Tweet Your Way to Better Customer Service

Aside from reaching new customers, you can also use Twitter to best serve the ones you have. Here's how.
Freelance Content Marketing Writer and Strategist, Freelance Writer for National Brands including IBM, Ameriprise, Adobe, Samsung and Hewlett Packard
October 01, 2012 While many businesses use Twitter to provide information to their customers and other followers, Twitter can also be a great way to increase your customer connections. Many companies are now using Twitter for product questions, service requests and even responding to complaints. In addition to the relationship you build with the person you are tweeting with, you are also creating an indirect connection with the other followers.

Here are six tips to using Twitter to provide excellent customer service and develop a stronger relationship with customers.

Assign Twitter as an official job responsibility. Many customers will now head to a company’s Twitter account if they have a question or problem. If no one responds to a customer’s tweets then other followers may lose confidence in the business as well as the original poster.

Many small businesses rotate responding and sending out tweets, which often results in missed customer interactions and unhappy customers. Assign a staff member the responsibility of creating a presence on Twitter to build the brand’s reputation as well as provide service to existing customers. Provide any needed training and make sure that they are allocated adequate time during the workday to devote to the social media network. You may want to set expectations, such as all tweets are responded to within 24 hours, and new tweets to engage the followers should be sent at least three to five times a week.

Integrate Twitter into your systems and procedures. Twitter can provide valuable feedback about bugs in your programs, areas where you can improve service and help gather information to use in future interactions with the customer. Think about how your company gathers customer information and determine how you can collect the data from Twitter to improve your service.

At Kashoo.com, maker of simple cloud accounting software, Twitter is integrated into its Customer Relationship Management Software to help track customer inquiries, provide responses and maintain a single repository for customer service data and information. “It's important for us to keep all of this in one place as we may have many interactions with the same customer, or interactions with multiple customers about similar topics,” says Dave Clark, at Kashoo.com. “Maintaining them inside of our CRM system allows us to categorize and report on these to gain insights into trends and ultimately improve our product.”

Address and offer to fix any complaints. While every business gets a customer complaint every now and then, one of the important things to remember with Twitter is that other followers see both the unhappy customer’s experience and your response to the customer. If a customer posts a negative tweet or complaint on Twitter, respond quickly and apologize if necessary. Go above and beyond, if possible, to make the situation right with the poster.

“There's a popular misconception that a customer voicing displeasure with your brand on Twitter is a disaster, but it’s really an opportunity to show that you care and can make things right,” says Chris Grow, small-business owner. He says that last year a customer complained on Twitter about a pizza shop in his town and the owner immediately responded that he wanted another chance, even offering free pizza to the customer.  “I was instantly a fan of the pizza shop and so was everyone else who saw the exchange,” Grow says.

Acknowledge positive comments as well. You should also pay close attention to positive comments about your company as well as the negative. Responding to a happy customer also provides a good opportunity to establish a personal relationship and hopefully earn a loyal and repeat customer. By bringing attention to good things that are said about you, you are also increasing the power of your earned media online.

“Additionally, if your clients are tweeting positive comments about you, make sure you thank them for the comment, retweet it or mark it as a favorite,” says Sean Harmer, vice president of business development at Distil. “Your customers took the time to say something nice about you; make sure you encourage that type of behavior.”

Take conversations offline at the right time. While responding publicly can be great for showcasing your high level of customer service, you should also make sure that you take the conversation offline at the right time. Once a conversation has become about a specific situation that is not necessarily relevant to others or a customer is very upset, you should pick up the phone or send a direct e-mail. Be sure to respond on Twitter that you will follow up directly with the customer to let others know that you are responsive and handling the situation. “Many times if the customer is tweeting about a complaint or problem, they may actually be saying, “Call me now!” says Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE Shepard Presentations.

Share content relevant to your followers. While responding to customers on Twitter is important, you should also use it to provide information that your customers need before they run into an issue. You can tweet an article about your industry, let followers know about an upcoming conference or speaker or even a workaround for your product or service. “Make people want to follow you because you are a resource. If a follower makes a comment or responds to one of your tweets, interact with that person. They probably want to have a (Twitter) conversation,” Hyken says.

 Read more about how small businesses can use Twitter.

Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.

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