What does it take to deliver a great customer experience on social media? While there's no one clear answer, the starting point is clear: show up.

A recent ResultsCX survey found customers prefer interacting with a brand over social media channels rather than telephone support, but many report the support they receive is lacking. 

More than half (52%) of those surveyed said they interacted with a brand on social media for a question or concern. Of those, 19% said they tried but did not receive any feedback. While no response is clearly bad, ustomer expectations play a big part in the responses here, with 38% of respondents believing a brand's social media account should respond within 15 minutes and 34% believing the response time should be "instant." So what can brands do to set their social media teams up for success?

Align Social Media Voice With the Brand's

"It’s easy for large brands to employ an army of teams and tools to monitor and respond to social media callouts," said Ali Cudby, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. "Smaller companies don’t have the same bandwidth for dedicated social media monitoring and response. Unfortunately, consumers don’t care. They expect all companies to meet the bar set by larger brands for instant or near-instant responses."

While chatbots and AI can help, it’s more important for companies to have a clear articulation of their online personality to set the tone for customer interaction, according to Cudby. “Begin by formulating your brand’s voice online. Once you have your voice, make sure you’re giving your social team the right tools to be successful. Whether you use employees or vendors, they all need sufficient training so they can speak fluently in your chosen voice.”

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Make Customer Interactions Seamless

Customers expect a “chat.” They want private and instant responses and effective resolutions, said Vivek Astvansh, assistant professor of marketing at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “While a chatbot on social media platforms is useful for triage, customers may prefer to be redirected to a person who can listen, convey warmth, and converse in personalized 'customerspeak' rather than canned business jargon.”

A brand must ensure a customer's conversation remains seamless if they switch to a different channel or device (e.g., phone call or chatbot on the website), rather than having to start all over again, Astvansh added.

“Leveraging social media platforms for customer service will define customer experience in the near future,” Astvansh said. “As social media platforms join the plethora of customer service channels, brands should seek to integrate these channels, such that the customer — and not the brand — dictates which channel(s) to use and when to switch from one to the other. A winning brand would be one that does not make its customers come to it, but instead meets them wherever they are.”

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 7 Ways to Ensure Your Social Presence Improves Your Customer Experience

Dedicate Sufficient Staff to Social Media Effort

"Utilizing social media platforms as a primary contact for customer service is a serious commitment to a long-term strategy and a labor intensive undertaking,” said from Doug Longenecker, founder of //NKST. “To solve a range of complex to simple questions as well as major and minor customer complaints, an organization will need an always-on staff who have gone through extensive technical and sensitivity training. Additionally, the organization must understand the mission-critical imperative of this communication channel and calibrate the company’s resources and culture accordingly.”

For the social media effort to be effective, timeliness and availability are essential, agreed Myasia Burns, associate martech director, social media and content at Midan Marketing. “When someone tweets about a negative experience with your brand, they want an instantaneous response. Now, it’s possible that instantaneous isn’t possible for your capacity, but handle whatever capacity you can.”

By providing direct messaging capability in social media, a company can more quickly get additional details from a customer or prospect communicating via social media, Burns added.

This staff must have a broad understanding of CX, Longenecker added. “It all starts with a service design strategy that considers multiple customer touchpoints; digital, mobile and in-person. Along the way, it's important for customers to have a consistent set of touchpoint options when reaching out for ongoing customer service/support as they do during their purchase process. To them, the business is the brand and the brand is the business. There is little distinction. It's the experience they have with either one that counts.”

By thinking through the needs of customers at each of these actionable touchpoints, companies have the opportunity to begin creating an internal customer-in-control mindset, Longenecker said. This is most effective when it becomes part of the company's culture and is pervasive across the entire organization. The main difference is now the organization values customer service when it used to prize customer loyalty and aspires to achieve customer affinity rather than brand affinity.