An increasing number of consumers are not only leaving reviews on sites like Yelp and Google, but they’re also turning to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and request assistance from businesses. In fact, 33% of consumers even prefer to contact brands through social channels rather than an email or phone call.

At Main Street Hub, we work with thousands of local businesses across the country, so we know that online users are counting on businesses to respond to their requests and questions in a short period of time. This means that every direct message, mention, and wall post that comes in on social media is an opportunity for your business to extend its customer service online. If you monitor this communication effectively, you can use each post to show your customers the same care you would if they were in your store or restaurant.

Don’t miss these three essential tips to extend your customer service online through social media:

1. Respond to every review and request

Customers use Twitter and Facebook to talk about their specific experience at local businesses, and more and more, they’re using these platforms to ask questions like “Are you open on Mother’s Day?,” “Does your shop do oil changes?” “Do you have gluten-free items on your menu?” or “Can we make reservations online?” Social media is all about two-way conversations. These consumers are reaching out to you directly and expecting a quick response, so don’t ignore them! Engage with them by monitoring and responding to all incoming wall posts, direct messages, mentions, reviews, and tags that come in for your local business on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yelp. Responding to all of this communication will help your business appear accessible and responsive, and you’ll stay actively engaged with your customers and community. Plus, letting that feedback go unanswered could make your potential customers lose trust in your business, and ultimately, cause them to go to a competitor instead.

This strategy will also help to connect you with your customer base and understand what they’re looking for from your business so you can provide the best customer experience possible.

Pro Tip: Keeping a tracking document or spreadsheet handy is a great way to remember what you’ve responded to and what still needs attention. Also, you can use programs like Hootsuite to monitor messages and mentions on all of your social media platforms in one place.

Sound like a lot of work? Main Street Hub can do it for you. Get started here.

2. Personalize your responses

Whether you’re answering a review on Google, a Facebook wall post, or a request on Twitter, it’s essential to personalize your response. Including the customer’s name at the start of your response is a great way to show that you are paying attention and care about each individual that you interact with online. You should also mention specific details about the customer’s experience in your response: the more personalized the better. It shows that you value customer feedback and that you genuinely care about their concerns.

Sometimes, however, these reviews and messages can be negative representations of your business. If the post or review is particularly sensitive or inflammatory, respond publicly and consider following up in a private message ensure that the matter can be resolved.

3. Cross-promote resolutions

Cross-promotion is the fun part about using social media to elevate your customer service. When an issue is resolved, and you have made a current or potential customer happy with your excellent customer service, share that interaction with your fans and followers! You can share positive reviews from Google and Yelp on Twitter and Facebook, retweet resolved issues on Twitter so all of your followers can see it, or share a productive conversation with a customer on Facebook. It’s a great way to show your audience that you take pride in your customer service and that you are truly using social media channels to extend your customer service online.