How important is social media when it comes to engaging with your customers? Well if it’s being discussed on the BBC’s One Show, it must be! In last night’s episode, the show delved into the increasing numbers of consumers taking to Twitter as a forum to complain and the effectiveness of doing so.

While customers should receive good customer service (regardless of the platform they use to complain) increasing numbers are turning to social media to air their grievances and the real time nature of Twitter means they want answers fast.

In a survey by Simply Measured, the average customer account response time on Twitter was 5.1 hours – the fastest was 42 minutes – so it’s no wonder users are finding this to be a valuable channel, over traditional means such as telephone, letter, and dare I say, email!

Social media can do wonders for a brand when it comes to engaging directly with their customers, understanding customer behaviour and spreading news, yet it is important that companies know how to respond to complaints in a timely manner to prevent customer dissatisfaction and consequently negative tweets spreading like wildfire! Failure to do so can be damaging to a company’s reputation.

Take for instance, earlier this month,  an unhappy customer decided to buy a promoted tweet to complain about his father’s lost luggage after flying with British Airways (by no means is this the first disgruntled customer to tweet about an airline company – I’m sure we’ve all had bad experiences!). But the promoted tweet allowed the message to reach a much wider audience, prompting a timely response from the airline and the luggage was conveniently discovered – result!

As consumers recognise that Twitter is an effective tool to connect with companies, and to receive valuable customer support, brands will need step up to the mark to ensure they exceed their expectations.

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