Dos and Don'ts for Social Customer Service


Dos and Don'ts for Social Customer Service

By Elaine Cascio, Vice President  |  October 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Sept. issue of CUSTOMER magazine.

So your contact center has taken the plunge into social media – congratulations! A few months ago, I outlined guidelines for social service, including strategy, policies, operations and metrics. All these things make the difference between just throwing people at social service and having an effective and professional social service team. But what are some key dos and don’ts for day-to-day customer social service?


…know your brand and be consistent with corporate values and goals.
You want your customers to have a seamless, consistent customer experience, regardless of channel. Make sure agents working on social media have a clear grounding in tone, language and vocabulary and a passion for your business and mission. 

…set customer expectations. 
Social media users expect near immediate responses. In general, that response should be within less than three to four business hours, and preferably within an hour, depending on the urgency of your business. But see what your customers expect and what your competition is doing, as well as what you can reasonably provide. If you don’t have a 24/7 operation, look at when you get the bulk of social media contacts to determine whether you need to extend hours. If you decide not to extend hours for social media, be sure to respond to customers as soon as you can and don’t let tweets and posts linger.

Most importantly, communicate clearly when you’ll be online and how customers can get assistance after hours – that may be a forum or FAQs on your website.

…know when to engage.
Part of your social media guidelines should clearly spell out when to respond. Don’t feed the animals – tweets or posts that are profanity-ridden, make no sense, or are otherwise bizarre do not warrant a response.

…keep responses short.
Twitter (News - Alert) is limited to 140 characters, a guideline that works well for other social media as well. No one wants to read a long response or explanation. Don’t copy and paste a knowledge base entry or FAQ, just send a link.

…take responsibility. 
Never fingerpoint or avoid accepting responsibility. Train social agents to treat customers with respect and empathy, just as they are trained to handle customers on the phone. In fact, if you are dealing with a very emotional or irate customer, a phone call may diffuse the situation better than a string of tweets.

…try to resolve in a single channel.
Try to reduce the level of effort for your customer and maintain the conversation in his channel of choice whenever possible.This is one reason why it’s so important to have clear escalation paths for social service that define when you move a conversation to another channel, and what channel to use.

…take a deep breath before responding to an irate or rude customer.
It’s easy to plunge into a response, but take your time, think it out, even walk away for a moment before hitting the enter button. 


Too many tweets will turn people off. Understand what it is your customers want to hear about and focus on filling their needs. Whole Foods does a great job of creating interesting posts without overwhelming customers. 

…use forms or auto-respond.
Where appropriate, have standard messaging that social service agents can use, but avoid having them sound like robots. That also means having “people” respond with real names – not just @company. Best Buy’s (News - Alert) social media guidelines encourage employees to “Be smart. Be respectful. Be human.”

…dominate the conversation.
It’s about the customer. Develop good social service listening skills.

…make a sales pitch.
While that may be appropriate for marketing, if it’s not something that helps solve a problem or answer a question, don’t do it. Sales pitches diminish your credibility.

Don’t delete posts that are negative – especially if you took the time to resolve the issue. In fact, if you resolve the issue and have a satisfied customer, you should make it public and not hide the conversation from others. On the other hand, you may want to consider deleting posts or tweets that are profane, senseless or downright nasty.

…respond to rudeness with rudeness.
Don’t let the conversation go downhill. If you feel a tweet war coming on, reach for a supervisor or co-worker to help you out.

Elaine Cascio is vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp., a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (, a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Braden Becker
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