Trends & Features

Nice to tweet you: the importance of delivering effective customer service in 140 characters

By Dave Howell

The speed at which customer service is delivered has been accelerating since the inception of social media, none more so than via Twitter, which for many consumers is now the primary channel for queries and support requests.

Many businesses have to deal with customers who expect a response to their tweet within minutes, so setting up and then maintaining this level of customer service is not an easy task.

According to the latest Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience report, the average response time on Twitter is eight and a half hours. More worrying was the fact nearly a quarter of the businesses that took part in the study don’t respond to queries tweeted by customers.

Dangerous game
“When it comes to Twitter, companies are playing a dangerous game by establishing a presence and then failing to engage with customers,” Olivier Njamfa, CEO of software company Eptica, says. “This could well backfire, leading to negative feedback spreading across a social network and damaging their overall brand. The web, email and social media are fast becoming the channels of choice for consumers, yet the biggest brands in the country are struggling to cope.”

While the latest annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index, which is produced by The Institute of Customer Service, states customer service deliver is eroding year-on-year, there are substantial gains to be made from increased customer satisfaction.

The index revealed that customers with higher satisfaction scores are more likely to remain customers and buy another product or service from the business in question. 56 per cent of customers who gave an organisation an overall satisfaction rating of nine points or more out of 10 stated that they had subsequently recommended the organisation.

Twitter, then, is vital for businesses wanting to become destination brands within their sectors. Those agile enterprises that can see how fundamental those 140 characters have become to their well-being understand social media is now firmly established as a critical customer service channel.

Commercial imperative
For businesses, a comprehensive customer service response is a commercial imperative. According to software company NewVoiceMedia, an estimated $41 billion (approximately £27 billion) is lost by American companies each year following a bad customer experience. The figure is £12 billion in the UK. Also, UK consumers are more likely to switch brands after a poor customer services experience than their American counterparts.

NewVoiceMedia says 53 per cent of switchers left because of a lack of appreciation, in favour of a company that will value their business, 49 per cent were put off by having to repeat themselves to multiple agents and 10 per cent ditched a company for being kept on hold for too long.

However, its research also highlighted that companies can significantly increase levels of business by providing a positive customer experience. Following good service, 70 per cent of respondents said they would be more loyal and 49 per cent would use the company more frequently.

Rules of engagement
Some 500 million tweets are now sent daily and the percentage that is customer service related is rising. The mass of tweets sent does create a fog, whichv small businesses in particular can find difficult to penetrate.

In its latest study of customer service usage across Twitter, social media analytics company Simply Measured stated that understanding the rules of engagement when it comes to customer service on Twitter is a crucial step to managing your overall strategy.

As more and more users turn to Twitter to ask questions, give feedback, praise or complain about a brand, companies need to be proactive in managing their image by showing customers they’re listening and they care. Since Twitter is a word-of-mouth platform, this is essential for any company looking to increase their business in the digital world.

Using Twitter, you have a chance to enhance your existing customer service response rate and promote the positive values your business stands for. With consumers increasingly shopping and making customer service contact on their mobile devices, your business needs to ensure customer service pays close attention to Twitter, as this channel will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Top tips

• Listen first. Before your business can effectively develop a customer service solution for Twitter, find out how customers are communicating with you. Are they using Twitter? If so, what kind of things are they asking about?

• Upgrade customer service teams. Traditional customer service departments have always used the telephone and email. Consult with your team to identify how they could add Twitter to their service delivery.

• Don’t ignore tweets. No matter what the query is, always respond, even if it’s just to say you will get back to the customer as soon as possible.

• Be proactive. Twitter can be used to send out useful customer service information. Don’t just wait for a complaint or query, place Twitter at the centre of your overall customer support function. Tweeting about a product enhancement or pre-empting a product recall speaks volumes about your business’ ability to engage with customers.

• Respond quickly. Twitter users are short on time and patience. They are used to almost immediate responses, which is why the platform has become so popular. Therefore, your responses must be equally as prompt.

• 24/7 customer service. Your business may already trade internationally and so might be used to managing customer service across different time zones. Consider the logistics of delivering a round-the-clock, Twitter-based customer service response mechanism.

Image copyright Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc

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