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Rules of Social Customer Service

This step defines some general rules for effective customer service on social media.

With your social customer service team in place, there must be a clear process for engaging with queries. This should be a core part of staff training and induction.

These rules of engagement are likely to cover the following areas:


Employ the various notification mechanisms of each social platform accordingly. Today, these can be set up to trigger mobile notifications, emails or SMS messages.

Ensure that an agreed group of people are notified immediately when there is a query. If possible, include staff who have different working schedules to cover as much of the day as possible.

A flowchart demonstrating response times for social media queries

To download a detailed description of this visual, scroll to the “Downloads” section at the bottom of this step.

Most notifications will be non-urgent (dependent on business type), whilst some will potentially present a brand emergency. Take time to plot out all possible categories of issues and agree on a level of urgency with response times for each.

Query Routing

Following on from the notifications protocol, map out query routes for all expected scenarios. Be clear on who can answer and who can resolve each of those potential queries. Document and share it with all frontline social media staff so they are clear on how to get issues resolved as quickly as possible.

A table demonstrating how to route serious queries in a timely manner

To download a detailed description of this visual, scroll to the “Downloads” section at the bottom of this step.

Taking Issues Offline

This will vary depending on the company or industry but, generally, there is a clear point at which it is preferable to take customer service conversations off public forums to resolve privately.

For service providers, this line is very clear – the point at which personal information such as account numbers and addresses must be exchanged.

For your organisation, this may be less clear. Imagine how your most likely queries might play out and decide some basic rules for taking them offline.

Some examples might include:

  • When any personal or sensitive information needs to be exchanged to handle the query.
  • When major product defects or potentially brand-damaging wrongs have occurred.
  • When the appropriate brand response might include complex information or documentation that cannot easily be transmitted through a social comment thread.
  • When a prospect wishes to become a customer and needs to engage with a sales representative.

Standardised Responding

Over time you’ll notice that your responses will start becoming repetitious. Many customer service and social media management platforms provide ‘canned response’ functionality, but this can also be manually facilitated.

Receiving an email on a PC

To download a detailed description of this visual, scroll to the “Downloads” section at the bottom of this step.

A simple shared spreadsheet of most common responses to regular queries is sufficient for many teams and can be shared and updated as time goes on.

Ensure that when using these canned responses, you keep messages personalised to the customer and their unique situation. Appearing to be publishing robotic, pre-prepared, responses can be damaging to your brand.

Closing Issues and Learnings

Remember that every customer service query that is published in a public space is an opportunity for your company to show the world who you are, what your values are, and what you think of your customers.

Whether or not a query is taken offline, you must ensure that you have closed the loop on every single one. If, for example, you have taken an issue offline that requires personal information to resolve, come back into the public conversation and thank the customer for their query before asking if there’s anything else you can do for them. This shows the world that you put your customers first, resolving issues as they arise.

Reading messages on a phone

To download a detailed description of this visual, scroll to the “Downloads” section at the bottom of this step.

Additionally, find the time on a regular basis (every week or month depending on volume) to conduct a review of recent customer service requests and how they were handled. Look at those which went well, as well as the ones that could have gone better, asking why they failed and setting out how they will be handled in the future.

Customer Service Top Tips Recap

  • Participate in proactive and reactive customer service
  • Choose the right structure for you
  • Adapt your brand tone for customer service
  • Set up your rules for customer service engagement
  • Clearly layout response times for all social media contributors
  • Clearly layout how queries should be routed
  • Take issues offline
  • Standardise responses where appropriate
  • Think about what the world can see when closing off a query

Learn more about the importance of having a social media customer service plan reading the article published by Sprout Social available at the bottom of this step. You can also read the article from ZenDesk on social media customer service.

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Running a Social Media Campaign: Customers, Influencer Engagement, Analytics

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