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How to use social media to give great customer service

How to use social media to give great customer service

By Wayne Gibbins, Communications and Partnerships Director, Viadeo

By 2013 at least 35% of customer service centres will integrate some form of community or social capabilities as a part of their issue resolution centres according to recent research by US firm Gartner.

However it is not only to keep up with competitors that organisations should be looking to integrate social media into their customer service approach but also because it allows you to monitor your brand, engage with your customers and turn negative scenarios into positive outcomes.

Why social media?

It is often said by those in the industry that social media is about listening not talking.  This is particularly relevant and valuable for companies. Social media lets you listen to your customers’ thoughts and feedback on your products (a free focus group!), allows you to engage in conversations that are happening about your brand (positive or negative) and to discover new markets of potential consumers.

It is also a great way of allowing your customers to talk to each other. Recent research shows that internet users trust word of mouth or peer recommendation over any other source. By facilitating dialogue you could allow your customers to resolve each others’ problems (saving you time and effort) or even become brand ambassadors to promote and recommend your product and services to others.

How do I implement it?

Firstly you have to decide whether to dedicate one person or team to operate the customer-facing social media channels or get everyone in the company involved and motivated enough to participate.

It will also be useful to set some boundaries i.e. do not post anything that is inappropriate, do not share news or products that have not been made public etc.  If you are extending customer service to the whole company then it might also be useful to provide some basic training to those not already directly involved in this area such as complaint-handling and how to escalate customer feedback.


Use it for:
•    PR, press releases and company information – try not to make it too corporate though, add a human touch by sharing relevant articles, staff events and current affairs items.
•    To track and follow-up customer service problems – use search columns in Seesmic or Tweetdeck to monitor mentions of your brand or products and then take the opportunity to jump into resolve complaints or offer resolutions (@jetblue or @askseesmic are good examples).
•    To be a human point of contact for your customers – the informality and instant nature of Twitter lets people feel like they are talking to other people rather than people to companies.
Community self-service

You can build communities surrounding your company or products either on a social network such as Facebook or Viadeo or even on your own site (see TM Lewin’s Off the Cuff community or BT’s Customer Care forums as examples).

Use it for:
•    Publishing information about new products or features – you could even take this further and provide advice or tips on how to get the most out of your products or services, really providing value to customers.
•    Getting customer feedback and suggestions – in this interactive age company responsiveness to the needs and thoughts of their customers is crucial.
•    Responding to problems – either the company can respond directly to those with a problem or, because dialogue has been facilitated, more often than not other users will respond.
Brand monitoring
Keep track of people talking about your brand online and monitor what is being said on the wider internet on blogs or forums.  You can then choose to just keep note of the information for your own reference or to interact directly with your brand advocators or detractors.

Cautionary tales


Disappointed with BP’s PR reaction or perceived lack of reaction to the recent oil leak in the Gulf one Twitter user set up a fake BP PR account (@BPGlobalPR) to tweet messages such as “Anyone accusing us of tarring and feathering pelicans is ignorant. They feathered themselves” and “Please do NOT take or clean any oil you find on the beach. That is the property of British Petroleum and we WILL sue you”. The fake account has 185 000 followers compared to 17 000 on the official account.

United Airlines

United Airlines was embarrassed after a Canadian country singer released a Youtube video complaining about the airline breaking the band’s guitars and the unsupportive customer service they received afterwards. The video became a viral sensation with over 8million hits. It was only after this that United Airlines responded and offered the singer compensation – which he refused.

For more information about building communities on Viadeo please drop us a line at

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