Are You Failing at Customer Service on Twitter? Data Says Probably.


Social media has revolutionized how brands communicate with consumers. Companies are using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a slew of others in the social suite to engage with, market to, and both target and retarget their audiences. In this digital, mobile age, social is not just a marketing channel—it’s become a customer experience channel, in many cases adding convenience and accessibility to the customer service process. It’s called social customer service, and it’s a game changer. It turns out, though, a whopping 95.2 percent of brands are failing at social customer service on Twitter. Precisely what does the data say, and what can we learn from it? Let’s explore.

Report Findings: Twitter’s Social Customer Service in Decline 

Customer service on Twitter is relatively poor—at least, that’s what a telling report from Rational Interaction recently revealed. The report examined data from 76 brands in a variety of industries including retail, tech, and healthcare. It found that over half the time when a customer posts a 140-character or less call for service on the platform, they expect a response within an hour. You’d think this would be no problem, right? Posting a complaint for all the Twitter-verse to see would logically require a timely response.
Except it doesn’t happen that way. Most of the time, they don’t get answered in that hour window. In fact, a substantial 58 percent of customers don’t get a response at all. This lack of a response can be consequential for a brand’s bottom line. When dissatisfied tweets go unanswered, consumers can do more than unfollow. Fifty-five percent of consumers reported switching to a different brand because of poor service on Twitter, and—perhaps more importantly—60 percent have then tweeted about the poor customer service they received, potentially derailing future business. In effect, this is the opposite of word of mouth marketing—something we sometimes call the “Yelp effect.” We already know word of mouth and influencer marketing are powerful tools, but the pendulum can swing both ways, resulting in potential PR nightmares and squashed sales.

So, What Can You Do About It?

Poor Twitter customer service performance can clearly be a problem, but there are solutions. For example, your brand could create a custom handle strictly for customer service to make sure inquiries and time-sensitive messages don’t get lost in mile-long, multipurpose feeds. There are several great examples of brands that do this well, like JetBlue and T-Mobile. Rational Interaction’s data indicates brands that take this approach miss only four percent of tweets—a far cry from 58—and are 28 percent more likely to get compliments on their service. The gratitude often goes beyond the dedicated customer service account, as happy tweeters are then five times more likely to post about their positive experience on the main page of a brand for everyone to see.
Besides creating a dedicated handle, another solution to Twitter customer service woes is communicating through a special hash tag on a single brand’s handle. This can work if the hash tag is simple, easy to recognize, and checked consistently. However, this tactic can also get messy fast. Twitter feeds can become bogged down, messages can get missed, hash tags can get thrown off by a letter or two—in those instances, you’d be better served to create a separate handle. That way, at least all the inquiries—especially those complaints you don’t want blasted all over your page—are somewhat sequestered.

What’s Next?

You don’t have to be a huge company to use Twitter to your advantage. In fact, one of the beautiful things about social media is its accessibility to brands both big and small. How do you address social customer service? Do you have a dedicated Twitter handle to field inquiries? What’s working for you, and what needs improvement? Tell me in the comments.

Photo Credit: C_osett Flickr via Compfight cc


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