How good is your customer service? This has been a topic in the news for the past few years, since social media exploded and customer service issues have become more apparent.

Do you remember the Applebee’s fiasco this past year when a HR decision went viral and created a PR disaster for management? Decades ago, we relied on newspapers and word of mouth for these sorts of things. But with social media, people take on the role of the news and it’s much harder to contain PR issues.

If you haven’t started using social media for customer service, here are the basics you need to get set up.

Start listening.

Do you know what people are saying about your brand or industry? There are so many different tools you can use to monitor the socialsphere – there is no excuse for not doing so!

  • Set up Email Notifications: If you have Twitter, Facebook, or more – make sure you get email notifications when someone engages with you. I would set up emails that come when you get comments, replies, and messages – not necessarily for “likes” and “retweets” – which don’t require immediate engagement.
  • Set up Google Alerts: This is how you can monitor what is being said and written about your brand or your industry.
  • Use Social Monitoring Tools like Topsy or Social Mention or set up tracking in Hootsuite. Any of these can help you see what people are saying socially about your brand or industry. You can use this to respond to positive and negative sentiments alike – and address situations before they get out of control.

Respond in a timely fashion.

Business Insider recently did a report that showed that the response rate for customer service issues on social media has actually gotten worse over the past 3 years. It is taking companies longer to respond to fewer social issues. Don’t be part of this crowd. If you have emails set up or alerts – try to respond within an hour – or at the worst, within a few hours.

Escalate problems away from Social Media.

Send bigger issues to your customer service team via email or phone. Social media is just about as public as it gets and it can go viral so fast.  If you have an irrational customer or a problem that can’t be answered in a few tweets, take it to the phones or email so the problem can be resolved without getting the whole world involved.

I was inspired to write this article after having a good experience with social customer service this past week. I was trying to get a business listing changed for a client, but over the past 3 months I had not gotten a response to repeated emails, so I went out on a limb and tweeted the company. Within a few hours, I had a tweet response and we solved the problem via email.


I had the same experience with another website that day, which inspired me to tweet at another 7 companies with which I had the same problem – but unfortunately, they did not tweet me back – and it’s now been several days.  Not the best representation of their company for sure.

Got questions or comments about using social media as customer service? Leave me a comment, or tweet me at @caitlinjdodds or @webtalentmktg!