Customer service and Twitter – friend or foe?

Having some issues with a new service we’d just subscribed to, I was frustrated to find that I’d have to wait nine hours to call a helpline based in the US. Turning to Twitter, I found @jivesupport and pinged them a tweet asking for a support number in the UK. I received an almost instant reply from their social media manager apologising for the problem, which was followed shortly by a reply from their support team who quickly helped me resolve the issue.

Not only did @jivesupport help me solve the problem in less than an hour, but they’ve also now created a brand advocate for their customer service. It got me thinking about customer service on Twitter in general and how the natural immediacy we’ve become used to on the micro-blogging platform is translating into the way companies are using it for CRM.

There are countless stories of bad customer service that have exploded across Twitter and Facebook resulting in a PR nightmare for brands who decided to dip their feet in the social media pool only to find that they weren’t quite ready to swim in it. I wonder whether a fear of the potential negative repercussions is driving the increasing number of companies using Twitter successfully for customer service.

Used correctly, Twitter is clearly a great way to satisfy your customers, who will then spread a visible appreciation for your brand to their followers. However, as with any communication plan, it should always be treated with caution and a clear strategy for dealing with the consequences. At the very least, consider the following:

  • Do you have the right monitoring tools? Set up alerts such as Tweetbeep so that you’re aware and ready to respond to what’s been said about your brand.
  • Who is taking responsibility for your social media platforms? If it’s an agency, make sure they are fully briefed on what to look out for and how to reply to direct questions
  • Buy yourself time with an acknowledgment. Reasonable customers won’t expect instant answers to complicated problems but will appreciate an @reply that lets them know you’re looking into it.

My positive experience this week will certainly inform the way I contact other companies with issues in the future and I’ll be watching Twitter closely for more good and bad examples. It’s fascinating to observe the ways in which social media is changing the way we do business and it is vital that brands consider its relevance for their services and customers.

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