{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

I've never done a list before, but here's my seven tips from using Twitter to provide customer service and online help and support. What are yours?

Listen with empathy. Try not to hear what you think a customer said and simply re-interpret it in your own words. Really try to understand what they're saying through their tone of voice, their level of frustration, their sense of being let down. Don't try to convince them otherwise.

Try to think of something similar that has happened to you - how did you feel about it? And remember: it's not personal, it's not about you; keep your focus on simply resolving the problem at hand.

Be upfront. Don't try to fudge an answer. Social media is about being open, honest and transparent. That's a hard act to follow all the time. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. But don't forget you can always ask a colleague or someone else on Twitter for help or advice.

Don't be a victim. Yes, you work for a company, and yes the customer is usually, but not always right (did I say that?!). Sometimes, however, there's absolutely nothing you can do for a customer. It can be a difficult line to follow between company policy and customer expectation.

There's no easy way to tell them, and they're probably not going to be in the mood to hear you say so. But it's even worse if you simply don't say anything. Imagine if it were you?

Be helpful. Look for opportunities to help people out there. If it means recommending a competitor's product or service, so be it. A customer may go wherever they want to based on price, but they'll often come back based on a memorable experience or thoughtful service.

Go fishing. It wasn't me who came up with the 'fishing' analogy, but I think it's an apt one. For the last decade or so, we've focussed our attention and resources on our company web site, and we've assumed that our customers will flock there.

Social media has changed the digital landscape forever and enabled each one of us to create our own spaces, networks and pathways. For a company, it means that we have to now go to where our customers and potential customers are, we have to seek them and their problems out, we have to engage with them on their terms and in their territories.

Customers can complain, seek advice or ask questions wherever they want and in whatever format they want: Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Friendfeed, YouTube, Audioboo, and yes, a company web site.

Don't be afraid to follow in others' footsteps. Customer service via Twitter is a whole new world for all of us. It's evolving all the time, but there are great examples out there to follow: BestBuy and Twelpforce, Frank Eliason at ComCast, Zappos, as well as some great examples from the UK (please feel free to add to the list).

If you want to try something out, no matter how small it is - do. Whether it's simply tweeting a link to a useful piece of information, letting your customers know stock availability or service downtime - it doesn't really matter. It's only from trying that you'll know. Twitter is one of those things that until you actually try it out, it makes little sense whatsoever.

You're not alone. Social media by its very nature is social: it's about people, meeting others, helping others, breaking down barriers, working together, collaborating, sharing... It encapsulates so many things that we as individuals and businesses strive to achieve and very often don't. Whether it's a fad, or whether it's called Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed or Posterous, doesn't really matter.

What matters is to take the best characteristics of each of these and see how you can apply it to your business in a relevant and meaningful way that allows you to not only engage with your customers, but have a real conversation with them about things that matter to all of us.

Guy Stephens

Published 4 September, 2009 by Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens is a Social Business Consultant at IBM and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter (@guy1067) and check out his blog

7 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

Abdul Hameed, International Site Manager at Mothercare

Take ownership of the customer issue and see it through to the end  If you need to pass the customer on to another colleague, let the customer know.  Make it your responsiblity to ensure your colleague has resolved the problem with the customer.

over 7 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Chad Smith

Customer service on twitter needs to be part and parcel of a total approach for the customer. Too often the twitter service is a smokescreen creating positive PR to disguise an overall poor service. Comcast comes to mind, customer service is recognized by most as appauling yet they get pats on the back from social media advocates. There is no integration between the 'tweeters' and the service department and I think Comcast are an example of how not to do twitter support but that will likely be the story in the future. Twitter support should be a triage service, rolled out as part of a bigger strategy to reach a broader body of people through hosted forums, independent forums, facebook and yes, even twitter.  Comcast has no Facebook presence, poor forums etc so it shows that twitter is a PR exercise that has fooled this community. I do not want to focus on Comcast however, I just want to use them as an example of what not to do.

over 7 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Anne Wood

For me, social media is part of a tool kit in terms of customer support. It's the listening and sharing part. Companies still have a great responsibility to take control of supporting their customers .

Remember 'the best service is no service'. `if you 'stop doing dumb things to your customers' they won't need service and will come for the relationship we build with them.

Make sure that the support is there for every segment. Not many 'traditionals' view social media as their first port of call. This group will call or visit so be sure that your people have the same support that you'll provide to the 'pioneers' on SN. Be knowledgeable, consistent, be available, be empathetic and engaging. Give your support and sales people access to your company information via whatever channel the customer chooses. Then let your customers decide if your content and support deserves to be shared with the community on facebook, Twitter, delicious etc. Work with the support teams and foster that relationship in your efforts to be 'there' for the 'twittersphere'. 

over 7 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Allen Bonde

Nice post!  I think Twitter is a great listening channel, a good alert channel, and a poor "full service" channel.  It definitely belongs in the overall tool kit as Anne points out.  And I think it requires its own tone and approach given expectations and limits of the channel - so a list like this is really helpful.

As for using Twitter to "pretend you care" or as a smokescreen as Chad put it...when I have my marketing hat on, that on the surface seems pretty attractive!  I'll mention Comcast as well, which generally rates near the bottom of most customer sat surveys in the states (see ACSI numbers), yet is getting a whole lot of good press (so far) for its Twitter initiative.

If listening to customers is a good thing, then Twitter is a good thing for customer service.  But like other service programs, make sure you have the right owner, measures and balance.  And like other emerging models, it's up to us to shine the spotlight on the full range of potential uses and examples (good and bad) - so expectations and even hype don't get in the way of finding the right role for Twitter and every other flavor of social software.

Allen Bonde

Evoke CRM Partners

over 7 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

fishing

Being a fish that prefers very cold waters, lake trout typically head very deep late in the summer.  Spring time is the season that these fish are usually targeted, just after ice out when they are cruising the shorelines of lakes in wate

about 7 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Prakash Ghai

In an intensely competitive marketplace products can become commodities and services the true differentiators. Managing and exceeding customer expectations by providing services while reining in costs is a real challenge for companies worldwide.

In a hyper competitive environment, global organizations are striving to:

Improve customer service quality.

Improve customer retention.

Ensure security of customer data and information.

Manage customer service expectations and costs.

A good well oiled customer service department can be the deciding factor of the success of any company. If your customer support department is not well organized, then your competition stands a chance of exceeding you. Here you will learn how our 24 hour customer support solutions will bring you and your company increased success in your sales achievements and overall sales strategy.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Inbound call center services

Outsource live chat support services to Q2 and concentrate on your core business. Provide your customers with competent customer care services. Q2's efficient live support executives can help visitors to your website find the product or service that the customer is looking for and also provide extra information about the product or services. Our online chat support executives can effectively, up-sell or cross-sell products and services, help customers fill in forms, orders and details for online transactions. Q2's live chat support is personal and our online chat support executives can give individual attention to each of your customers. Our live chat support executives can also make the selling process short and convert the visitors to your website into potential buyers. Outsource web based customer care services to Q2 and benefit from these advantages:

Provide better, faster, more efficient customer support with live chat-support.

Give immediate answers and solutions to your clients.

Improve your business and increase your profits.

Benefit from expert and cost-effective online chat-support services.

over 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Inbound call centre services

Outsource live chat support services to Q2 and concentrate on your core business. Provide your customers with competent customer care services. Q2's efficient live support executives can help visitors to your website find the product or service that the customer is looking for and also provide extra information about the product or services. Our online chat support executives can effectively, up-sell or cross-sell products and services, help customers fill in forms, orders and details for online transactions. Q2's live chat support is personal and our online chat support executives can give individual attention to each of your customers. Our live chat support executives can also make the selling process short and convert the visitors to your website into potential buyers. Outsource web based customer care services to Q2 and benefit from these advantages:

Provide better, faster, more efficient customer support with live chat-support.

Give immediate answers and solutions to your clients.

Improve your business and increase your profits.

Benefit from expert and cost-effective online chat-support services.

over 4 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.