5 Rules when Using Twitter for Customer Service

Social media provides customers with more direct access to brands than ever before, and Twitter is one of the preferred social networking sites for reaching out to companies for customer service. Your Twitter conversations happen in a real-time, public venue, so everyone can see your customers' comments and your company's responses — good and bad.

Some businesses still struggle with the importance of using Twitter to talk to customers. If you are wondering why your business should bother to respond to customer complaints, consider the following:

  • Referrals: 71 percent of customers who have a positive experience with social customer service (getting quick and helpful responses) are likely to recommend that brand or company to others. Research from American Express Global Customer Service Barometer indicates that social customers are eager to spread the word about companies and will tell 42 people about a good customer experience and tell 53 people about a poor customer experience.

  • Sales: Customers spend 20 to 40 percent more with companies that respond to and engage with customers on social media about customer service issues, according to Bain & Company.

  • Savings: Companies that respond to customer service issues on Twitter are likely to save time and money by not having to respond to issues via traditional methods, such as e-mail and phone. For example, ClickFox found that 40 percent of customer service issues that went unresolved on social media resulted in calls to the company. Those phone calls represent a lot of time that could have been spent marketing and growing the business!

Now that you know why you should use Twitter for customer service, be sure to have the following five rules in place.

Create a social customer care policy

Before answering customer service issues on Twitter, you need to have a policy defining how you want to handle concerns on social media. A defined policy is especially important if you also have products that require a (paid) support plan.

Your social customer care policy should determine who is responsible for finding and answering requests posted to Twitter, as well as define how the different types of customer service questions should be handled. The policy should help everyone in your company stay on the same page regarding expectations when providing help via social media.

Monitor always and forever

How can you answer customer questions and concerns if you don't know that they exist? You or someone on your social media (or customer service) team must monitor Twitter 24/7 for questions directed to your company's Twitter account, as well as for general mentions of your company or products. To easily find conversations about your brand, check out a tool for monitoring social media, such as TweetDeck or HootSuite.

Respond quickly

The biggest sin for companies providing customer service through Twitter is to not respond to a customer. The second biggest sin is to respond slowly. Most customers posting a customer service comment or question in Twitter respect a response in less than an hour. On average, most companies monitoring social media respond to customer service-related concerns in less than four hours. As a company, the more quickly you can acknowledge a customer's comment (even if takes a while to get a specific answer or resolution), the happier you make that customer.

Use DM to get details

Sometimes you may have an unhappy customer who has lots of negative comments to share. Or you may have a widespread service outage or product issue that causes your Twitter feed to blow up with complaints and questions. Using Twitter's Direct Message (DM) option lets you contact customers privately to get more information.

In addition to being a helpful way to get details, DM also takes the back-and-forth exchange of comments offline so that your company's Twitter feed isn't cluttered with customer concerns. (Remember, the customer must follow you on Twitter for you to send a DM.) In the case of a widespread problem, you may want to post a general tweet providing links to more information or specifics about the problem. Either way, do make sure you acknowledge every individual tweet.

Provide public follow-up in Twitter

Whether you move the customer service issue offline (to a phone call or an e-mail) or you use DM to get more information, always tweet a follow-up message acknowledging that the issue was resolved.

Posting public responses helps ensure that other customers and potential customers see that you not only responded to a customer service issue on Twitter but also resolved it. Seeing a brand respond to customer service issues in Twitter goes a long way in creating customer loyalty. If a customer reaches out to you in Twitter, that method of communication is preferred, so it's only right that you follow up in that same place.

Even if you're unsure whether or not you should use Twitter for customer service and support, your customers will keep having conversations about your company in social media — with or without you. It's much better to engage and be viewed as helpful and responsive (even if you make a few mistakes along the way) than to be totally absent when it comes to social customer care.

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