Offer Great Customer Service with Twitter

24 November 2016

Offer Great Customer Service with Twitter

Back at the start of 2015, the internet (and several newspapers) had a collective giggle at a teenage boy who found himself in dire need of toilet paper when on a Virgin train. The boy decided to tweet his predicament to amuse his followers, but thought to copy in Virgin’s Twitter handle. Within 2 minutes, Virgin had responded to ask him what carriage he was in and the toilet paper was duly provided. Toilet humour aside, this incident showed just how powerful a customer service tool Twitter can be, if you know how to use it. Here are three tips on making the most of Twitter for customer service:

1. Commit to it

If you’re only just keeping on top of your existing communications channels then adding Twitter into the mix is probably going to end badly. You need to ensure that your current customer service process is working effectively before you start expanding it. Then, you need to be prepared to dedicate time and effort into making it work. The good news is that the basic principles of using Twitter are fairly similar to the basic principles of using e-mail effectively. You need to respond promptly, be both clear and succinct and direct queries appropriately. What promptly means in real terms depends on what kind of company you are. A large company like Virgin Trains would be expected to have dedicated staff to monitor its Twitter account pretty much 24/7. A local florist might be fine checking 2 or 3 times a day, 5 or 6 days a week. Whatever frequency you decide upon, you do need to commit to checking and you do need to commit to responding.

2. Be alert to situations which call for a private response

One of the reasons Twitter has become a popular way of contacting companies is that it makes the contact visible to the world at large. So, if it’s ignored or handled badly, the truth is out there for anyone to see. By contrast, if it gets a prompt response and is handled well, that is also out there for people to see. Therefore, it is actually often desirable to keep conversations public if at all possible so that other users have evidence of your high-quality customer service. LinkedIn are masters of this. They separate their customer service account from their main Twitter account (which is often a good idea for larger companies) and use the former to answer questions from users. This means, firstly, that their Twitter account also functions as an FAQ section, which may help to cut down on the queries they receive. Secondly, it means that they have an opportunity to retweet thank-you messages from happy customers.

At the same time, however, the fact that Twitter is a public forum means that companies have to be careful about asking for and/or disclosing data which could reasonably be considered sensitive, so be ready to direct queries to more private channels if appropriate.

3. Understand the difference between annoying customers and trolls

Anyone who has spent any time in a public-facing role will know that, generally speaking, most people behave fairly reasonably most of the time, while a few are just pains.

Annoying customers are a fact of life and need to be dealt with calmly and politely. Remember, everyone can see what you put on Twitter, so you need to be professional, polite and positive at all times. Straightforward trolls, however, can be easily blocked or muted.