Customer service has traditionally focused on issue resolution and has been reactive to customer queries.

A customer calls, emails, or posts to social media, and the brand responds. 

But two major trends have emerged that are changing brands’ thinking, to view customer service as proactive, not reactive: 

  1. Great customer service is a differentiator for brands; and 
  2. Companies are using technology to anticipate the needs of customers in order to deliver relevant, personalised service. 

We know that much of this customer service is delivered via social media. Nearly 70% of consumers have said that they have used social media for customer service issues on at least one occasion, according to research published as early as 2013. And customers spend 20-40% more money (Bain and Co) with companies when they engage and respond positively to customers on social media.

With customer service teams already stretched, how can brands deliver great, proactive customer service on social media? 

There are four things that brands should be doing. 

Use bots to free up humans to be brilliant

Bots can be used to triage queries or automate simple responses. Automating non-complex, routine queries (such as “when will my parcel arrive”), if done properly, doesn’t negatively impact the customer experience.

Instead, it takes the pressure off human customer service agents or community managers and frees them up to do what they do best: using their skills to proactively engage with customers, creating personal connections and seeking out opportunities to surprise and delight.

Use data to predict customers’ needs

Analytics and social listening tools can identify trends in behaviour, spikes in queries, or changing demands. This data gives you insight that your team can use to predict what your customers need and want, and deliver it.

Use emotional analytics

Emotional analytics help to understand not just what your customers are saying, but how they feel about your brand.

That might be a reaction to a campaign or a product, or to an issue that your customers feel strongly about. That insight will connect you to the things your customers are passionate about, and inform your future campaigns and service. 

Invest in the best people to connect with your customers

If customer service is your brand’s differentiator, you need great people to deliver it.

These people will be able to take the insights from your data and use it to engage proactively with customers. They’ll use their initiative to spot opportunities to create personal connections with customers that will build loyalty. They’ll be skilled at spotting and resolving issues before they become full-blown crises. And they’ll do all this while sticking closely to the brand’s values and tone of voice. 

Great social media customer service takes human skill, initiative and intelligence. It takes technology to deliver data for humans to know where their skills are most needed. And it takes humans and technology to work together to deliver it at scale for brands.

More on social customer service:

Tamara Littleton

Published 21 February, 2018 by Tamara Littleton

Tamara is CEO and founder of social media agency The Social Element and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (2)


Pauline Ashenden, Marketing Manager at Eptica

Delivering the customer service that consumers demand does mean balancing the human touch and technology. It is vital that you use both where they are most effective, automating where you can and empowering humans to build stronger relationships with consumers - as CX analyst Temkin Group has pointed out, 2018 should be the Year of Humanity, with IT and human skills both contributing to CX. There’s more in this blog post

5 months ago


Wolken Software, head at Marketing

The convergence of AI, automation and bots could not have come at a better time to positively impact the touchpoints, to arrest the slide in Customer Experience. Robotic Process Automation has given way to its evolved successor – Cognitive RPA – thus effectively freeing up bandwidth for agents to discharge tasks that demand greater interactive skills and judgment. Know more @

5 months ago

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