Twitter as a Customer Service tool

There are many examples of companies who seem to ‘get’ the opportunity afforded by monitoring their presence on Twitter. These companies provide a great customer service experience on Twitter.

By Rob Falla – Your Presence Online

In this blog we will look at some behaviours that are and that are not examples of great customer service and we will also look at the reasons a company should be providing this level of customer service.

Why should your company strive to provide a great customer service experience in social media?

You want more money!

If:

  • Your reputation matters
  • Your brand image matters
  • Profits matter
  • Customer loyalty matters

Customer service matters to you.

If you are not using social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and linkedIn as part of your customer service offering you need to conduct a social media strategy review now. If your company would benefit from a social media strategy consultation email Rob Falla from Your Presence Online to request a consultation. Still not convinced?

What is great customer service

Keep it simple. Attributes to look for include:

  • Social media team in place.
    If they want to provide a great service they need to invest in it and be there where the action is. The social media team should be linked to the customer service team instead of the IT team and it should be empowered to make things better for the customer.
  • Active and engaged social media profiles.
    Dead accounts, bot-controlled accounts, and accounts that only drive customers to an email address or into hiding with DMs can not be said to be great. They must be seen by the tweeting public to be dealing with customer experience issues.
  • Access to brand and reputation monitoring tools, customer relationship tools, inventory and delivery scheduling databases and tools.
  • Empowered to act on behalf of the company to resolve issues.
    I realise I already touched on this but it is that improtant that it needed to be restated.

There are other attributes, but this is enough to get any company started. If your company doesn’t have at least the above in place you need to get started on it now.

Customer service in action on Twitter

I found this example. It tells a story in two simple tweets. A great way to learn how a company or brand responds to you if you complain about their service.

http://twitter.com/#!/RobErskine13/status/77237321568755712

So the guy is upset about the delay, understandable. Many of us have been in the situation that his tweet implies. Interestingly his tweet is retweeted twice. JetBlue are on it though. Even if there is a delay between the time he posts his tweet and they reply, it is not an unreasonable delay.

Is the response reasonable and appropriate? That is between Jetblue and Rob Erskine. But the exchange is public. The company apologised and offered compensation. I remember something a manager once told me early on in my career, “it is better to be seen to be doing the right thing.” That is a whole other blog, in fact I think Scott Adams has already written several books on that topic, but it is one of those truisms of life.

How your customers are using Twitter

Your customers are already on Twitter. If you are not on Twitter, monitoring your Brand, responding to customer problems, complaints, concerns and issues, dealing with these things, and being seen to deal with these things, you are missing out on an easy and inexpensive opportunity to turn disgruntled customers into happy customers and happy customers into loyal advocates of your brand.

Example tweets from real customers:

http://twitter.com/#!/sugarlumpy/statuses/77391502984228864

How great for Delta that SurgyLumpy was so impressed with the customer service she received she wanted to share it with the world?

A happy customer who shares their positive experiences is worth a lot more than a lifestyle marketing campaign.

Sometime customers tweet about great customer service with no reference to the Twitter account for the company organisation.

Here are a couple of examples.

Enzo was so impressed by the customer service received from the London underground staff he wanted to let all his friends know.

Jerry was so impressed by the service he received from Verizon he felt moved to share it.

http://twitter.com/#!/dayleashford/statuses/77315042470666240

Dale also wants to let his connections know about a great customer service experience.

Maggie shared her positive experience with her connections too.

Lost opportunities in social media

Sometimes a customer wants to share their great experience and mention the company but that company is either not participating in social media, or at least in that service, or that company is too hard to find. For example:

Diya mentioned @Hardees in Amman, Jordan. I am not sure it is the same organisation as the one caught by Twitter, who (judging by their timeline) do get and make the most of their social media presence.

Customer loyalty that money can’t buy

What would it be worth to your brand or company to have a customer like Stew?

Stew has actually taken the time to challenge another tweep about a tweet, to defend a beloved brand.

People like to tell their connections about great customer service, to moan to the same connections about bad customer service and to defend their favourite brands.

It is not always great.

Unhappy customers on Twitter

Sometimes your customers have experienced a problem. It is not usual for people to spend their own time tweeting about a minor problem. They invest the time in writing a tweet, or if they are really unhappy a blog, when they have been let down by a company and offended at the treatment they received when they tried to resolve the problem. Perhaps the cashier or store manager or customer service rep on the phone was dismissive or rude to them or perhaps someone lied to them about a missed delivery. Twitter has hundreds, possibly thousands, of such stories.

http://twitter.com/#!/dannyft/statuses/77270928987402240

Alejandro wants all of his connections to know about a negative customer experience from Apple. That Danny and at least one other person have retweeted Alejandro could mean they have had a similar experience from Apple but couldn’t be bothered to actually write their own tweet.

Haters on Twitter

I didn’t expect to find product / brand haters on Twitter, but they are there.

Starting with simple Tweet on the 30th of August 2010:

These people have made it their personal mission to let as many people as possible know just how unhappy they are with Sears.

The most recent Tweet (as of the writing of this blog) is:

This is Tweet # 2379, they have 962 followers and are included in 11 lists.

In addition to shouting to the world through the reach of their Twitter account they also extend the reach of other unhappy customers by retweeting every negative mention of Sears over a period of several months. Has this kind of negative campaigning lead to any changes in customer service at Sears? I suppose time will tell.

There are several Twitter accounts maintained by Sears including @Sears, @MySears and @SearsCares. Looking at these accounts I can see that they appear to be using Twitter to take the complaints offline.

From @SearsCares timeline:

Several screens worth of nearly the same message. Not a great example of customer service on Twitter.

From @MySears timeline:

But there are also several positive tweets in that timeline and Rhonda is making a genuine attempt to personalise many of the conversations. Unfortunately for unsatisfied Sears customers Rhonda is apparently not in a position to offer any solutions, has no access to a database of information about things like inventory or delivery schedules and no way to contact individual stores with details of specific complaints and concerns. Still, doing much better than @SearsCares.

I like Rhonda. I like the way Rhonda apparently wants to improve things for her customers. I would like Rhonda on my team, working on behalf of my clients to make things better for them. I would expect her to be empowered to actually make things better, which would improve the perception of customer service experience by my client’s customers which would lead to loyal customers who would go out of their way to challenge unfair moaning tweets.

From @Sears timeline:

http://twitter.com/#!/Sears/status/6609258675

So that is it. Go to @MySears for help, where you will be asked to talk to the team at @SearsCares or to email the team.

Sears have obviously taken the time to think about how they can work in social media and have invested at least the cost of four people who spend at least part of their day monitoring Twitter. They are missing out on the real opportunity though. They have a second chance to make a great impression on hundreds of customers. They have an opportunity to do so in a public forum with a potential reach into the millions. They could be showing that they do care. Instead they are handling these issues offline. The impression is not great.

Conclusion

Perhaps some companies do not understand about Reach in social media.

If I post a tweet it will be seen by my 500+ followers, the total number of eyeballs on my tweet though is actually the total of all my followers plus the followers of any of my followers who retweet plus any of their followers who also retweet it plus any of their followers who retweet. If my tweet trends we are talking about tens of millions of people all tweeting about or seeing my tweet.

Empowering the social media team to deal with minor issues, training customer facing staff and call center staff and promoting great customer service from the office of the CEO to the checkout counter will all help to create a positive customer service experience that will translate into fiercely loyal customers. That will translate into an improvement in the bottom line far exceeding the cost of implementing the changes. If they have not already started to implement such changes they should get on with it now.

Never before has it been so easy for consumers to drop a brand that was not fit for purpose. Any company that thinks social media is not relevant to them needs to think again. If they still insist on holding on to their outdated attitudes about customer experience and customer service there is really on one option to you the consumer. Use a search engine to find an alternative, check their customer service record in you social media sphere and vote with your cash.

Feedback Welcome

Please take a minute or two to share your customer service experiences here; the good the bad and the great. Although any customer service experience is welcome we are especially interested in those experiences that involve Twitter.

Please remember to share this post with your followers when you leave your comments. We also grateful for all LinkedIn and Facebook shares.

If your company would benefit from a social media strategy consultation email Rob Falla from Your Presence Online to request a consultation.

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