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. 

Ben Davis

Published 5 August, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

1231 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (7)

Save or Cancel

Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing

It's especially good to take conversations that are getting heated off the public social waves. You don't want to add any fuel to the fire but getting lots of other people involved in one person's problem.

almost 5 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

It’s pretty remarkable when you think about how customer service has developed via social channels, although I suppose it was inevitable. Gone are the days of the good old fashioned letter, most people just hop onto social to air their views these days as it’s more direct and convenient.

I like the local team approach, as this makes sense for larger companies or those with a national presence. People expect an instant reply on social, which is something they didn’t do if they wrote a letter as they knew they had to wait longer. Today companies need a much more strategic approach and devoted response unit due to the nature of how we use these platforms.

almost 5 years ago

Jo Brealy

Jo Brealy, Director, CX & Service EMEA Marketing at Oracle (formally RightNow Technologies)

Some really strong advice listed above. For social to be successful at any organisation it takes a cross-department, collaborative approach. Too often different departments buy and play with social tools, but don't share what they are doing and learning with other key customer facing departments - so it's refreshing to hear how some of the big, forward thinking brands are starting with the people side of the equation first and then adding the tech and process once the organisational structure has been identified and agreed.

PS: like the kittens...

almost 5 years ago


Dee Roche

A great list and I’d add be genuine. Many companies try and cope with the flood of social customer service by automating responses – this may provide a faster answer but it is unlikely to satisfy the customer or build any type of engagement. People want to be treated as individuals – brands should take a lesson from how O2 responded to network outages and interact with customers (no matter how aggrieved they are) on a personal level. More on O2 in our blog

almost 5 years ago


Sarah Johs

Thanks for the share Ben!
I'd likely to accept that there are a few customers who are rigorous and still keep pressing to get a solution within a short span. Handling such would really make any of the support staff's strained. But then, we will really need to value every customer staff executive's for their patience on listening and helping a lot to draw a solution for every single customers query. It's really a great thing.

Would really like your share.

almost 5 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks Sarah. I agree it's a difficult job!

almost 5 years ago


RebeccaC@online review

Thank you for your tips. As a business owner these advices are really valuable in improving my social customer service, since today consumers are engaged and connected online at all times day and night. Businesses should learn how to add social media into their customer service to be prepared to take their service quality to the next level.

almost 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.