Brands that ignore Twitter marketing for customer service are missing out on a chance to save their brands’ behinds—and sometimes, quite literally, those of their customers.
In a famous example from the UK, a desperate traveler tweeted Virgin Trains—from the train bathroom—to beg for another roll of toilet paper following a “reasonably large” incident. Within minutes, the brand responded and arranged for an employee to deliver the critical extra roll.
While not all of us need to Tweet a brand while on the pot (fortunately), the Virgin Trains interaction shows just how common it us for customers to engage directly with brands on social media, whether through comments, mentions, or direct messages. These interactions can offer a companies praise, express frustration, or highlight user experience problems. And many brands are getting surprisingly good at responding to this barrage, often within mere minutes.
In other words: The traveling toilet-tweeter has the right idea.
As I look at how quickly brands respond to concerns these days on social, I wonder why I’m not routing all of my customer service issues to these immediate, easy-to-use channels. Instead of waiting on hold for an hour on the phone, a quick Tweet offers the promise of more immediate relief. Instead of waiting in line at the airport to speak to a customer service agent, I might earn better, faster, and even more compassionate results via Twitter.
Of course, not all brands are equally nimble when it comes to social media response time. Even as most brands are aware that social has dramatically changed the marketing landscape, many businesses have been slow to react to their customers’ growing customer service demands on social channels.
Research shows that more people are turning to social for customer service help—even as brands struggle to respond to this onslaught of interaction. According to Sprout Social, 90 percent of people say they have used social in some form to communicate directly with brands. More people turn to social over any other channel—including phone and email—when they have a problem or issue, Sprout Social found. The number of social interactions needing a response seems to be increasing, too, with Sprout reporting an 18 percent uptick in these types of social interactions year over year.
Brands, however, are failing to respond in kind. Nearly 90 percent of social messages go ignored, Sprout Social reported. Social continues to be a promotional mouthpiece for brands instead of an interactive channel, and they send 23 messages for every one customer service response, Sprout found.
Part of the issue might be mind-set: Only 26 percent of brands take social seriously as a tool for customer service, according to Conversocial. Another issue is resources. On Twitter, 45 percent of retailers are ignoring customer service inquiries because they don’t have the resources to handle them, Engagor reported.
If ghosting—the act of ignoring or ceasing communication with someone—isn’t something friends to do friends, it’s not something brands should do to customers. Customers, rightly, get upset when they have this experience. They angry-post on social about their bad interaction (or lack thereof). They may swear off the brand for life, quite publically.
This brand “shaming” is quite common. According to Sprout Social, nearly a third of people will switch to a competitor if a brand doesn’t respond on social. More problematically, 36 percent of people will use social media to shame companies with poor customer service.
Consider our toilet-tweeting train rider: If Virgin Airlines hadn’t stepped in, the results could have been messy for all involved. By responding quickly and effectively, the brand instead earned the customers’ praise—and viral attention.
Twitter, for its part, is trying to make it easier for brands to have these types of customer service conversations with users. The brand has launched new features to foster conversational experiences between businesses and people, per its blog. New welcome messages will allow business to greet users as they enter a direct message conversation; quick replies prompt users on the best ways to reply to a direct message, such as providing specific information that will help an agent solve a problem.
These automated features should help brands become more efficient and effective at solving customer service issues on the platform. It’s important, however, for brands to retain the human touch even as they ramp up their customer service Twitter marketing. The best customer care is personal and empathetic, not scripted or robotic. Even the presence of initials after a Tweet can help show there’s a human on the other end of the screen.
Take this Delta customer service exchange. A customer Tweeted Delta about possibly arriving late for a flight, given flooding in the area. The first thing Delta replies back with is a note about staying safe. Later, Delta checks in to see how things are going.
These simple, but personal, exchanges let customers know the company is on their side. For many people, such social media exchanges might be among the few times they interact with a customer service team for the brand, and the interactions therefore become more important. Phone calls take time, and brick-and-mortar store visits can be inconveient. But with Twitter, customers can get their issues resolved faster, as long as brands are willing to listen.
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