Love it or hate it, Twitter has become the new “word of mouth” and has given customers a whole new level of power.
Simply by posting a comment on Twitter, customer opinion can now reach thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people in the space of minutes. Unfortunately, if that comment is negative, the more likely it is to be re-tweeted and spread far and wide across the internet.
According to a recent article by Social Times, many companies are failing to adequately address the concerns their customers are posting on social media, citing poor response times and a lack of understanding or appreciation of the problem as being the main issues.
So, if you want to connect with your customers on Twitter, here are my top tips to getting it right.
It’s all about engagement
Just because you can’t see you customers face-to-face, it’s important to make an effort to get to know them. Social media is, after all “social”; it’s all about interaction and communication.
The more you interact with your customers online, the better your relationship will be. So if someone sends you a tweet, reply, and, more importantly, don’t take three days to do it. If someone retweets your message, thank them and strike up a conversation; they’re much more likely to start following what you do more closely if they think you care.
It’s important to react to all the posts you see, not just the negative ones. Positivity generates positivity, so always spread the good news too. And not just yours, your customer’s too.
It’s all about the timing
Customer Service is all about timing.The main issue with complaint handling on social media seems to be the time it takes to get a response. Many negative situations have grown out of all proportion simply because the customer didn’t get a timely response.
Twitter is a real-time medium, so it’s no good responding to something a week after the original comment was posted. If you were in a shop and complained to one of the staff members, you wouldn’t expect them to get back to you two hours later; you’d want a response there and then.
Treat social media the same way; monitor what’s being said and when, and make sure you get on top of the situation as quickly as possible. We’ve seen a number of potentially damaging conversations ending on a positive note, simply because of the rapid response time.
It’s all about what you say
Twitter is limited to 140 characters, so providing a comprehensive response to a customer query or complaint is clearly not possible. However, opening up a line of communication is all that’s required at this stage, so a simple “we’re sorry to hear that, how can we put it right” is usually enough to get the conversation going in a more positive direction.
Although you may not want others to see your conversation, you have to remember that the original complaint is already out there and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well let the world know you’re doing your best to put things right. Other users may want to follow the conversation to see how you handle it – another opportunity to get a positive result if it’s done properly.
Some conversations are indeed better kept private, but just as customers hate being passed from department to department over the phone, they don’t take to kindly to being given the run-around online, so trying to keep the communication on one platform is the best plan.
If you really need to take it “off air”, it’s worth bearing in mind that Twitter is going to increase the number of characters possible in direct messages to 10,000, so you can always follow each other and try to resolve the situation that way.
As with everything social media related, it’s about communication, communication, and then communication.
It’s all about understanding
Seeing a negative comment about your business on Twitter is never pleasant and it’s easy to take offense and jump right in there with a response, but my advice would be one word; DON’T!
It’s worth taking the time to get to the root of the problem and not just read the complaint and then tweet. Customers often complain in the heat of the moment – it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction at times – and what they actually moan about is not the main reason they were dissatisfied in the first place.
Open up the dialogue and find out what the real problem is. If you take the time at this point, the resolution will be much quicker in the long run, trust me. And, going back to the first point, it’ll really help with your customer engagement.
It’s all about making it personal
I actually saw a response to a customer complaint on Twitter last week that simply said “Please take a look at our FAQ page for the answer to your problem”
Fantastic! I bet that customer really feels important now!
Creating a great customer experience is all about making it personal, and that applies to online service too. You have to remember that every customer is unique, with their own reasons for using your business and their very own reasons for not being happy. Treating them all the same will not endear you too them. You have to take the time to craft an individual response to what is, after all an experience that is unique to that customer.
It’s all about showing that you care
As one businessman quoted last week “It’s only one customer, we’ve got millions to deal with, we can’t respond to everyone individually” Well, I see his point, but ignore that single complain at your peril. Social media has the ability to send it viral and before you know it, those millions of other customers will also know how bad your service is – not from the original complaint (as that might be a flash in the pan) but by the way you handle it.
Let’s face it, your business would be nothing without your customers and you need to look after every single one of them if you don’t want them all to disappear. Ignore one and you could soon find you have none!
Great customer service is perhaps the most important tool one can use to generate not only new but repeat business through improving customer loyalty and retention. Since so much business is virtual in this day and age, you have to make sure that you know how to respond if things start to go wrong. Clearly, you can’t prevent people from posting negative comments in the first place.
How you deal with them can make a big difference in the overall experience, and can make or break your online reputation. Social Media is a powerful tool. Make sure you use it wisely.
By all means use Twitter to handle your customer service, but make sure you do it properly to ensure complaints are handled correctly and in a timely manner.