Tired of waiting “on hold” to speak with customer-service representatives, many frustrated consumers are turning to social media — particularly Twitter — to try to resolve issues online instead. Who can blame them?
Here are five tips for building and managing an effective customer-service platform for your small business on Twitter:
- Claim your brand. Don’t use a personal profile to respond to comments about your company or promote your brand. Create a branded persona with your company name (or a variation thereof) and your logo. Beyond responding to customer feedback, you can tweet news about your business, offer special discounts to followers, and discuss your industry. For examples of great big-business Twitter accounts, check out @JetBlue and @ComcastCares — and of course check us out at @Intuit!
- Monitor the conversation. Set up search alerts for your brand name and related keywords that people may use to discuss your company or your industry in general. Don’t wait for people to address you with a question. Remember that all Twitter messages are public unless the account holder decides otherwise, so if you own a natural dog-food company and notice a conversation about your product (or dog food in general), don’t be afraid to chime in with your opinion. Set up push notifications so you receive an alert whenever someone tweets directly to your account — and can respond, as necessary, from your mobile phone.
- Offer quick responses and remedies. If you receive or spot a tweet with a complaint about your company’s product or service, respond to the commenter immediately. Apologize for his experience and ask for more details about the situation. Encourage the commenter to send you a direct message with an email and home address, so that you can send a voucher or a free gift, or send a longer explanation via email (sometimes 140 characters just doesn’t cut it) once you’ve done your research into what happened. If your response is timely and helpful, the complainer may change his tune and tweet or blog about how your company helped him out. For a great example of how helpful customer service via Twitter turned bad PR into good PR, take a look at SEOmoz’s first-person blog post about Comcast’s quick and simple response to a billing issue. Also check out this post on how to respond to negative reviews online.
- Take advantage of tools that help you manage customer service online. If your business partners or employees will help manage your company’s Twitter presence, take advantage of tools such as HootSuite to create multiple user profiles linked to the same account and schedule tweets in advance. In addition to Twitter’s own search tool, you can also use free services like Monitter to track real-time search results and set up alerts and tools like Twitalyzer to measure your account’s influence and daily reader stats. Pam Dyer of Pamorama provides a great list of 20 free Twitter monitoring tools to try out.
- Be useful. Most importantly, use your company’s Twitter account to provide value to customers and prospects, rather than simply reacting to complaints and comments. Share advice, discounts, and news. Engage in conversations without promoting your brand. Create an account that people will want to follow and your Twitter profile will help you to grow your company’s fan base quickly.