Social media customer service isn’t an optional extra these days. As customers, we chose to contact businesses at the time, and on the channel, that best suits us.

Superior customer service is a key differentiator for brands, and social media lets brands deliver this customer service efficiently, proactively and with a more complete level of personalisation than other channels. For brands that excel at social media customer service, it offers a way for them to surprise and delight customers, keeping them engaged rather than simply trying to sell to them or resolve issues.

There are four main trends I see developing in and around social media customer service.

1. There will be a demand for decreased response times

According to the Salesforce report, State of Service 2017, 54% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their queries instantly. Meanwhile, Facebook Messenger only allows businesses to be identified as fast-responders if they respond to 90% of messages within 15 minutes.

Social media has conditioned people to expect fast response and resolution times. Acceptable response times will vary by individual customer and their specific circumstance, but the longer the customer has to wait for a response, the more frustrated they’ll get.

As more businesses adopt automated solutions, our expectations will only get higher. We’re likely to see an increased demand for instant responses from brands on social media.

2. Human specialists will work with bots to create a great customer experience

A 2017 report by MIT Technology Review found that over 90% of brands with “world-leading brand recognition and high levels of customer satisfaction” used artificial intelligence to support customer service provision.

While there’s a lot of concern about automation and how businesses and governments will respond to it, the reality of automated technology at present isn’t too alarming. Businesses are using bots to process customer queries and deal with simple questions, leaving human specialists free to work on the more complex customer communications.

Automation can deal with the functional requests, while humans specialise in areas that need more empathy, creativity and connection.

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3. Brands are focusing on delivering proactive customer service

It’s hard to surprise and delight people simply by responding to customer service questions in a timely manner. Customers demand an excellent level of reactive customer service, which is one of the reasons why poor provision stands out (and gets talked about).

As businesses find themselves pushed to decrease response and resolution times, they’ll need to explore how they can distinguish themselves through proactive customer service.

How Samsung uses social listening for product marketing & sentiment analysis

For example, there are lots of times when people talk about a brand on social media, without @ mentioning the brand’s account. Brands that have social listening tools in place can find these posts and work out a positive way to respond. Those that do this are often regarded as exceptional now, but as social media customer service becomes more competitive, proactive customer service will become a key differentiator for brands.

4. Customer service continues to move from traditional channels to social media

In 2017, Salesforce reported that 80% of consumers felt that an instant reply to their queries had a moderate to major influence on their loyalty to the brand. Seventy one per cent of respondents identified access to 24/7 customer care as the main influence on their loyalty, while 69% emphasised the importance of personalised care.

By using social media, brands can be responsive across multiple time-zones. They can use social listening and CRM tools to help them make their responses unique and personal to the individual customer. As this technology becomes more sophisticated, we’ll see more brands focus on social media to deliver their customer care.

Social Media Strategy Best Practice Guide

The demand for real-time customer service is growing. In response, brands are using automated technology (in combination with the insight, value and expertise provided by their customer service specialists) to provide their customers not just with fast response and resolution times, but with positive experiences that they want to share.

Econsultancy offers social media customer service training