In a world increasingly powered by digital, consumer patience is running thinner and thinner. On demand services are growing in number and popularity, mobile has made it possible to sweep through the internet using only your thumb – and social media has turned customer service into an entirely different ball game.
Near gone are the days of lugging a faulty vacuum cleaner back to the shop, or spending hours on the phone listening to hold music. Now, through the power of social media, a brand’s inadequacies can be laid bare for the mirth of the web.
But despite the problem that this raises for brands, it also presents itself with a built-in solution. Responding to customer enquiries in real time on Twitter is an incredible way of putting your brand personality into practice, showing your company’s efficiency and raising the bar on customer engagement.
The Office Joker
Twitter responses have given marketing the human touch which is so in demand in today’s digital world. Jenny Bernarde, social media lead, Bozboz, says: “You can use public query responses to enhance your brand personality with personal, friendly responses that make your audience feel listened to and valued.” While social media has commonly been used as a window into the more personal side of a brand, it’s also an outlet for those customer complaints to be aired, as consumers have realised, there’s often no faster way to receive a response to your enquiry than doing it where everyone can see. There are risks involved, however, with this very public forum for addressing customer enquiries. Bernarde continues: “Some brands create some PR Buzz with witty comebacks to complaints or queries […] it gives the brand a personality which is comical, relevant and engaging. It’s important, however, to read the situation properly, as rude or inappropriate responses via social media have been known to destroy brand reputation. This is why it is crucial to have social media brand guidelines that are followed by all staff.”
A Unique Voice
For some brands, however, the human touch delivered by social media is a defining feature of their brand personality. Keith White, head of marketing at men’s formal wear retailer Dobell, suggests that the Twitter approach is integral to connecting with their customers. “[…] especially for our brand, having the ability to converse in a friendly, chatty style, via social media, fits with what we’re doing. A large proportion of our interactions are with people getting married or attending an important event, so there is a potential to connect with them emotionally over social, and understand their needs.” This kind of immediate human response allows the customer service team to gauge the tone required and respond accordingly. Figuring out the kind of voice required for each individual enquiry really puts your customer service ahead of the game. Twitter is really an incomparable way of giving a unique voice to your brand, and this has been utilised to great effect by brands such as Tesco and Innocent, and some retailers such as ASOS have their own dedicated “Help” accounts (@ASOS_HeretoHelp), which are solely focussed on resolving customer issues. The award-nominated #PowwowHELPMEnow campaign, run between conference call solutions provider Powwownow and PHA media, saw the team responding to requests for help with office-based problems across London, resulted in a 26 per cent increase in conversions – proving that great grasp of social media can have a knock-on effect cross your brand’s marketing department.
— Tesco (@Tesco) January 13, 2017
We Would Like To Apologise For…
On the flip side of this heightened consumer interaction however, one important question to ask is: how much is too much? When does customer service go from personable to laughable? In 2016, Omid Kashan, fed up of poor service on his local Metrolink Tram service, created the website sorryfortheinconvenience.com, which tracks the number of apologies made by UK transport companies on Twitter. The total recorded apologies for 2016 was 515536, which definitely doesn’t cast the British public transport service in a good light! For the transport industry, however, which is always plagued by delays, bombarded with complaints and affects so many people daily, complaints are an unavoidable side-effect. But Kashan suggests that the dedicated Twitter teams dealing with customer complaints help to make this situation more palatable for travellers. “I think in some cases, an apology is offered as it’s often the thing that the customer is looking for- it’s a human touch in a situation that is otherwise (usually) devoid of human contact […] I don’t think it’s too farfetched to imagine that companies are well aware of this fact and will use it as a tool to close down complaints.”
It’s easy to mock the companies currently sitting at the top of Kashan’s “apology ranking”, but this high volume of responses actually shows an extremely high level of care. Brands who are taking the time to address concerns on-demand, in real time, day in and day out, demonstrate an attention to the consumer experience that all forms of customer service can draw from. For smaller companies, social media offers the chance to connect with existing and potential consumer leads with as much accuracy as larger brands, and reminding us that you don’t need a huge social media presence or massive budget to show your customers that you care.
What are your thoughts on using Twitter for customer service? Is it something that can work across industries? Tell us what you think at @Figaro_Digital