As tech giant Apple launches its own support handle, we ask if it’s now obligatory for businesses to use Twitter for customer service, and discuss the pros and cons.
From dating to takeaways, millennials demand instant gratification, so using a social networking site to make a quick complaint makes sense – after all, who has time to sit on hold any more?
Businesses have been using Twitter for marketing purposes since its inception, but over the last few years they have increasingly been using it for customer service too. Often creating a separate handle specifically for help and advice (à la Apple), staff interact with customers in a similar way to live chat services.
But things aren’t quite as simple as setting up an account and replying to tweets. In fact, using Twitter for support changes the whole customer service model of a company, with less staff manning the phones, and more getting behind their screens. This may require additional training for staff, or hiring new members of staff who are more experienced in social media.
To help you decide whether you should add Twitter to your customer service repertoire, we’ve listed the main pros and cons of using the platform below.
The ability to look into many queries at once exists with Twitter; this would be impossible using a traditional phone line, where you can only speak to one customer at a time. Utilising the search feature also allows the user to search for similar problems, and investigate them all at once.
Taking things one step further, hashtags can be a handy way of grouping customers’ problems together. Creating your own hashtags and using them in tweets provides a simple way to identify the nature of the tweet, and can encourage users to use them in the future, categorising their messages for you. Sorted!
Pure Gym using their own hashtags to categorise their replies
Flexibility for Customers
From sending in a quick question about a delayed train while waiting on the platform, to double checking that order delivery time while you’re in the gym, customers can contact the business in situations where it would not be so easy to call on the phone, or compose an email.
Sending in a question is as simple as opening the Twitter app, composing the tweet and pressing send – giving the customer ultimate flexibility when they need your help.
Yodel showing some flexibility
Convey Brand Personality
Whether your online communication is all about friendly feedback, or more #cheeky #banter with the lads, Twitter is a great platform to show people what your brand is all about.
So even if a question isn’t particularly important (or even serious), get involved and people will remember your business. Interacting with people in a fun way will also help you gain, and keep, new followers. Result!
Just Eat are all about the cheeky banter
The ability to send short and snappy responses to simple questions has got to be one of the biggest pros of Twitter. Perfect for those questions that are too urgent to wait for an email response from, but not important enough to justify sitting on hold for, a well-manned Twitter account could give you a response in just minutes.
Your staff have the knowledge, so with a bit of social media know-how, Twitter is an ideal way to get information out to your customers quickly and efficiently.
TFL getting straight to the point
However with more complicated queries, this can be harder. Which brings us to…
The infamous 140 character limit on Twitter can inhibit the effectiveness of interaction between businesses and their customers, especially if multiple messages are sent by either party, or replies are sent outside of the thread.
This problem is often bypassed by moving the conversation over to direct message, or off the platform completely to email or phone. With the character limit staying put, Tweets can make it harder to communicate effectively, especially with those less experienced in the ways of the web.
Ocado using the debated multi-Tweet reply
Volume of Content
Social media users can be demanding, and once customers are aware that you use Twitter for support, you might find that you are inundated with requests – putting your staff under pressure.
Again, diverting customers to another customer service platform is a good option if you want to acknowledge the customer’s problem, but don’t have the time or resources to answer their question as fast as they would like. Whether you send out an email, phone number, or specific customer services landing page is up to you, but be consistent to avoid confusing people.
McDonald’s diverting customers to their contact page
Your entire timeline, including your own tweets and replies to other users, is available for anyone with a Twitter account to view. This means that any problems customers have are aired publicly, and should be tackled appropriately.
Keep an eye out for particularly frustrated customers, or even trolls, and diffuse the situation calmly and politely. Try to maintain a professional, helpful attitude as you would with a customer in real life, and never deflect anger or negativity back. You can’t delete negative tweets about you – but you can convey your care for the customer in your own output!
London Midland dealing with an incident in the right way
In conclusion, while there are both pros and cons to using Twitter for customer support, it can be a valuable communication option to offer customers. However many other factors, such as customer base and staff knowledge, could also affect the success of the platform – so it might not be right for every business.
One thing is for sure though, and it’s that social media is reaching further into our lives than ever before. As more and more businesses go online to interact with their customers, permanently replacing more traditional (and more expensive) customer service channels such as phone lines with social media could be a real possibility.
What do you think of social media being used for customer services – helpful and modern, or unnecessary and fiddly? Let us know in the comments!