I used to love sending letters.
Thick ink on flowery stationery would travel in my messy fifth grader cursive to exotic places like Birmingham, Alabama, and to my cousins’ house in Little Rock, Arkansas. I felt a wave of adrenaline any time I saw a response sitting in our forest green mailbox at 525 Westchester, knowing a distant friend or relative had read my anecdotes about community theatre and written out a thoughtful response.
I still feel that high sometimes, but not always with letters, and much more often. I feel this way any time I get a message on Facebook, or a like on Twitter, or an old friend comments on an Instagram post. I just love hearing from people, knowing they thought of me even in the smallest way and reached out to say something.
Social media has grown and expanded beyond our immediate networks. Now instead of hearing from just my friends and family, I can be followed by businesses on Instagram. An art gallery can tag me in its photos on Facebook after I’ve attended an event. I can receive tweet responses from Anastasia on Broadway.
The gap between professional and personal has narrowed into a thin bridge across which we continuously walk. Businesses are finding social media an appropriate platform to jump in and connect with their consumer bases and provide customer service, and the biggest surprise? It’s actually kinda fun.
Examples of Brands with Great Social Media Customer Service
Lots of brands excel at their social media game. Here are some of the best.
SkyScanner is a website that searches for flights across airlines based on your desired airports and travel dates. With its depth of flight information, it is usually able to provide travelers a range of options from cheapest flights, to shortest travel times, to most convenient airport locations.
In one instance, SkyScanner offered a customer flying from New Zealand to London the option of an itinerary with a 413,786-hour, 25-minute (or 47-year) layover. Customer James Loyd posted the screenshot to Facebook with the question, “Just wondering what you’d recommend I do during the 47 year layover your website has suggested?” SkyScanner’s customer service representative, who references herself simply as Jen, could have taken this the classic apologetic route, promising to have the situation rectified shortly.
Instead, she leaned into the silly nature of the mistake, and offered Loyd a list of things to do in Bangkok to occupy those 47 years. Jen thanked Loyd and promised someone would look into the issue, and has kept up a relationship through this mishap. She followed up on the post a year after the fact to ask how his first year in Bangkok has been. Because there was no real harm in the site’s error, the two were able to play off of the humor and develop a friendly rapport.
Not only was this a positive reaction between SkyScanner and the initial customer, but having this conversation publicly has let thousands of others observe the interaction and develop a positive impression of the organization. To date, the post has 22,000 likes and 3,902 shares.
We’ve all seen a product and thought, how did that design get approved by so many people? Consider this pool floatie that women worldwide recognize as a giant menstrual pad. Amazon reviews and tweets alike give it a good roast, joking about how it’ll soak up the contents of your swimming pool.
You may remember Groupon having a similarly hilarious design fiasco. A few years ago, it shared a product referred to as a banana bunker, which is a plastic encasing that keeps bananas from getting smashed at the bottom of your lunch kit or backpack. It did not take users long to connect the physical similarities between this fruit-saver and plastic male contraceptive devices.
Users flooded Groupon’s Facebook page, posting comments about the banana bunker that were riddled with sexual innuendo. The social media team at Groupon diligently responded to every comment, never once letting on that they saw the resemblance or understood the commentary. They responded earnestly and innocently, with an, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” air. To this day, the post has 22,000 likes and 45,614 shares.
G2 Crowd is lucky enough to have the inside scoop on this scenario, as Groupon’s former social media specialist is now on our social media specialist. Chuck Cotterman was one of three who responded to the comments on this post. He said Groupon’s previous strategy was to hide or ignore the tongue-in-cheek comments on this post, but in re-posting the ad, they decided to change their response.
“We decided to roll with it to allow the engagement to feed the ad instead of going against it,” Cotterman said. “Really, we were just tired of going against our audience, who really wanted to play.”
It’s not all fun and games, however. Businesses have to resolve serious queries, as well. Social customer service is not all about generating meme replies and joking around with your users. Behind every joke response is a highly-trained support team dedicated to best resolving dissatisfaction or issues.
Consider Spotify, the music streaming corporation with millions of users worldwide. It has created a specialized Twitter handle, @SpotifyCares, for instances where customers are looking for support. Often, if you notice something is not right with your listening experience, you can go to this Twitter page and find Spotify has already addressed the issue. Its replies are also full of requests for user information so the team can follow up further and ensure problems are completely solved.
Spotify takes social customer support seriously. Representatives begin learning support through email and have the opportunity to work up to social media. Because social media is so instantaneous, support agents are not thrown onto those platforms until they have a thorough understanding of how to interact with customers per the brand’s preference.
Zappos is a shoe company that sells various brands online. Its webpage alone announces its customer service agents are available 24/7 at an 800 number. The Zappos Facebook page features a live chat window that pops up as soon as you click on the page. The organization typically responds to Facebook inquiries within the hour.
Being that Zappos is all online, it handles a lot of its customer service this way as well. Its Twitter page features a plethora of replies explaining return policy and helping users find the shoes they saw in a catalog or in an ad.
Even so, Zappos still finds time and prioritizes fun responses. Users will often tweet about the company’s fantastic customer service, to which Zappos will send a fun GIF response.
Social customer service is an opportunity to hang out with your customers and have some fun while getting your brand name out there. It’s also an opportunity to show off your agents’ conflict-resolution skills while, again getting your brand name out there.
When done right, social customer service takes a conversation between strangers and makes the consumer feel comfortable and taken care of. Consumers feel more loyal to the brand, and people reading the interaction become more interested in doing business with your brand.