Most companies I work with get the social-media customer service thing all wrong. They monitor Twitter, Facebook, etc., and respond to customer comments. But if all you’re doing is responding to customer complaints, you’re falling behind the curve.

Within the past couple of years, companies have figured out how to take social-media customer service to a higher level. No longer do they simply react to comments posted on social-media channels. They also engage in conversations with their customer communities. They interact and provide valuable information.

Nevertheless, you can’t ignore customer feedback. Here are three important things to remember when responding to customers online:

1.     Speed counts. Reaction time is extremely important. If I had wanted my question answered in two hours, I’d have waited two hours to ask it. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Social marketing firm Socialbakers claims the average wait time in the social-media world is nine hours. Meanwhile, the 2014 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer indicates that 25 percent of consumers who complain on social media expect a response in less than an hour. When your customer complains online, he wants a response now.

2.     Stay on the same social channel. If somebody approaches you via Facebook, for example, try not to move them to Twitter. Sure, you may want to move your unhappy customer to a private area such as Twitter’s direct message forum. There may be times when you may need to move a customer to a phone call or maybe some other mode of communication. But in the social-media world, try to keep to the same channel.

3.     Finish strong. Regardless of how upset a customer may be, start with the issue at hand. See what you can do to solve her problem or answer her question. You want her to end up saying something nice about you once the issue has been resolved. This way you can turn potentially negative PR into something positive.

Social-media customer service is powerful. And it involves more than just reacting. Engage and interact with your customer community, and you’ll win their appreciation and loyalty—and eventually their business.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email shep@hyken.com or go to www.hyken.com.