Customer service and social media go hand-in-hand. Customers will ask questions and report issues anywhere that they can contact a company, and social media is often the tool closest at hand.

But when you have a separate team handling social media, problems can sometimes occur. The most common? “GUYS, you need to answer this person on Twitter RIGHT NOW, they’re REALLY mad.”

Cue the collective sighs of the support team. They have dozens of other support tickets to deal with. Why is this one any different?

Don’t let a rift build between these two crucial customer-facing teams. Instead, try these 5 tips for getting them to work in harmony:

1. Know what users actually expect

Only 30% of consumers expect a response within 30 minutes on Twitter – 23% expect an answer within 2 hours and another 30% only expect a response within a day*.

So yes, you do need to respond the same day – but most folks don’t expect you to respond immediately. (In any case, our data suggests you should be trying to respond to messages from any channel within an hour).

2. Walk a mile in each other’s shoes

Lack of context is one of the biggest causes of miscommunications. Have your social team spend at least a day in the regular support queue, so they can get a sense of the volume and the effort required. Likewise, have your support team spend time on social, so they can grasp the immediacy of the channel. A little understanding will go a long way here.

3. Have an official method of routing social support items

Often the problem can just be the communication methods. Sending a chat or email (or even worse, coming to bug them in person) to the support team can be a costly interruption. Set up a way to route support-related social messages directly into your existing support tool and process (like the integration between Sprout Social and UserVoice).

4. Respond quickly (even if you don’t solve quickly)

Customers just want to know that you care and are going to solve their problem.

If you can’t get to their issue right away, have your team respond to them and let them know that you will be looking into it soon. (For the extra-frustrated folks, try letting them know how many tickets were already in the queue before them). That’s way better than radio silence.

5. Sometimes, you do have to prioritize social

But finally, sometimes social media does demand focus. If someone has huge reach – say, the editor of the New York Times – then their frustration will cause more damage than those ahead of them in your support queue. If someone is accusing you of something horrendous on Twitter, you may want to look into that before it starts a wildfire of gossip. Don’t bend over backwards just because someone has a thousand Twitter followers, but be aware of when to prioritize.

Social media and support are different, but with some process and understanding, both teams can work together to delight customers.

* (page 7)

Cat and dog photo courtesy of Nguyen Hoangnam.