How to provide great customer service on Twitter


Social media sites such as Twitter have transformed the customer feedback process. Providing a quick and easy way for businesses to engage, Twitter can help your company to solve customer problems and build brand goodwill.

However, for brands that find themselves receiving too many questions and complaints, it might be worth setting up a separate support handle. Freeing your primary business account for brand awareness and lead generation purposes, this approach liberates customers from the inevitable frustration of navigating telephone helplines; at a fraction of the price of running a traditional call centre.

Taking a more detailed look at how this works in practice, Simply Measured has recently conducted a study on how Twitter helps the Interbrand 100 (the world’s biggest brands) deliver customer service excellence.

Here’s what they found.

  • Customers expect brands to provide support on Twitter. People who are unhappy with the level of service received from a business are increasingly likely to turn to social media for help. In fact, the number of customer service handle mentions increased 41% year-over-year for the Interbrand 100. The truth is, in today’s digital age your customers will seek you out on Twitter, and, whether they find you or not, they will talk about you. Isn’t it better to be able to monitor and respond to such feedback in a proactive manner?
  • Customers are politer than you think. While you might have misgivings about opening yourself up to negative feedback in such a public manner, according to the report, customers are far nicer than you might think. Indeed, “please” was mentioned in 10% of all customer tweets, with “thanks” just behind on 9%.
  • Brands are increasingly using social media to provide customer service. While the number of big brands on Twitter hasn’t increased, the number of dedicated customer service handles has. By early 2015, there were 19% more customer support accounts than there were the same time the previous year. Likewise, the number of tweets sent by these accounts has also risen, demonstrating that Twitter is recognised by the world’s most powerful brands as an effective customer service channel.







  • Tactics for dealing with customer’s on Twitter vary. While brands are increasingly utilising the power of Twitter to provide customer service, there is not, as yet, one consistent approach on how to do this. As you might expect, a common response is to divert communications to another channel such as DM (3%), email (12%), or telephone (5%). However, by far the most popular way for brands to respond to customers is to direct them to readily available online resources (24%). With Twitter’s 140 character limit making it difficult to provide lengthy answers on the platform itself, this approach provides customers with the information they need and streamlines the support process.
  • You don’t have to say sorry. Interestingly, only 15% of responses from the Interbrand 100 include an apology. Publically at least.
  • Responsiveness is key. By early 2015, the number of responses to customer queries on Twitter by the Interbrand 100 had increased by 33% compared to the same period in 2014. However, timing is also crucial with 91% of brands sending a response within 24 hours. Perhaps not surprisingly given the increased volume of communications, only 5% of brands respond to customers within an hour.





  • Customer expectations are being met. According to the report, most customers are satisfied with the level of service received following dealings with the Interbrand 100 on Twitter. Moreover, 100% of customers who expect a response within a few days come away satisfied. Naturally, this figure decreases as expectations over response times rises.






  • You don’t have to be available 24/7. According to the report, customer service tweets to and from the Interbrand 100 peak during the North American business day. However, response times between the hours of 1:00-2:00 AM PST, are by far the longest. If you’re using Twitter to provide customer support, particularly to a global audience, help manage customer expectations by including your working hours within your bio so people know when you’re available and able to respond. Likewise, be sure to check your account each morning to monitor and respond to any queries that have arrived overnight.
  • Depending on your sector, Twitter might not be the most appropriate channel to provide customer service representation. According to the study, technology, financial services, and transportation brands are mentioned the most of all the Interbrand 100 on Twitter. With the technology sector receiving more mentions and sending more responses than any other. While it’s a powerful communication channel, Twitter needs to be used and managed correctly. With this in mind, before you create a customer support handle for your business, ask yourself whether your customers are likely to use it.

With the top brands increasing their customer service efforts on Twitter, and achieving ever-higher levels of success, you can be sure that businesses across the world will follow. However a quick word of warning: the key to good customer service on Twitter lies in the speed and the quality of your response, and as such, this requires time and effort.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Great customer experience also gets talked about online, and Twitter can be used to monitor and share all the wonderful things people say about your business, as well as to respond to the negative.

About the Author

  • Dr John Ashcroft

    John Ashcroft is a visiting professor at Manchester University and Executive in residence at Manchester Business School, specializing in Economics Corporate Strategy and Social Media. Author of the Saturday Economist, The Apple Case Study and The Sunday Times and Croissants John is Chief Executive of pro.manchester, a Director of Marketing Manchester, a member of the GM Chamber of Commerce Council and the AGMA Business Leadership Council.


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