You probably had a great plan for customer service at the beginning of the year—a strategy with key performance indicators (KPIs) and thoughtful, mapped goals.
And then … the coronavirus.
Your customer service plans have likely changed quite a bit this year, and one way you may have altered your plans is by focusing more on online customer service than ever before. If you did have an in-person customer service strategy, it may be gone—and for who knows how long. Sure, you have a customer service phone number, but using the phone can lead to long wait times and upset customers.
Taking customer service online is nothing new. Most companies have been using social media as part of their customer service strategy for a while now. But in the times of COVID-19, social distancing has forced most companies to get even better at it. Whether you’re focusing on an e-mail hotline, assistance through a particular platform, or chatbots, you’re probably looking for new ways to help serve your customers virtually.
One platform many companies turn to in order to answer customer questions? Twitter. The directness of the platform makes it easy for customers to reach out and for companies to respond. Large companies from American Airlines to UPS are using Twitter to communicate with customers in a way that’s quick and easy. But the popular social media platform can feel like a bit of a minefield. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when serving customers in 180 characters or fewer.
Do: Have a system.
When it comes to Twitter, it’s important to have a plan of action in place. Otherwise, you’ll lose important messages and forget to finish customer interactions. You should have some sort of system in place, such as working through mentions in the order in which they were received or having different agents work on different forms of communication (messages, tweets, retweets, etc.). Before you start serving customers on Twitter, make sure this system is in place so your customer service agents know exactly what they should be doing and every client is cared for properly.
Don’t: Lose your cool.
It’s a lot easier to let your temper fly on social media vs. when you’re speaking with a customer face-to-face or over the phone. Twitter tends to be a place where people show the worst version of themselves, and customers may be extra stressed due to COVID and the situation it’s put everyone in. But as always, it’s important to keep your frustration in check. Read your messages aloud before sending them to make sure they sound polite and generous. Even if someone fuels the flames with a trollish response, remember that nothing is private online—a screenshotted rude message could mean disaster for your business.
Do: Funnel into direct messages.
Having a conversation in public can be tricky, and the required 180-character limit is difficult to work around. But in direct messages (DMs), Twitter allows you a much larger word count. Tweeters can communicate using up to 10,000 words. That means communicating with clients through DMs is much, much easier. It also helps you get more details that someone might not want to share on his or her public timeline. Encourage people who tweet at you with questions to send you a DM, and try and handle most correspondence that way. If something is incredibly simple, like a yes-or-no question, you can simply keep it in the timeline, but try to quote-tweet instead of simply reply so everyone who follows you can see it. That way, other people with the same question can be helped, as well.
Don’t: Be inconsistent.
One thing that will kill a social media customer service strategy? Inconsistency. In all parts of your customer experience, you want customers to feel equal. Giving certain attention to one customer and not providing it to another will frustrate customers and prevent them from future purchases. Furthermore, the last thing you want to do is confuse people—you need to make it clear whether you encourage customer service through a platform or not. Answering questions willy-nilly without consistency will make people question whether they should reach out to you over this particular platform. Try and have enough guidelines in place so your customer service agents are as consistent as possible in terms of how they’re speaking to customers, how they’re handling particular situations, and in what order they’re prioritizing customer questions. That way, your customers will feel equal, your agents will feel like they know what they’re supposed to be doing, and Twitter will work for you, not against you.
Do: Follow up.
Once you’ve interacted with a customer over Twitter, what’s your policy for following up? Particularly if you had a semi-lengthy or an in-depth conversation in DMs, it’s important to follow up after a day or 2 and make sure all of the client’s questions were answered. Not many companies remember this step, but it’s an important one; it shows how dedicated you are to finding solutions for your clients—a lesson that people will take with them long after this particular interaction. It doesn’t have to look complicated; a simple “Hi—just wanted to make sure this was all taken care of and see if you had any other questions!” can go a long way.
Don’t: Be afraid to move the conversation elsewhere.
There are some conversations that are simply too important to have over Twitter DM. If a customer has questions that need more of a conversation, don’t feel like you can’t ask the person to call a customer service hotline or send an e-mail instead. It’s imprudent to think every single customer service issue can be handled over a social media platform. As long as you have a system in place so customers are getting consistent treatment, as mentioned above, your customers will completely understand that some issues are better taken to the telephone.