Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 | 10 min read
Brands already know that Twitter is the place to be if they want to provide real-time customer care online. Customers love it because brands are held accountable on the public platform. And brands loves it because it’s more cost-effective than traditional customer service channels like call centers.
Through Twitter, countless brands engage in productive, real-time conversations with their audiences. But many are still learning as they go, and they probably have a lot of questions about how to deliver the best customer care on the social network.
To help, we’re providing some advanced tips from Twitter, Virgin America, and HTC on how to handle some of the toughest social customer service questions out there.
If customers have questions for you on Twitter, do you want them to tweet to your brand’s main account or a special account just for customer service?
In general, the best practice is to have that dedicated handle. This way, customers can get the help they need faster, and your customer service communications are separated from your marketing activities.
For instance, technology manufacturer HTC recently launched its separate @HTChelp Twitter account. With this dedicated handle, no one has to sift through the tweets coming to the company’s main @HTC brand page and pick out the customer service inquiries; representatives can just go directly to the @HTChelp page and answer questions, which makes it easier to respond quickly.
There are exceptions, however. Some brands want to keep all of their Twitter communications under one account to avoid customer confusion or keep a unified brand voice on the platform.
For example, Virgin America keeps all of its Twitter conversation under its main handle—even if that means working out some tough customer service exchanges where they also deliver marketing messages.
“I think I’m kind old school with this one,” says Monzie Amrich, Social Media Manager at Virgin America. “There are so many Virgin companies and Virgin airlines that we already suffer from a bit of brand confusion, and that can segment our audience. I’ve fought a few battles about this, but I’m sticking with one.”
Whichever approach you decide to take, it’s up to you to educate your customers about where they can reach your brand. Even so, remember that many customers still might not know which handle to tweet at. In that case, you want to be ready to respond to requests that might come to your general brand page or even other channels.
When responding to customer service questions, brand reps might be tempted to keep the conversation casual, friendly, or fun by adding some emojis. But beware: emojis can be tricky. While they can add personality to your tweets, if used in the wrong way, they can make your brand look a bit silly or unprofessional.
The key is to figure out that fine line between fun and ridiculous and anticipate how your audience might respond to these quirky little icons.
Virgin America used to have a strict “no emoji” policy, but that eventually changed once emojis became more popular on Twitter. After all, the company’s tagline is “Make flying fun again.” That fun translates to Twitter, too.
“Emojis taught me a really good lesson: When it comes to social, the landscape is changing often,” Amrich says. “And you have to do a bit of a gut check on the way you’re doing things.”
For instance, he notes that if you want to respond to someone in kind of a cheeky way, you can add a little winky face at the end of your tweet. “It lets them know that you’re playing with them a little bit.”
Still, he warns that you have to be careful, because sometimes people can get angry if they feel like you’re not taking them seriously. As with any new marketing technique, it can be good to experiment, but do so thoughtfully and with caution.
Twitter’s public platform is beneficial for both consumers and brands.
As Jeff Lesser, Product Marketing Manager at Twitter, says,
“Users really love the public nature of Twitter because it holds brands accountable to doing great customer service, but brands really love the public nature of customer service on Twitter because when they create an amazing interaction, that’s available for millions to see.”
Still, sometimes customers have to share private information or dig into a complicated issue. In these cases, brand reps might ask customers to move the conversation over to Direct Message (DM) or even a phone call.
“We definitely want to communicate in the place of the customer’s preference,” Rosen says. “However, with HTC, because we’re dealing with technology and logistics, some issues are just a little too complicated, and they need live interaction to reach a resolution.”
Rosen’s team has clear and concise replies prepared for these instances. “We make sure the customer knows we’ve done all we can within that channel first so they don’t feel brushed off.”
Thanks to Twitter’s new DM prompt feature, transitioning from public to private conversations has never been easier. With this feature, customer service reps can add a call-to-action button to their tweets and invite the consumer to open a DM thread with just a click.
Still, Rosen prefers to reply publicly when possible—especially for basic troubleshooting. If you answer enough common questions on Twitter, your account will basically become a live FAQ page, making it easier for customers to find answers.
Are you worried that saying “sorry” from a brand account can make your company look too guilty? It’s a common concern, but as Twitter found, customers appreciate it when brands show empathy.
“When you say ‘sorry,’ you don’t necessarily have to assign blame or guilt to the word,” Lesser says. For instance, you can reply, “I’m sorry you didn’t have the best experience possible” or “I’m sorry that you’re having trouble.”
“Saying ‘sorry’ is just a means to an end,” Lesser adds. “And I think the end is to make sure that you’re being friendly and creating a great experience.”
However, as Amrich found, brands have to be careful what they choose to apologize for online.
“Our legal team doesn’t get involved too often in social media, but they got involved in the way we say ‘sorry,’” he says. “It can come back to bite you if you are apologizing for things that become legal issues.”
Brands would be wise to consult with their legal teams before throwing “sorry” around, and maybe even develop pre-approved scripts for certain use cases.
The short answer here is: Yes, it really does help if you respond quickly. Twitter is a real-time network, and users want real-time responses. In fact, according to Twitter, 60% of consumers expect a reply within an hour.
The social network also found that if a customer receives a response in less than six minutes, their willingness to pay increases by nearly $20.
That’s not to say brands should rush to respond and risk being reckless.
“In some cases for HTC, such as getting a status on a phone repair, we need a little bit of time to investigate all the customer interactions that have happened to ensure we reply with the proper response,” Rosen says. “The last thing we want to do is give the wrong answer and the wrong status.”
Having scripts, compliance procedures, and an integrated social platform (with customer interactions from other channels) can help speed up this process.
With advice from some of the best brands in customer service, these questions don’t seem so tricky after all. And Twitter’s new customer service features make it easier than ever to come to resolutions quickly and efficiently.
If you’re still figuring out how to serve your audience on Twitter, just remember to listen. Listen to their questions and concerns, and get a feel for how they interact on the platform. Finally, let them know you’re there and you’re prepared to help.
There’s no reason to wait to serve your customers on Twitter. Take it from Virgin America, which launched its Twitter account before its first flight took off. Transforming your social customer service is a journey, and it will take time to get there. But if done with thoughtful care and attention your brand will reap the rewards in awareness, affinity, and revenue.