13 blog beast

When it comes to customer service, Twitter is the new 1-800 number. Customers are increasingly turning to social media to air their grievances – and excitement – about brands in a very public way. And without a strong social media customer service strategy, these minor problems could soon become viral mayhem.

For some brands, adjusting to this new reality has had its growing pains. Only 11 percent of messages to brands get responses. And many of those mentions on Twitter only use the brand’s name – not its handle – making them difficult to find.

But many brands are wooing customers through prompt and personal customer service – and seeing big boosts in brand loyalty and social media love because of it.

Here’s the basics on how customers are taking to social media to talk about their brand experiences, and what they expect in return.

Social media is arguably the biggest place for customer feedback. 90 percent of respondents to a Sprout Social survey said they used social media for customer service. 34 percent said that social media is where they turn first for customer care – surpassing email and phone. Keep in mind that customers might not mention your company by its official handle, so it’s important to use Twitter’s search function to uncover mentions.

Consumers expect a fast response. According to Sprout Social, most people considered a response time of less than four hours to be reasonable. Other surveys suggest that customers expect a response in less than an hour – or even as quick as 10 minutes. But the actual average response time is closer to 10 hours.

Great customer service on social media can have big payoffs. 70 percent of people said they are more likely to use a brand after a positive customer service interaction, which could turn passive customers into advocates. But brands that do not provide timely and thoughtful responses can take a big hit, too: a third said they would switch to a competitor if a brand failed to respond to them on social media.

Facebook – Target

It’s not easy digging through dozens of Facebook comments and responding to every concern personally, especially on a page with more than 23 million likes. But Target hits the – ahem – target on its Facebook page by responding swiftly and relaying concerns to other team members, empathizing with bad experiences and thanking compliments as they come.

target facebook

Key takeaways: Monitor comments and posts on your Facebook page, even if you have to dig deep to find them. A personal, helpful reply can go a long way on Facebook, especially since comments are so visible to everyone who sees your page.

Twitter – JetBlue

JetBlue epitomizes strong customer support on Twitter, with exceptionally quick and helpful responses. Over the years, JetBlue has built up a Customer Support team with more than two dozen employees fielding thousands of mentions each day. But its lessons can be applied to a business of all sizes.

The JetBlue team goes above and beyond to provide unique replies to both compliments and complaints – and provide a few surprises along the way. In the past, it’s delighted passengers with everything from tote bags to welcome parades based on Twitter interactions.

“We’re all about people, and being on social media is just a natural extension of that,” Manager of Customer Commitment Laurie Meacham told HubSpot. “It’s no different than any other part of the airline.”

jetblue twitter2

Key takeaways: Reply to tweets both good and bad uniquely. If your time and budget allows, provide an occasional surprise to a user – you never know how it might take off.

Twitter @XBoxSupport

While JetBlue uses its main feed to interact with customers and handle complaints, XBox has a dedicated team and handle to quickly field questions and feedback during open hours seven days per week. In fact, its team of 27 experts is so fast and effective, it’s known as the Elite Tweet Fleet.

target facebook

Key takeaways: Make sure your social media customer service team has the know-how to provide useful information, not just relay users to a support email. If your brand fields a lot of customer service tweets, consider creating a unique Twitter handle for support with hours of operation.

140 characters might not seem like enough space to make an impact with your customers. But these brands show that a little empathy, speed, know-how and friendliness can go a long way toward improving brand sentiment, and creating a personal relationship with your customers on social media.