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Should You Use Social Media for Customer Service?


Social media has many valuable uses for small business—as a marketing tool, as a way to listen to your customers and as a public relations mechanism. But is it effective as a customer service tool?

When social media first started to get big in business, there was lots of buzz about some major companies that were blatantly ignoring customer service complaints on Twitter and Facebook. As a result, many companies rapidly took steps to start using social media for customer service—some even setting up dedicated customer service social media accounts.

While you should never ignore customer complaints in any format—including on social media—using primarily social media for customer service may be going too far, a recent American Express survey on customer service shows. The poll reveals that only 23 percent of consumers have ever used social media for customer service purposes. Even when they did so, they were usually giving the business a compliment about good service or venting frustration with poor service, not explicitly asking for help with an actual customer service problem.
When they do have customer service issues, the survey reports, nearly half (48 percent) of consumers want to talk to a live person on the phone. Phone assistance is by far the number-one choice for customer service help; By comparison, just 3 percent want to talk to a customer service rep via social media.

This doesn’t mean you should start ignoring customer complaints on social media, of course. If you’ve been reaching out to customers with problems, keep doing so (even if they’re just venting, it’s great to ask if you can help). But it’s likely not worth opening a dedicated customer service channel on social media or moving most of your customer service efforts there.

Instead, offer customers a wide range of customer service options, including:

  • FAQs, directions and/or community support on your business website.
  • A toll-free phone number to call for in-person assistance.
  • Live chat with customer service reps on your website.
  • A way to contact your customer service department via email (a form on your website is good for this purpose).

You should even list your mailing address on your business website in case some customers prefer to write in with complaints or compliments. (Yes, they still exist!)

You can’t please all of the people all of the time–but by providing as many customer service choices as you can, you’ll please as many customers as you can.