The Community Manager’s Guide
for Social Customer Support
Many businesses are using social media for customer engagement and
crisis management. This has led to the rise of a new job — the community
manager. Community managers are often the online (and more increasingly
offline) faces of their companies. Most importantly, they help foster the
relationships and connections with customers. This guide will help others in
your organizations understand what community managers actually do, and
gives community managers a trusted guide to their day-to-day jobs.
Alex Hisaka is a Content Marketer at Desk.com.
Follow her on Twitter at @alexhisaka
Table of Contents:
1. The Evolution of the
2. Creating a Social Customer
3. Prioritize: Manage Issues
4. When to Engage and Not
Engage With Customers
5. Collaborate: Take Customer
Service to Your Whole Team
After reading it, your business should:
• Define responsibilities and set
goals within your organization.
• Define and implement a social
customer service strategy.
• Manage issues vs. conversations.
• Judge when to engage and when
not to with your customers.
• Involve your entire company
in customer service.
As you read through this guide, take notes. Think about how you
can use the ideas, concepts and strategies shared in these pages.
We know you’ll find a lot to think about as you read.
The Evolution of the Community Manager
The lines dividing community managers and customer support agents can be
blurry. Some businesses choose to distinctly separate the two roles. Others —
often small and medium-sized businesses — pick someone in their organization
who is social media savvy and have them wear a number of hats.
They create strategies and implement the plans, listen to customers and gather feedback, and
manage customer support and complaints on social media. Community management has
become more than a role — it’s a discipline integrated across the company.
Just what are the essential skills and requirements of a community manager?
• Customer service skills were requested in 75% of job descriptions. According to Jeremiah Owyang of
the Altimeter Group, his study showed that 43% of community manager roles must interact with customers
wherever they go. Additionally, they should have 2.5-3 years of experience in customer service.
• Being in touch with customers and dialed in to what they want from your products or services.
Connie Bensen, community manager of Dell, says successful community managers help lead an
organization’s shift from one person doing all things social to social collaboration company wide.
• Seamlessly work across all departments. Community managers know how to listen,
and what to do after they listen. They know how to engage and build relationships, and
if a customer need help, they know how to act fast and resolve problems.
• Nurturing online communities
• Demonstrating rapid response and company
emphasis on quality customer care, transparency
and authenticity to a large, public audience.
• Utilizing social channels as a “canary in the mine” to
spot issues, correct course and clarify messaging.
• Reduce support costs; if it works — great. If
it doesn’t, your investment was small.
• Sharing tips and techniques.
• Gathering exposure for your brand.
• Monitoring and responding to customer
conversations in real time.
• Intervening quickly to protect reputation and improve
customer experience during urgent or crisis situations.
• Tracking the entire conversation about your brand.
• Release product updates and other informative
updates to reduce support costs.
• Providing valuable and interesting content to attract
new business and earn the trust of existing customers.
As the community manager’s role evolves to become more strategic, community and customer
service will work in tandem. Business will continue to change in our social world, so it’s important that
community managers take on the responsibilities of engagement and crisis management.
Though there’s no marked path to being a successful community manager, some
common activities and abilities have made themselves clear:
While many of these day-to-day tasks are achievable, it takes proper planning and resources. To avoid pitfalls, a thoughtful
social customer-service strategy will support your marketing. It can also position people within your company as thought
leaders, helping your organization influence those who regularly talk about issues of interest to them and you.
Creating a Social Customer Service Strategy
Many businesses fail to realize the strategic opportunity of using service
as a vehicle to grow and keep customers. Implementing a social
customer service strategy isn’t easy; you’ll need to define responsibilities,
set goals and analyze your teams workloads and processes.
The core of any good social customer service strategy is conveying to customers they’ve been
heard and you’re doing something about the issue. A combination of speed, accuracy and
impact will lead to customer satisfaction, and open opportunities down the road.
Define job roles and responsibilities:
How do you manage expectations of service
to your community? Define who is online
and when. If there are hours, figure out
how to handle issues during off hours.
Open internal lines of
The more siloed an organization, the less people
will understand how their role affects the company
and customer. Plan to involve people from
different departments to “touch” the customer.
Set policies, procedures, and goals
clearly informing employees of
what is accepted and prohibited:
This includes etiquette, engagement and response
times on your social channels. Each customer
issue should be treated as a “case” — and each
case needs a status, a priority and an owner.
Set up monitoring processes
to track your company,
competitors, and influences:
Ensure your staff knows what reporting is expected
and on what schedule. Identify hashtags your
community uses. Subscribe to search terms
for industry keywords and competitors.
Know the customer:
Identify your VIP customers and advocates,
and find ways to deepen those relationships.
Understand why customers are retained or lost.
What key areas are you
reporting on and how:
On social, measure sentiment (compile complaints,
compliments and suggestions), response time
and number of customer issues resolved.
Align your marketing efforts
with your social customer
Share great content with your customers, be
there to help them when they have an issue.
Prioritize: Manage Issues vs. Conversations
No matter how good your customer service plan is, nothing
happens exactly the way it’s supposed to.
Customers will judge your company for service failures, large and small, from bugs in your software to responses not
answered within five minutes. But you can seize these opportunities — how you handle the situation is what counts.
Monitor customer service
issues as they emerge:
• Use social channels as “listening posts” (create
private lists on Twitter, save search terms for industry
keywords, hashtags and company mentions).
• When a customer reaches out for help, you should
respond on the same channel quickly and transparently.
Respond quickly and accurately:
• Make a rule to keep response times under “X”
minutes (one-fourth of customers who complain
via social media expect a reply within an hour).
• When someone has an issue, send an @mention
or reply asking them how you can help.
• If it’s a bigger issue, ask customers to contact
you via phone or email so you can better
understand what happened and solve the
problem in a reasonable amount of time.
Handle issues as they arise to
prevent a potential crisis:
• If there’s a server error, post regular updates on
the status page of the company’s website.
• Let people know you are working on the problem.
• As you figure things out, share the results.
• If a customer is complaining online, community teams
should be aware of who they are and why they’re upset.
Be truthful and transparent:
• Figure out who the the customer is and why
he or she is upset (check their Twitter or
Facebook bio for their name and company)
• Reach out to the person to gain a greater
insight into their concerns.
• When you get a complaint, don’t avoid handling it.
When you do wrong, apologize and make it right.
Make follow-ups systematic:
• Always follow up — on social channels for smaller issues,
through phone calls and emails for larger ones — to
make sure the disgruntled got what they needed.
• Welcome advice and constructive criticism
and collect it for reporting.
Sometimes customers complain because they care. They want
something to work and are disappointed that it didn’t.
It’s your responsibility to fix the problem. How you communicate with your customers, how you
accept responsibility, and how you make things right is what people remember.
• Start and join conversations.
• Be generous and promote others.
• Engage with experts,
advocates and customers.
• Share great content.
• Reward your fans and
followers with special
discounts and promotions.
• Ask customers directly for
their feedback about your
product or service.
• Encourage engagement
by responding to the
people who answer.
• Use social media to “push”
products. Suggestions in
context of service or support
are fine, if carefully handled;
blatant marketing is a no-no.
• Lose focus: be present,
responsive and consistent.
• Be defensive. Respond with respect
and let the customer know you’re
listening and trying to understand.
• Respond too quickly. Listen
first and then decide if a
response is warranted. Figure
out if this a loyal customer or
a detractor of your brand.
Manners and etiquette:
• Listen first, talk second.
• Be yourself. This is a conversation.
• Show and expect respect.
• Never use bad language (you
know what I’m talking about).
• Apologize with sincerity, if it’s
appropriate. Humility is good.
• Be polite; follow normal social
norms, just like offline.
• Identify yourself as an
employee; do not make
on behalf of your company.
When to Engage and Not Engage With Customers
So how do the best community manager’s do it?
Here is a overview of what to do and what not to do when you’re engaging with customers:
Rest assured, this isn’t a definitive list of what makes a successful community manager.
But we think you’ll agree that this is a first step in the right direction to foster a customer-
centric approach to business. Start here and see what other ideas come to mind.
Collaborate: Take customer service to your whole team
While there will always be a need for dedicated support personnel, more and more
companies are taking Community Management to the next level by empowering staff.
This position provides organizations with a role that works cross-functionally in ensuring that
all departments are valuable participants in the relationship with the customer.
Train team members:
It’s impossible to expect everyone on your team to
know what’s happening with all of your customers. Keep
your team in the loop with changes in your company
culture and customer service strategy so everyone is
on the same page when supporting the customer.
Track and manage customer issues:
Effective social customer service requires an airtight system to
track customer issues; clarifying to whom each issue is assigned,
its priority and when the issue has been updated or resolved.
When a customer reaches out, who in your company is
responsible for handling it? Create a system that assigns an
owner to each customer issue based on priority, availability
and expertise. That ensures each customer reaches the
person best suited to properly answering the question.
Customer profiles and history:
Build a profile for each customer and keep track of all
the customer’s social interactions with you. Otherwise
your business will spend more time relearning each
customer than actually resolving problems.
Create a knowledge base:
Not every business has support staff available 24/7; self-service
options bridge the gaps. Self-service is more than just your
support center, it’s all the content you make available to your
customers, enabling them to find the information on their
own or when your front-line support team is unavailable.
Measure its effectiveness:
To ensure your social customer service efforts are effective,
measure sentiment, response time and number of customer
issues resolved on each channel. Also, determine which channel
was used most often and why and how it can be improved.
These suggestions are the very tip of the social customer-service iceberg; hopefully it will get you thinking about
social customer service and what changes need to be made to refocus your attention on your customers. If you
have any questions or need help getting started, we’re happy to talk to you. You can email our customer support
experts at email@example.com or check out some handy resources on our blog at www.desk.com/blog.