If your small business is on Twitter to promote your product and services, why not take it to the next level and use Twitter as a customer service tool? Implementing a “customer service via Twitter” option can be one of the most effective ways of dealing with customer service issues.
In fact, even if you don’t want to create a dedicated Twitter handle for customer service, you should have a strategy for responding to complaints and problems customers vent on Twitter about your business. Otherwise, customer service issues that aren’t handled properly can blow up in your face.
A recent study of how the top 100 brands on Twitter handle customer service on the social media platform has some useful advice.
- Create a dedicated customer service handle on Twitter. Instead of @yourbiz, for instance, you can use @yourbizcustserv. Thirty percent of the top 100 brands on Twitter have a dedicated customer service handle. The benefit of creating a dedicated customer service handle? It draws complaints about your brand away from the overall brand handle. That means the average Twitter user is less likely to see them and they’re less likely to go viral.
- Use your customer service handle for outreach as well as incoming customer service. The most effective brands on Twitter tweet frequently from their customer service handles. Keep in mind these are big global companies, and you probably don’t need to tweet as often as they do. However, you should use that handle to tweet proactively and avoid customer service issues. For instance, if your website is down and you know a large number of customers will be affected, tweet it. If your most popular product is out of stock but you expect a shipment in on Thursday, tweet that. Don’t just tweet a problem; let customers know when it will be fixed, what you’re doing to help and how they can contact you with concerns or questions (your Twitter customer service handle, of course, but also phone, email or whatever options will work for you).
- Respond promptly. You may not be able to resolve an issue immediately, but it’s important to acknowledge complaints that appear on Twitter. If you are using Twitter as an official customer service channel, you should have someone monitoring it all the time. Among the top 100 brands on Twitter, 61 percent of all responses to customer service issues were sent within an hour. That’s a great goal to aim for—on Twitter, even one hour seems like eternity! However, because some responses were sent immediately while other problems fell through the cracks, the average response times for the top 10 brands in the study was under 24 hours.
- Get personal. With speed so important, it’s crucial that if you’re going to have a dedicated customer service Twitter account, it is staffed appropriately. Otherwise, it can backfire on you. You may not be able to resolve an issue immediately, but you should at least acknowledge the comment within a reasonable time. Having adequate staff also allows customer service reps to get personal in their responses—replying with your name and telling customers to call you on your direct line, DM you or email your personal email is much more effective than telling someone to call an 800 number or send an email to “Customerservice@yourbrand.com.”
- Manage expectations. The Top 100 study found that brands were focusing on answering more users, rather than on increasing the speed of their responses. That’s smart because you don’t want users to fall through the cracks and get mad on Twitter. That said, it’s a good idea to clarify your response times, such as letting users know they can expect a response within 24 or 48 hours. (Then, when they get one faster, they’ll be impressed.) For many customers, the waiting and feeling that their tweet went into a black hole is the most frustrating part of customer service, so if you can give them a time frame, you’ve won half the battle.
Image by Flickr user Andreas Eldh (Creative Commons)