Social customer service gets more interesting by the day. Increasingly, customers demand it, and brands can benefit from answering questions publicly.

Our Social Times recently published some reflections on social media monitoring for customer service. I’ve taken some of the tips from Ronan Gillen, Community and Social CS Manager at eBay, and listed them below for your convenience.

1. Build local teams

Nokia’s Tom Messett explains why they have taken a decentralised approach to social media engagement:

It’s very important to have local teams. They understand the local marketing conditions and the people and can often solve problems far better than I could from a central team. 

2. Take public conversations somewhere a little more private

Citibank uses a chat feature, so the @askciti team can easily move conversations to a private and trackable channel. Ronan says,

It’s about empowering the people on the front-line. They require flexibility in order to do their job.

3. Put the whole organisation on-call

The pressure of dealing with a public complaint should be felt by service staff and the wider organisation. In this sense, every team and department needs to be ‘on-call’ to help resolve customer queries, when required.

According to Ronan:

Everyone at eBay knows that this is happening and that they may need to react at short notice.

4. Keep your inter-departmental comms well-oiled

To put the whole org on call, get different teams and departments working closely together to monitor for social media mentions, manage the brand response and, ultimately, deliver customer satisfaction.

Ronan Gillen says:

A critical part of this is making sure that different departments know each other well and interact daily. Their relationship is as important as the engagement.

5. Respond quickly, even if you don’t have the answer


Expectations are high. Customers want a response within the hour, or ideally immediately. Sometimes you just need to let them know you’re working on it – even if you don’t have the answer to hand right away. The customer appreciates it.

6. Don’t always have the last word

eBay’s Social Customer Service team monitors all brand mentions, but is restrained about when and how it intervenes. Ronan explains:

You don’t want to interact with people who want to make a point, but don’t necessarily want a response.

How do you know the difference between someone who wants help, and someone that just wants to vent?You need to think 2 or 3 tweets ahead and make a judgment.


7. All you have to do is make sure you’re there

When you’re there and you actually help, you get a great response, particularly when people aren’t expecting us to come back so quickly. 

8. Unite your CRM and your monitoring platform

Most companies will have a CRM system to help them store customer details and understand customers issues, so that needs to be integrated with the monitoring platform that sits on top. In order for the customer to receive a coherent service, you need to be able to see the whole customer journey. 

9. Escalate influential complaints but prioritise your customers

While escalating complaints from influencers is undoubtedly useful, eBay Europe prefers to prioritise queries based on the urgency of the issue raised. Ronan Gillen explains:

We’re not saying we’d never do it, but it’s not something we look for as routine. We’d be more likely to look for who are our most important customers and what can we do for them, rather than who is seen as influential.

10. Create back-up teams

We have back-ups from other teams who are trained and able to engage during a spike or to cover sickness and holidays. Spikes can happen any time and you can’t always predict them.

11. Monitor your performance

eBay uses data to crosscheck the performance of its Social Customer Service team against other teams.

We look at our monitoring statistics and learn from them.

We also look at ourselves in relation to other Customer Service channels. There are some metrics which are standard across Customer Service that we benchmark ourselves against.


12. Back your staff

Your team needs to be able to make decisions and know that they will be supported – even if they don’t make the right decision every time.

Econsultancy’s JUMP event on October 9 is all about creating seamless multichannel customer experiences. Now, in its fourth year it will be attended by more than 1,200 senior client-side marketers. This year it forms part of our week-long Festival of Marketing extravaganza.