From the consumer’s point of view, it doesn’t matter which team they’re speaking to when they reach out to a brand on social media. All they care about is receiving a response.

The Sprout Social Index™, Edition XVI: Above & Beyond, reveals 79% of consumers expect a response from brands in the first 24 hours of reaching out. And 49% of consumers will unfollow brands on social media that deliver a poor customer experience. Clearly, how a brand interacts with customers online and the time it takes to respond can make or break the social customer experience.

The secret to creating a best-in-class customer experience on social starts with the collaboration between a brand’s social team and customer support team. By clarifying roles up front and working from the same playbook, social and customer support teams can create a social customer experience that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Every team has a role to play

While a brand’s social team is likely a customer’s first point of contact, it’s hardly the only team responsible for addressing each and every inbound message. Who responds to a customer message largely depends on both the content of the message itself and the goals of your social and customer support teams. In other words, the team that’s on-call isn’t always the best suited to respond and should delegate messages accordingly.

At Sprout Social, for example, the social team’s goals largely focus on increasing brand awareness and engaging our target audience. In addition to responding to a bulk of the incoming social messages, the team primarily manages content that engages followers and builds community.

On the other hand, the Sprout Social customer care team focuses on responding to problems, requests, and technical issues that directly impact a customer’s experience of the product. From speeding up response times to helping customers resolve product issues, the support team steps in to take over conversations that are then moved to our Zendesk help platform.

Sprout’s support team is also available to step in when messages come through after the social team logs off for the day. Kathleen Hannon, a Customer Support Manager at Sprout, elaborates on her team’s role further. “In Dublin and the Philippines, those teams monitor and respond to messages in Sprout Social as part of their day-to-day operations. They see and interact with all types of messages, and we have people monitoring the Sprout Inbox almost 24/7 between the social and support teams.”

And if a support team member doesn’t have an answer, they can let customers know the message was received and has been passed on to the appropriate department. Even letting customers know their questions have been recorded can go a long way toward creating a positive customer experience and maintaining brand responsiveness.

Consistency across teams is the key to success

Whatever your brand’s unique voice may be, that voice needs to carry over into every message you send—regardless if you’re responding to a complaint or a question or a compliment. A whopping 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience when interacting with brands across any channel. Learning how to inject that brand voice into every interaction is one best practice every brand needs to bake into their workflows.

One of the ways to maintain this consistency is to train every team member at the start of their tenure. Rachael Samuels, the Senior Manager of Social Media at Sprout Social, elaborates further: “Every new customer care team member, regardless of location, is trained in our social voice, approach and more. We do a full social training process complete with worksheets, reviews, one-on-ones and then a graduation.”

In addition to training, Hannon shares another tip for building a successful working relationship between customer support and social teams: “Communication, trust, feedback and having an established set of norms and a common voice also help.”

Create a single source of truth that every team can reference to ensure everyone is on the same page at all times: use a style guide to outline what a brand’s voice should sound like and internal handbooks to walk members through next steps for a variety of scenarios. As a result, if a customer support team member encounters internet trolls or experiences harassment, they can refer to a shared guidebook to determine what to do and who to loop into the conversation.

Simplify your message workflows with one collaborative tool

The ability to quickly and efficiently respond to inbound messages is what makes great customer care. With a shared social customer care tool like Sprout Social, businesses can resolve all customer inquiries in a timely fashion and ensure messages are handled by the right teams.

Within the Sprout platform, two must-have processes include tagging and tasking all inbound messages. Using Tags, whichever team is monitoring the inbox is able to label and sort messages by specific categories such as:

  • Sales lead
  • Feature requests
  • Crisis or incident response
  • Technical issue
  • User-generated content

Not only does Tagging help team members classify the types of messages they receive, it makes it easy for anyone to segment and filter content. A message with the UGC tag, for instance, can quickly be surfaced when social content is needed for a marketing campaign, while feature request tags can be shared with the product team as research.

Tags also empower teams to prioritize incident messages by severity level, ensuring those that need a timely response don’t accidentally slip through the cracks.

Equally valuable is assigning messages to specific individuals based on the content and response type needed. Tasking ensures those who are best equipped to effectively respond to a customer query are on the case. For example, messages that fall under the category of ‘technical issue’ should be resolved by someone on the support team, not a sales or success team member. In the Sprout platform, you can Task specific messages to another team member with the Task type and severity level.

Remember what I said earlier about documenting every workflow and each team’s responsibility? That applies to Tagging and Tasking too. After creating your naming conventions and task workflows, make sure to record the different labels and next steps in a place where anyone can refer back to.

This can come in handy at different times. For example, if your overnight crew takes over the brand inbox and a sales lead comes in overnight, tasking that message to a sales team member ensures no potential leads are left behind. And if a social media crisis develops over the weekend, tagging messages with the ‘incident’ label and identifying priority level can help senior team members quickly and effectively address the situation.

Teamwork makes the (social customer experience) dream work

Customers expect a consistent experience when they reach out to brands on social media, regardless of why they’re reaching out in the first place. Remember: your followers don’t care who’s responding to their inquiry as long as they get an answer in the end.

The best-in-class social customer experience starts with a strong alliance between your social and customer support teams. Establish clear role expectations and create workflows to ensure the right messages are assigned to the right teams. With the social and customer support teams working in lockstep, brands can deliver a seamless and rewarding social customer experience.

Looking for inspiration on ways to further engage with your customers on social? Download our free worksheet on creating authentic connections with your audience today.