7 essential customer service tweets: what they are, when to use them

Carl Henderson

Posted by Carl Henderson

Whether you’re selling software, shoes or a ticket to Scarborough, great customer service is at the heart of almost every successful business. Traditionally, of course, this has been more often focused around interactions with a contact centre or helpline. While there are some examples of excellent telephone-based customer service, it’s fair to say that many customers do not get the level of assistance they feel they need and deserve. They complain that it takes too long and is too impersonal. As a result more customers than ever are going online to get the answers they need.

Sometimes this will involve them self serving resources from a support forum or knowledge base. Sometimes it’ll be about asking other users for possible solutions. And sometimes they’ll go straight to social media to get a more immediate response from their connections or directly from brands themselves.

140 characters to better customer support

Twitter has carved out a niche as being at the sharp end of social customer support. Partly, this is down to its real-time nature and partly it’s because Twitter is also one of the main places where today’s brands who fail their customers come under the most vocal and sustained attack. In fact a 2012 Neilson Report shows that 47% of customers seek out help and assistance on social channels (with 27% using Twitter for this purpose).

Famously, Dell suffered a social broadside over poor customer service back in the days of ‘Dell Hell’ postings. It was an experience that became the catalyst for its reinvention as one of the best social customer service operations (@DellCares). Other companies have also discovered that Twitter can be a fast route to better customer relationships. They’re using it to keep customers in the loop, to help direct them to appropriate resources and to get them involved in improving products and services.

The big 7 customer service tweets

While the range of possible interactions is virtually infinite, we’ve identified 7 core customer service tweets that we see working for businesses every day. These are:

  1. The ‘We’re really sorry’ tweet
  2. The ‘Bad stuff is happening’ tweet
  3. The ‘Here’s a quick fix’ tweet
  4. The ‘You need to go here for help’ tweet
  5. The ‘Here’s something else you can do with our product’ tweet
  6. The ‘Help us get better’ tweet
  7. The ‘Thanks, you’re too kind’ tweet

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail. 

1. The ‘We’re really sorry’ tweet

Stuff happens. Things go wrong. Customers feel let down. Whereas once this would go largely un-noted by anyone other than the customer themselves and a few of their closest friends, today, social has changed everything. Customers don’t just get mad, they aim to get even. And their best way to even the score is to use the power they have in their social reach. For this, Twitter offers a near perfect outlet.

Customers have seen companies brought low on Twitter before. They know that more businesses than ever monitor tweets. And they understand they’re more likely to get redress with 140 well-chosen characters than an hour on the phone.

For their part, smart businesses see Twitter as a way to stop small mistakes turning into major crises. While they try not to get into who’s right and who’s wrong, the successful ones are quick to say sorry for the poor experience an aggrieved customer has received. And often, this alone serves to calm the waters.

Some examples:

2. The ‘Bad stuff is happening’ tweet

When things are going wrong, one of the major complaints you’ll hear from customers is, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us?’ People are more likely to be understanding if they’re kept informed about a problem. Even better, when you can see unavoidable problems on the horizon, giving people an early heads-up can transform the response you’ll receive. (It will also help to take some of the pressure off your helpline or telephone-based support team.)

Because it is real-time, Twitter is an ideal method of keeping customers in the loop as the following examples show:

To take these examples further, consider the experience of Squarespace. The company helps businesses set up their websites and hosts them in a datacentre in New York. When Hurricane Sandy started heading their way, they knew they were going to have problems. When their datacentre started to flood, they needed to prepare their customers for some unexpected downtime.

Here are a selection of their tweets leading up to, during, and immediately after the storm:

As you can see, this is a textbook example of using Twitter to successfully manage customer expectations in a crisis.

3. The ‘Here’s a quick fix’ tweet

Sometimes customers have a quick question and just need a quick answer. They don’t want to wait on hold for 30 minutes. They don’t want to trawl Google for answers. So they turn to a more direct medium – Twitter – for help.

Take these examples:

And one from Apple showing how you can use images to do what 140 characters cannot:

4. The ‘You need to go here for help’ tweet

Twitter is great for fast reactions but there’s only so much any business can do with the limited space allowed. Often, a customer simply won’t know who to turn to for help. All they’ll know is that they’ve got a problem and need it fixed. (Now would be good.)

Twitter offers a quick and easy way to direct these people to someone who can help or somewhere they can find what they need:

5. The ‘Here’s something else you can do with our product’ tweet

Great customer service isn’t always about saying sorry and trying to fix things when they go wrong, using Twitter it can also be a platform for showing customers how to get more from your products and services.

These kinds of ‘did you know?’ tweets can help ensure people get a better experience and give them tips and tricks they can show off to their friends and family. This can be as simple as learning a better way to make gravy (add a cube of chocolate) or the hidden shortcuts on their new smartphone (double-tap the shift key to get shift lock).

Some more examples:

6. The ‘Help us get better’ tweet

While brands typically have to field numerous complaints in their customer service operation, the real long term value lies in using what you learn to improve your business. By learning from what you hear, you can ensure that customers continue to receive a better experience from you.

Twitter offers one way of showing that you’re listening and that you welcome feedback. Of course some companies aren’t willing to wait for complaints in order to improve their service. Some actively reach out to their customers to ask how they can improve. Twitter can help here too.

7. The ‘Thanks, you’re too kind’ tweet

Any organisation that manages to deliver great customer service will attract fans. The great thing about Twitter is that people are less shy about saying ‘well done’ when things work out well. This also provides an opportunity for brands to say thank you back. For one thing, it shows others that customers love buying from you (helping to balance up the complaints). For another, it’s simply the kind of nice, positive thing good customer service operations do.

More responsive, more helpful, more human

The growth in social media has changed how customers interact with brands for good. This is never more so than in the area of customer service. Today’s customers expect to be able to blast off a quick tweet and get a quick answer straight back. And they expect companies to ditch the corporate face and communicate the way that everyday people do.

Of course, there are now more tools available than ever enabling companies to monitor Twitter and get ahead of the curve. In fact, with today’s social CRM, you can go a step further and automatically create new cases for your customer service team as and when issues arise. This means that you can respond more quickly and scale your efforts more easily.

Hopefully our 7 essential customer service tweets will give you some ideas for how you can begin to make Twitter-powered customer service work for you. Or if you’re already on Twitter, we hope you’ve found some additional ways to make it work for you.

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