The Best Advice on Meeting Social Media Customer Expectations in 2019

In the rush of day to day life, it’s easy to get to the end of the year without taking the time to reflect on what went well, what you learnt, and what you’ll do differently next year.

Thinking about these things is crucial to developing as Peter Drucker said, “if you want something new, you have to stop doing something old!” and it’s particularly true for social media customer service.

If you want your relationships with customers to evolve from transactional to creating brand advocates you have to approach social media customer care differently and adapt to changing customer expectations!

To learn more about how to take your social media customer care to the next level in 2019 and discuss lessons learnt in 2018 we invited two experienced social media managers to join our webinar! Big thank you to Chris and Tom for sharing their experiences, and thanks to our readers who were listening live and asking fantastic questions!

The guys shared great real-life examples, tips, and tactics that you don’t want to miss so read on to catch up on the key takeaways you need to know!

But before we dive in, let’s find out a bit more about our wonderful guest speakers…

Introducing our Guest Speakers


Chris Phelps is Management Information Manager at Serco Leisure, and before that the Digital Media Manager adding to Chris‚Äô strong background in social media.

Serco Leisure operate 60+ gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres, ranging from school facilities right up to Olympic training venues which means working with a wide range of customer types across their 120 regional social media accounts.



Tom Roberts is Media and Content Manager at Redrow Homes, working as part of the Group CommunicationsTeam responsible for PR, social media, and customer service.

Redrow is one of the largest house builders in the UK, building just under 6,000 homes each year.

How Social Media is Managed at Each Organisation

Serco Leisure

Serco Leisure have a distributed model where a number of people at each of their sites have access to the organisation’s social media accounts. These on-site teams are supported by a regional marketing manager who oversees multiple regions, those managers are then supported by the head office team who look after the whole estate.

Chris explained that how social media is co-ordinated can vary – they might run a national campaign pushing content out to all of accounts one week, while other times they might do something hyperlocal focussing in on a particular gym instructor doing something amazing for charity that they would only promote to the members of one venue.

With that in mind, for Serco Leisure, successful social media customer service relies upon the input of lots of colleagues across the organisation, and sharing accurate information to provide the best customer experience at all levels!

Redrow Homes

Tom explained that Redrow works slightly differently as their business is structured in 15 regional divisions like a lot of house builders. Each region has a dedicated customer service team who feed into the main Redrow branded social media accounts, answering questions and creating content.

The organisation chose not to have separate accounts for each region because customers see Redrow as a single entity, they don’t recognise a distinction between regions and so this would only confuse. But this set up did make it more of a logistical challenge to work out how to set up processes to make sure teams on the ground could answer the queries relating to their region.


Where’s the complexity in social media customer service?

It seemed the main challenge is in managing customer expectations and educating consumers about what goes on behind the scenes to reduce damaging assumptions. It highlights the fact that customers might not see any difference in communicating with an organisation via social media, on the phone, or even in person, they expect the same level of service.

Chris and Tom shared a few examples of this – do any of these situations sound familiar to you too?

  1. Customers often expect you to immediately know who they are and what they’re talking about from a brief message about a problem, just because it’s on social media… 
  2. Customers might be suspicious of taking public messages to a direct message because they think you’re trying to hide something – when really you just want to protect their personal data!
  3. Customer confusion over who they’re talking to when they’ve only experienced your brand at a local level and don’t expect to suddenly be chatting on the social media account of an unfamiliar parent company or brand. Making it harder to build trust and creating resistance!

To reduce some of this complexity when talking to customers on social media, it’s crucial that organisations have access to the right information about each situation and that knowledge is shared across the organisation. It’s also increasingly important that brands set expectations early on as to what they can and cannot do on social media as well as developing their online brand if this is less well known!

What are the Biggest Social Media Customer Service Trends you’ve seen in 2018?

Both Chris and Tom argued that the greatest change they’ve seen is brands moving away from the traditional corporate tone of voice to injecting personality and a human touch to their engagement.

This is a welcome change for consumers who get a much better impression of your brand when the conversation is natural, relatable, and empathetic. If you’ve ever had a conversation on social media and felt like you were talking to a bot, you know it doesn’t leave you feeling valued and is unlikely to turn you into a brand advocate!

But developing a natural tone of voice on social media after years of training and focus on how to appear professional can be tricky! Tom highlighted how customer service teams can gravitate towards more formal language replying with the go-to phrase “sincerest apologies for the inconvenience” when really all they need to say is “I’m really sorry”.

Related Resource: The Best Advice on Developing a Unique Social Media Personality


What do you wish you knew before starting your social media customer service project?

The advice from both Tom and Chris was to take it seriously and treat social media customer service with as much care and attention as you would your call centre. That means:

  • Getting the support of your board
  • Being prepared to invest time and budget to get results
  • Resourcing it properly with the right people who have the right training
  • Taking your time – it’s not going to fall into place overnight!

Tom also reminded us that it’s okay to have days where you feel like nothing is going right and all you’re encountering is negativity. Just take a minute to relax and remember that it’s not personal and if you need to, talk to your colleagues and support systems about it! #YouGotThis!

Chris also shared a fantastic analogy that brought everything into focus for us and that’s the fact that no one would dream of ignoring customers queuing at reception or the ringing phone, so why should social media be treated any differently!?

If anything social media is the worst form of communication to ignore because so many other people can see you doing it. The worst that happens if someone has a bad experience on the phone is tell a couple of people, not hundreds if not thousands…

What’s the greatest opportunity for brands on social media in 2019?

For Chris the biggest opportunity lies in being more transparent, open, and honest than ever! As a leisure operator, things do go wrong and sometimes facilities have to be closed and it’s easy to fall back on the reasoning that it was a ‘technical malfunction’. But when it comes to pool closures, this often isn’t the case.

Serco Leisure have found that by being honest and just saying, “sorry our pool is closed for cleaning because the water is soiled” really helps to maintain the reputation of their brand. This might sound strange considering what we’re talking about but it switches the focus. The previous vague answer led customers to assume the closure was because Serco don’t maintain the pool well enough or the pumps were broken.

But in explaining that sometimes children do soil the pool and they want to protect people from swimming in dirty water, customers understand and are actually thankful that the organisation took action! So there’s scope for brands to improve relationships with customers this year by just bringing down some of the barriers and being honest!

Tom believes the biggest opportunity is in data. Redrow have started focussing more on using insights from their customer service activity to identify common questions. In their case, lots of people thought that all new build homes are the same. But Redrow build a premium product and their customers choose them because of that.

So to set the record straight and head off this question, the team produced a really high-quality video showcasing the quality of their homes and answering these very questions!

Have you considered how you could proactively tackle recurring questions?

Those are the key learnings we took from the webinar and we hope those of you who joined us live found the session insightful! If you missed it, fear not – you can catch up on the full webinar by clicking here! As always we love hearing your thoughts and feedback so please do get in touch @SoCrowd, or email! Explore our social media customer service software.

Lastly, thank you again to Tom and Chris for taking the time to chat to us and share your experiences in leading social media customer service projects!