How Twitter is Changing the Face of Customer Service

Posted by Taylor Haney on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

Check it out, another stellar social media guest blog! This one is by Greg Bradley, Marketing and Communications Manager at Primacy. Greg gives some awesome examples of how social media, specifically Twitter, is impacting customer service.

Greg BradleyGreg Bradley is Marketing and Communications Manager at Primacy, a digital-first marketing and technology agency. He runs the marketing, social media and PR programs for the agency and also writes content for clients in industries like higher education, financial services and healthcare. Prior to Primacy, he worked in marketing on the client side at Travelers. 

About a year ago, my wife and I had to change vacation plans due to a death in the family. It meant moving our flights, which meant contacting customer service at the airline. And so began my first encounter with airline change fees.

My first instinct to get my problem solved was to pick up the phone and call customer service. But for many, Twitter is becoming the go-to route for communication with, and about, brands. Aside from airing grievances, people tag brands in daily conversations with friends and followers. From flight delays to morning coffee choices, we’re mentioning brands. And they’re happy to oblige and talk back, changing the face and context of customer service.

Take an example from the travel industry: the @AmericanAir account is filled with responses to customers – and is frequently updated by the minute. With just a single Twitter account, their team spends 18 hours a day answering questions. Their goal – responding to every “actionable” tweet within, ideally, ten minutes.

It’s no wonder consumers have shifted to Twitter to engage with the brand. Businesses like American Airlines have shown us that the speed of response on Twitter is reliable and fast. Not too long ago, the options to solve an issue with customer service were:

  • Head back to the store where you made the purchase and talk to someone in person

  • Call a 1-800 number 

  • Email/fill out a form online and wait for someone to get back to you

  • Send a handwritten letter

Feels like that list was written in in a distant generation, doesn’t it?

Instant gratification and empathy: As consumers, we expect instant gratification. If a response is 140 characters and a moment away, we will go for the quickest path. The interesting aspect? Oftentimes, gratification isn’t even solving the actual issue. It’s a customer service rep responding empathetically and saying, “Hey, we hear you. Sorry that happened. We’ll do what we can to fix it.”

We’re incredibly emotional creatures, especially when it comes to making purchase decisions and putting our trust (and money) in brands. When something goes wrong, logic and rationale get tossed out the window and we want answers, fast. But we’re also looking for empathy; someone to tell us they’re sorry and they feel our pain.

The brands that are great at responding to customers on social media, who employ people that are really great at dealing with people, will find great success in the channel. A simple, polite, well-timed response goes a long way to prevent further frustration from the customer.

Not all about complaints: Brand success isn’t only about addressing complaints. We’re also hoping they will care when things are good. We want someone to compliment our new shoes, or say congrats on buying that new car. Of course, it’s nice to hear it from mom, but @Nordstrom and @Acura are just as happy to join the conversation and share in your happy moment. With Twitter, our conversations are interactive and just about anyone can participate – whether we’re requesting them to or not. The smart, social businesses that have picked up on that have changed the notion of customer service from reactive to proactive. They’re not just fielding complaints or solving problems, they’re actively participating in positive experiences. They’re in our living rooms and going on vacations with us. And as long as we keep our side of the conversation going on Twitter, the smart brands will keep chiming in and engaging.