Learn why customers are going to social media more than ever and how to implement a successful customer service strategy that makes sense for your business.

Why is using Twitter for customer service so critical? With nearly 700 million registered users, Twitter has become one of the modern ways that people communicate with someone else / the rest of the world.

So it’s only natural that people use it to share frustration, react to news, or ask for help. These same people are also your customers, so expect that if they're feeling anger and disappointment in your product or service, and they tell all their Twitter followers about it, your company will respond swiftly. If you help them quickly, you can show the world that you’re a responsive company that cares about customers. If you're not there to help, it's a losing situation all around. In fact, Gartner says that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn.

Small businesses can use Twitter as a way to quickly and effectively offer help. If you’re not doing customer service on Twitter , you’re missing a big opportunity to reach your customers and their followers. Here are a few reasons why Twitter is rapidly becoming your most important support channel.

Everyone’s doing it. According to J.D. Power and Associates, More than 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media page for customer support. If your customers are there, you need to be too.

Short handle times.  With just 140 characters to work with, Twitter forces your agents to focus their messages and be concise. In this medium they aren’t expected to write out long grammatically correct sentences, or be very formal. As a result they can usually handle inquiries in half the time.

Conversation is public. If you are solving a problem quickly and in public, it lets customers know that you are responsive. They can see that you have a support team that’s effective and knowledgeable, and shows the human side of your company.

Reach multiple users at a time. Sometimes multiple customers ask the same question at one time. And others might be wondering but not asking. Twitter gives you the opportunity to jump in and solve the problem for 2-3 (or more) people at one time.

Conversation is near real-time. When you converse with customers via Twitter you can get answers more quickly since they only take a minute or two for customers to compose. You can also get a fast overview of what’s happening with your business since it’s easy to see the questions that are being talked about the most.

Social networks provide an awesome opportunity for you to help customers faster if you use them correctly. With only 140 characters in a Tweet, you need to write concise messages and get right to the point. It’s also a great opportunity for you to connect with customers by using a friendlier, funner style. But you need to keep in mind that everything on social is public. Here are some best practices for offering awesome customer support on social.

Create a dedicated Twitter support handle. When you setup your support system, it’s best to create a unique Twitter handle for support. Your main channel can continue to address people who just want to follow the brand and want updates on what’s happening. They don’t want to hear all of the noise on the support channel (and you probably don’t want them to either).

Answer everyone. Everyone. Twitter is a great way to show the world how friendly and responsive your support team is, so you need to answer everyone. Not just the lovers and the people just retweeting your blog post, but the haters too.

Answer, but defer complicated questions. At the same time, you need to work within Twitter’s limitations and 140 characters is simply not enough to solve some of the issues your customers may have. If you have a multi-step technical support problem, take it off Twitter and handle it offline.

Keep sensitive information private. When you’re having an extended conversation with a customer it can be easy to forget, but Twitter is a public forum. If you need an email address or a phone number, don't ask for it over Twitter. Take it offline.

Sign your name at the end of your tweet. If you have space in your tweet you should try to personalize it — even if it’s as simple as signing your initials. Not only does it help customers to reference you if they end up talking to a different support agent later, but it also helps to show a personal side of your brand.

Have fun with it. Emails can be pretty formal, but you can add a hashtag and interact with people on a more personal level with Twitter. Customers need to know that you are serious about their issues, but you can still put a friendly face on your business.

Do you recommend having a dedicated support Twitter handle or handling support requests through your company's main Twitter account?
Yes. A dedicated support handle allows you to have support related conversations away from the main brand or marketing channel.

 

Do you think it's effective to respond to tweets by giving them a brief answer but telling them to email our support desk for more info or should we try to fully respond and have full dialogues over Twitter?
Twitter allows you to have quick and informal conversations which usually means, quick resolutions. But anyone who has done support knows it's pretty hard to tackle complicated topics in the 140 character count Twitter allows. A public conversation on an easy to answer topic is great PR for longer conversations. It's best to address the initial Tweet, then ask if the "tweeter" would be okay moving the conversation to email where you can get more information.

If it's a commonly asked question, use a tweet as a fast and easy way to send someone to your Support Center. (Bit.ly is a good way to shorten URLs.)

Some customer service apps give you the ability to set up a shortcut reply to quickly pull up a prewritten answer and link that fits the 140-character count and easy to edit, if you would like to personalize your response. Most support practitioners who use Twitter agree cross-channel is best practice for longer conversations.

 

 

What's the best way to respond quickly and transparently to customers?
A simple acknowledgement and thank you to customers is a great first step. Some companies practice signing or adding initials to their tweets if they are sharing a support handle. It's an extra step toward showing your customer that you're listening and you value the conversation.

 

Is Twitter really a support option for a company that only does about 300-350 orders per year?
As numbers of mobile and social consumers begin to use Twitter, it's important for businesses of every size to be aware of what's being said about their brand. Whether they want it or not, Twitter will inevitably be used for support. Support tools nowadays let you monitor Twitter as well as other channels at the same time. Also, as your social marketing efforts increase, you'll want to make sure you have a strategy for additional channels.

 

How does one successfully and effectively monitor and act on positive or negative comments on Twitter?
Nowadays, modern customer service systems have features that will allow you to monitor incoming tweets. You can respond via the interface and share the task of answering or following up with customers as needed by assigning cases to others in your company. Be sure your agents know how to handle Twitter cases.

 

How do you prioritize service through Twitter when you don't know that information?
More advanced solutions allow you to add custom fields within the customer service agent interface so you can start building information about your cases and customers. You can also set up notifications so when a paying customer tweets you, your agents receive real-time alerts as soon as a case is created.

 

How do you know if your activities on Twitter are effective?
From a customer service perspective you can measure customer satisfaction and retention rates. Try to cross-tab with people who have had contact with you over Twitter. You should measure your retention rates and you should do customer satisfaction surveys.

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