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Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands

Traditionally, customer service was thought of as a post-sale activity. Marketers attract leads, sales reps close deals, and customer support reps help customers.

Nowadays, consumers expect brands to offer help way before they’ve decided to buy, as well as long after they’ve made the purchase. Customer service is part of the entire buying cycle. It’s customer support, but also a form of marketing, and definitely a part of sales.

The best brands know this, and take advantage of every interaction with a customer to offer value, impress, and sell.

In this post, we'll look at how some of the biggest brands go above and beyond for their customers on social, and what their successes can teach us about the importance of great social media support. I’ll also share three simple steps to get started with customer support on social at the end.

Ready? Let’s get to it.

How 5 of our favorite brands provide great customer support on social media

1. Nike

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

To say that Nike is great in marketing would be an understatement.

They know that they’re not selling shoes, but an attitude, a lifestyle - hell, Nike makes sweating glamorous.

But in addition to being great at selling their brand, they’re equally good at providing support.

Nike has one of the strongest customer service accounts on Twitter, with a dedicated Twitter account, Nike Support, providing support seven days a week - and in seven languages (English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, German & Japanese).

When a customer mentions Nike’s main Twitter handle, @NikeSupport jumps in to help. This not only helps separate the main marketing channel from all the support and complaint discussions, but it also shows how dedicated the brand is to solving their customers’ issues.

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Even though they’re flooded by support requests all day long, they never lose patience - even when the customer isn’t clear about their question and it wasn’t Nike’s fault.

Here a customer contacts them to ask for help finding an order number. Although the question was unclear, Nike’s customer support made the customer feel cared for. And when the customer realized they had the information all along, their response is super supportive:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Takeaway: Be patient and make every customer feel cared for.

2. Starbucks

Like Nike, Starbucks is another brand that knows it’s not about what they sell, but how they sell it.

Even though they’re a huge company, Starbucks still give customers individual attention, which no doubt goes a long way toward keeping them coming back for more.

Well that, and their Pumpkin Spice lattes.

Their social media team is known for their quick responses and great service, making it easy for customers to ask questions about store offers, drink menus, and contests.

They’ve also got a separate Twitter account to collect customer suggestions, called “My Starbucks Idea:”

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

This encourages high customer engagement and gives them lots of feedback to improve their drinks and services.

Takeaway: Go beyond solving problems, and give customers what they want before they complain

3. Skyscanner

Skyscanner is an airline search engine that compares millions of flights to find you the cheapest deal. It’s my personal go-to website for booking plane tickets - the website is super intuitive to use, and they’ve consistently proven to offer the best deals out there.

And apart from offering great bargains, they also provide great social media support.

Meet Jen, Skyscanner’s social media manager for the U.K. and Ireland. She became an online sensation after Skyscanner user James Lloyd noticed the site suggested he take a 413,786-hour, 25-minute layover on a trip from New Zealand to London.

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

“Just wondering what you’d recommend I do during the 47-year layover your website has suggested?” Lloyd posted on Skyscanner’s Facebook page.

Instead of writing it off as a simple glitch, Jen offered some great time-killing ideas for Lloyd during his extended layover in Bangkok:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

(Jokes aside, Jen offered to look into the mistake.)

This hilarious response went viral quickly and prompted lots of user engagement. Most were impressed by Jen’s humor, and some were even inspired to start using Skyscanner’s services:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Takeaway: Win customers over with creative and personalized responses.

4. Netflix

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Anyone under the age of 40 would’ve heard of, or even used the phrase “Netflix and Chill.” Although this internet slang didn’t originate from them, Netflix knows how to capitalize on this virality and speak in their audience’s language:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Netflix has a great track record of customer interaction and customer care, and they do so with charisma, wit, and humor. As an entertainment brand, they know how to stray from the typical corporate tone, and have a team prepared to keep up with their casual voice.

Here’s an example of the Netflix tone:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Takeaway: Have fun and speak your customers’ language

5. Spotify

Remember when everybody was downloading songs and you’d be considered stupid if you “paid” for music? Now nobody downloads music, and everybody streams. Most of my friends have a Spotify premium account. It’s no exaggeration to say that Spotify is behind this shift that saved the music industry from decline.

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

Winning a Webby Award for social media customer support, Spotify knows how to treat its customers right on social.

Apart from having a dedicated support account, Spotify gives specific instructions to customers looking for help.

“For tech queries, let us know your device/operating system. For payment queries, drop us a DM!”

This makes it simpler for customers, and speeds up processing time for their customer support team.

They also know how to eat their own dog food. After helping Alice with her query, team Spotify includes a link to “Happy to Help” – a song from Spotify:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

As it turns out, such smart social support acumen comes from careful training and selection - Spotify doesn’t let just any customer support agent handle their @SpotifyCares account.

In fact, Spotify support reps are trained first on email. With emails, queries are less urgent - they're usually more payment and account-related, with a longer response time expectation. On social media, requests are more urgent (like when the app is frozen or a song isn’t playing.)

In this podcast, Sam Thomas, Spotify’s Global Manager of Social Media Support notes that:

“We’re really protective over the tone of voice…That’s something we really try to monitor very, very closely.”

Potential Spotify social agents have to go through multiple writing tests before being considered for the customer service team. Great taste in music probably helps, too.

Takeaway: Train and invest in your team to deliver a consistent and amazing customer support

As you can see, these giant brands understand the importance of customer-centric social media support, and make it their priority to provide top-notch service.

While it might be tempting to think that only big brands can afford to dedicate so much to their social media support teams, it doesn’t actually cost much. In fact, with a smart strategy, any brand can do the same.

Here’s how.

How to rock social customer service in 3 steps

1. Set up a dedicated social handle for customer support

As we can see, the best brands often have a separate social media account to manage customer support requests. This separates your marketing messages from the angry complaints and less-than-sexy bug fixes, and helps your team manage your support efforts better.

If you decide to create a social account for support, be sure to include the handle in your brand’s main social profile so people know where to reach out for help.

Like this:

Social Customer Service: Lessons from 5 of Our Favorite Brands | Social Media Today

2. Assign a social customer support lead

By now you should know that social media support is support, marketing, and sales combined, and requires a unique skillset. So if you want to do social support properly, you need a dedicated team member who knows what they’re doing, and leads the rest of the team.

3. Create social support guidelines

Social support is still a relatively new concept, and it keeps evolving with social media changes. A year ago it might have been enough to offer Twitter support, but now your brand might need to start answering questions via Instagram Stories or Snapchat as well. With so many channels and changes at hand, there will be many unique challenges that can be tricky to handle. Deciding on some guidelines on how to engage with customers will help align social support with your brand values and goals.

That document should answer questions like:

  • What’s the response time limit for each query?
  • What should be done when the CS rep doesn’t know the answer to a question?
  • When should a conversation be continued privately?
  • What constitutes a social media crisis and when should managers be alerted?
  • How personal/sassy should the CS rep be?

Over to you

Have you had an amazing customer service experience via social media? How are you using social media to provide customer service? Let us know in the comments:

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