More than 30% of users prefer social media customer service over telephone and mail. Unsurprisingly, estimates expect 90% of businesses to use networks like Twitter and Facebook to provide service and resolve issues.

Yes, social customer service will become the bare minimum people expect from you from a support perspective. And you better be outstanding at it if you want to thrive.

Read on and discover how to provide stellar service and an endearing experience to your clients and prospects, complete with real-life examples from popular brands.

1. Provide Fast Responses To Inquiries

How soon should you reply to customer service questions on social media?

For 42% of consumers, a response within the hour is acceptable. But more than a third expect an answer within only 30 minutes. Meanwhile, top US retailers take a full day before responding on Facebook and 11 hours and 15 minutes on Twitter.

The massive disparity between expectations and average response times is disappointing for consumers to say the least. But for businesses like you, the statistics above mean you can stand out from the competition by being fast.

British department store chain House Of Fraser may not have pinpoint accuracy in some their social marketing campaigns. But, boy, are they fast when taking on customer issues!

Case in point:

Lauren’s parcel was split open when it arrived, while one of the items was missing to boot. She took to Twitter as any modern consumer would.

How long did House Of Fraser take to respond?

11 minutes.

The reply only had the most basic personalization but nailed all the other essentials. It came quick, acknowledged the problem, and moved the conversation to a private channel so customers can safely give out important details.

But while a short response time may satisfy complaining customers, you need to go beyond speed to make people LOVE your brand. The next steps will show you how.

2. Sympathize With Customers

Whether we like it or not…

We cannot resolve every customer complaint.

Such was the case when Esaí Vélez‏ took a 4-hour flight on one of his favorite airlines, JetBlue, in 2015.

Everyone’s seatback TV was working, except for Vélez‏’ whose screen gave static throughout the trip. Dreading the boredom and perhaps a bit jealous of other passengers, he complained to JetBlue for the first time.

JetBlue’s social media and customer service team can’t do anything about this technical issue. They can’t delay the flight to get someone on the ground to fix the problem. And planes don’t usually fly with TV technicians on board.

They could’ve responded with, “We’re sorry, but you just have to deal with it.” Perhaps a sugar-coated version. Or, they could have ignored the tweet altogether like other airlines do and get away with it.

But JetBlue showed why they are one of the most loved airlines around.

Not only were they quick and empathetic in their response.

But they also offered to credit Vélez‏ for the seatback TV, a move which makes perfect sense as in-flight entertainment is part of JetBlue’s service.

The result?

A satisfied and impressed Vélez‏!

Yes, you may not have all the answers to technical issues and hiccups customers pose. But as JetBlue’s example has shown, you can still end on a high note by empathizing with the complainant and being proactive (though reasonable) in offering compensation.

3. Educating Followers Is Part Of Social Media Customer Service

Whole Foods Market, Inc., may take a while to get rid of its “Whole Paycheck” moniker, bestowed by its customers for the supermarket chain’s reputation for being too pricey for many consumers.

Nevertheless, people like 65-year old Tor Gunnarson still shop at Whole Foods regardless of the price.

The reason:

A more pleasant shopping experience!

And looking at the store’s Twitter account and its 4.85 million followers, Whole Foods provides the same enjoyable customer experience online, too.

On-season marketing tweets and announcements like the one below are par for the course.

But Whole Foods also knows how to engage and educate their loyal fans. Their Twitter account is packed with cooking hacks, beginner-friendly tips, and delish recipes that empower their health-conscious audience to lead fitter lives.

Whether you’re a time-strapped vegan looking for a quick way to whip up a power salad bowl at home…

A Paleo follower looking to “up“ your cooking game…

Or a reformed grain-eater on the hunt for a gluten-free shopping list…

…You’re bound to find a Whole Foods tweet (likely with a 30-second video clip) that has just what you need!

Along with prompt service and fantastic offers, educating customers on how they can get the most out of your products is one of the best ways to keep people coming back for more. So kudos Whole Foods!

4. Showcase Your Organization’s Human Side

If you still think that all-things business must proceed formally, you’re missing out on many opportunities to connect with customers at an emotional level.

A study involving 5,000 participants found that the most loved online brands are multifaceted and “human”. They publish content and interact with their target audiences in a funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring way. Being formal and stiff isn’t in the list!

“Hi Skyscanner. Just wondering what you’d recommend I do during the 47-year layover your website has suggested?” said James Lloyd in a Facebook post.

Skyscanner is an airline search engine that compares flights so you can pick the best deal. But on that day, their website was a bit off. They could have thanked Lloyd for point out the error and added a simple: “We’re sorry. We’ll fix the problem.”

But Jen, Skyscanner’s social media manager for the UK and Ireland, saw this as an opportunity to pull off a sensational customer service win.

Not only did Jen acknowledge Lloyd and offered to look into the issue. The latter also got funny and excellent suggestions for his extended layover in Bangkok.

The post did not only grab the attention of users and made them laugh. It also inspired many to start using Skyscanner.

5. Surprise And Delight Your Most Loyal Fans

Peter Shankman loves Morton’s Steakhouses. Whenever the angel investor and HARO founder is doing business in a city where a Morton’s is nearby, count on him to try get a dinner at the restaurant. He’s a frequent diner, and Morton’s knows it.

One Thursday, however, Shankman had an uber-tight schedule – a 7am flight from Newark to Florida, a lunch meeting in the afternoon, and a flight back to Newark at around 5pm. By the time he boarded his return flight, he knew he wouldn’t have the time to grab dinner.

Hand over his belly, Shankman sent out the following tweet…

“I was joking,” said Shankman in a follow-up blog post. “It’s like how we tweet “Dear Winter, please stop, love Peter,” or something similar.”

But when he arrived at the driver’s waiting area, a man in a tuxedo greeted him and handed over a bag with 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, a Colossal Shrimp, a serving of potatoes and bread, and silverware in it!

Pulling off this jaw-dropping customer service stunt is no cakewalk.

After seeing the tweet, someone from Morton’s corporate headquarters had to get approval and get in touch with Morton’s Hackensack. Not to mention the server (and the steak) had to drive 23.5 miles to meet Shankman at the Newark International Airport.

All done in less than three hours, and all for free!

Today’s technology lets you track and learn more about your best clients.

But the question is:

What are you going to do with this insight?

After learning about Morton’s social customer service act worthy of the books, we hope your answer is: “Use it to reward and delight our most loyal fans when they need us most.”