March 4, 2010

Use Twitter to Stamp Out Customer Service Fires

BY John Paul Narowski IN Customer Service, Sales and Marketing 0 Comment

Disgruntled customers are a nightmare for anyone in the service department. One frustrated customer can blow an issue completely out of proportion, sending a company scrambling to put out service fires.  The bigger your company, the more problematic these angry patrons can become.  Small or big, you must handle your organization’s service issues promptly and efficiently. Call centers work fine to resolve a lot of issues, but what do you do when angry customers don’t call in? Most major companies are turning to Twitter for the solution. There are three reasons Twitter is ideal for customer service.

Resolve Customer Service Issues Faster

The primary goal of customer service is to resolve their concerns. Like a traditional call center, Twitter gives consumers the opportunity to connect with the customer service department if there is something wrong with their order or your product. However, unlike a traditional call center, Twitter also allows you to reach out to your customers even if they don’t “call in.”

The Google Example

Take, for example, the Google downtime in May of 2009. As you can well imagine, lots of people contacted Google directly, but millions of others didn’t bother to contact the web giant. However, they did light up Twitter with streams of tweets about the downtime. Google was able to use Twitter to give concerned customers a real-time update of the progress they were making on the problem. It was as if one Google customer service rep was giving the Twittersphere a play-by-play as the Google team swept into action to resolve the issue. Surely there was more than one person running the customer service department that day, but it would have taken hundreds more customer care representatives to handle the communications if Google had not turned to Twitter. Google’s customers could sense the impending return of their beloved search engine and were less apt to bail on the company.

Relatively Inexpensive Customer Service

If you currently implement call centers in your business, you know the expenses they incur. Twitter can reduce this cost quite drastically.

Efficient Workers

A customer service rep can only talk to one customer at a time when using the phone. True, they can switch back and forth between calls, but at any given time they can only talk to one person. However, on Twitter a customer service rep might be simultaneously assisting three or four different customers with one tweet or direct message. Thus, Twitter allows business owners to cut costs by handling the work of three or four call center reps with one Twitter monitor. None of the customers helped through Twitter are waiting on hold, so all of them feel like they are being helped immediately which goes a long way towards resolving their issue and earning their loyalty.  This type of customer service  can only work if Tweeted complaints are dealt with in a timely fashion though. If you leave a complaint unattended for over 24 hours, you lost your competitive edge.

It’s An Opportunity to Save

Does this mean businesses can get away with transitioning all their customer service to Twitter and doing away with their call centers entirely? Of course not, but it’s an opportunity for savvy managers to trim some of the customer service fat and help disgruntled customers in a more timely manner.

Powerful Reputation Management Tool

Customer service has seemingly always been about putting out the fires that naturally arise when anyone does business. But, Twitter gives customer service reps the ability to avoid many of the fires altogether.

Behind the Scenes Service

When problems aren’t happening (which is hopefully much of the time), your customer service reps can be using the company’s Twitter account to add value to your customers’  lives. When Google’s team isn’t putting out fires, they’re regularly posting interesting stuff they find on the web. They also talk directly with followers. In doing this, Google is building trusting relationships with their customers that are more like friendships than business relationships.

Applications & Software to Help

There are also many applications available that allow you to find out what Twitter users are saying about your brand. If you use either Seesmic or TweetDeck, you can have several columns each tracking a different keyword. Charter uses these tools to keep track of what people are saying about the company on Twitter. If someone tweets, “Charter internet is really slow today,” a customer service rep instantly catches the comment and addresses it. The rep will send out a public tweet acknowledging the issue and then ask for a direct message giving details about your service. That way they can help you through any problem you’re having. Of course, you have to follow a user on Twitter in order to send a direct message, so Charter is also building their follower list in the process.

Don’t Miss Out

As with most business models, the old ways of doing customer service aren’t going to disappear overnight. But, if you aren’t using Twitter as a part of your customer service package, you’re missing out on a great way to advance your business.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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