How to Use Social Media for Customer Service

A couple of years ago I was trying to stream a movie on Netflix, however the program kept getting interrupted. My internet connection was dreadfully slow, and the movie would freeze and display the “loading” wheel for minutes at a time.

In frustration I sent off a tweet (yes, that’s what I do in frustration: turn to Twitter), “Geez Qwest, what’s the deal? I can’t even watch Netflix without my service freezing on me…”

An hour later I was notified that I had been “mentioned” on Twitter (someone had used my Twitter username in a tweet). I looked into it, and found the following from Qwest’s customer satisfaction team: “@ClintonRLanier Hello, If you are having speed issue all the time, we can take a look. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow and DM@talktoqwest

This illustrates one of the best, but least-used, purposes for social media: customer service. While most literature about social media focuses on the marketing aspects, few really discuss the potential that platforms like Facebook or Twitter have in reaching customers for other purposes.

Finding new business and creating conversions is fine, but also important (perhaps more important) is caring for the customers you currently have, and for this task social media excels like no other. Think about it. Qwest communicated to me in real time in a setting and format that I was comfortable with, and they furthermore surprised me by their offer to help.

Best of all, my service was working great by the next day and I was happy to tweet their praises. What is the alternative to this scenario? Disappointed customers that share their disappointment with the 1000 people following them on Twitter or their 200-300 friends on Facebook. Many of the largest companies are using these platforms as customer service mechanisms.

Comcast for example uses @comcastcares on Twitter to help customers who have questions for everything from billing to equipment installation. And in 2009 Best Buy unveiled its Twitter-based Twelpforce, a “collective force of Best Buy technology pros offering tech advice in Tweet form.” Twitter is not the only platform used, either.

Many companies are also using their Facebook pages to mediate customer complaints or problems, and setting up YouTube channels to provide helpful “how-to” videos. Providing customer service online via social media platforms also serves another purpose. While creating a happy subscriber, Qwest was also demonstrating that it does care.

Phone calls are private, but Twitter messages are seen by the world. And during our conversation—while Qwest was helping me sort out my connectivity issues—all 1000 people following me saw this conversation. Whether they paid attention or not matters little, what is important is that they could have potentially seen it and thought better of Qwest as a result.

Starting a social media customer service initiative is easy, especially if you already have an established presence. It starts with paying attention to the feedback you receive. Be positive about negative posts, and answer questions or apologize for problems that customers may have had. You can also offer to make it right. If they accept your offer or not you have demonstrated that you care enough about your customers to try to make it better.

You never want to ignore the people that complain about you on your page, and the worst thing you can do is delete their post for fear of anyone else seeing it. Remember that social media is based on virtual word-of-mouth, and an unhappy customer can quickly relate your actions to their friends and followers in an instant (considering the average Facebook user has about 150 friends, this could be devastating).

While social media has enormous potential to drive revenue through its particular methods of marketing, it can also provide you with something even greater: a loyal following of dedicated customers that are eager to spread the word about you to their friends. Creating this following starts by offering stellar service: and social media is probably even better at doing that.

Word One Consulting
clint @
2263 S. Main
Las Cruces, NM 88005