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Customer Service on Twitter: Brands Who Do It Right (And How You Can, Too)

Originally designed as a platform for sharing status updates with friends, Twitter has evolved into something much more in just a few short years. Companies, for instance, have started using the social network to interact with customers and to promote their brand, and many have set up accounts solely for dealing with customer service issues. When used correctly, Twitter can be a great tool for answering customers’ questions and solving problems, and a number of businesses have found ways to use the platform successfully.

But given the time and manpower needed to maintain a Twitter presence, is it worth it? According to one survey, 86 percent of users who complain about a company on the social network would like or love to get a reply from the company, and 75 percent of those who do hear back are satisfied with the response. If a customer feels like a company is actually listening, that can help boost brand loyalty and elevate the brand’s overall image. In short, using Twitter to deliver customer service can improve your reputation, help you retain customers, and find you new ones.

Below are a few examples of companies who take advantage of Twitter’s customer service capabilities and how they do it well:

Twitter XboxSupport

Xbox puts multiple employees to work at once in order to help more customers.

Xbox (@XboxSupport)

Over at Xbox’s customer support feed, several employees use the company’s account at once so that they can answer more customer questions in a short span of time. To avoid confusion, each employee identifies him- or herself by placing his or her initials at the end of each tweet. Since the Twitter account is staffed by multiple people, customer service reps are able to work one-on-one with customers to resolve problems over (sometimes fairly in-depth) online conversations.

Takeaway: Engage your customers. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation back and forth to solve a problem. Dedicating time to these issues demonstrates your investment in the people who use your products.

Twitter UPSHelp

UPS answers questions through Twitter but also offers other ways to communicate, such as email.

UPS (@UPSHelp)

UPS’s customer support account handles questions of tracking numbers, delivery dates, lost packages, and all things shipping. Rather than ask customers to give out their tracking numbers or contact information on a public forum, UPS answers many questions by using the direct message (DM) feature and provides an email address just for Twitter users, twitter@ups.com.

Takeaway: Offer support beyond just a tweet. Providing a phone number, email address, or a direct message shows that you genuinely want to help however you can. It can also make finding a solution faster—which is good for both you and the customer.

Twitter Zappos_Service

Zappos sprinkles humor into its customer service.

Zappos (@Zappos_Service)

Online shoe and apparel store Zappos uses Twitter to address customers’ questions about shoe styles, online orders, and the like. But even as they answer questions, the employees behind the account also use it to further express Zappo’s fun and wacky corporate culture. The customer service reps crack jokes, offer opinions on what shoes customers should pick, and of course help when issues arise.

Takeaway: Expand your brand image into Twitter. Use the platform not just as a customer service outlet, but also as a way to show consumers the human side of your company. A positive attitude, happy demeanor, and sense of humor can all go a long way in connecting with your customers on a personal level.

Do you follow any brands on Twitter? Have you ever received customer service, good or bad, via this social site? What other takeaways should companies keep in mind?



Rachel Hamsmith

When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.

Comments

  1. amy

    Awesome post, Rachel! I love your point, “Expand your brand image into Twitter. Use the platform not just as a customer service outlet, but also as a way to show consumers the human side of your company.” So true!! I love when I @ a company about either a question or a comment and they respond back. Really lets me know that someone does care :)

    I’ve heard Zappos is a pretty cool place to work, but had no idea to what extent. I love that they don’t want their employees to feel like they have to work for a paycheck, but instead genuinely want to be there. Very cool!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Amy! It’s definitely true that any kind of acknowledgment by the company when you tweet them can really make a difference and make you feel more connected to the person behind the account. And yeah, Zappos seems like a pretty cool place! Their customer service Twitter is rather entertaining; it seems like they don’t have to field nearly as many questions as some other brands, so the employees have more freedom to chat with customers instead of only answering questions. Works well for them :)

  2. Jenna Markowski

    Awesome post, Rachel! This reminds me of the time that we had great customer service from Chipotle, and Amy tweeted them to let them know, and they replied! It’s awesome (and crucial) for companies to respond to customer support questions, but it’s even cooler when they respond to any kind of interaction. What’s the point of having any social media account if you are going to ignore your customers when they initiate a dialogue? I definitely think that Xbox has the right idea with having more than one staffer managing the account, otherwise one person would probably not be able to field all of the questions thoroughly.

    • Rachel

      Xbox definitely has the right idea in having multiple employees working the Twitter account at once: it’s a trend that I saw several companies use, especially those with lots of questions directed at them. It really helps them respond to as many customers as they can and still give those customers quality service.

      Thanks, Jenna!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I love brands that know how to use Twitter for customer service! I remember tweeting Starbucks’ gold card account a question about the LONG period between earning my gold card and actually receiving it. They never got back to me. :( Even if they had the same question over and over again, it would’ve been nice to know that they actually read my tweet and at least kinda cared.

    • amy

      I’m kinda sad that Super Happy Fun Club never replied back to my tweet to them about when more merch would be available :( I’m chalking it up to them being busy about going on tour to Europe, so I’m still a fan. And it’s all water under the bridge since I now have one of their shirts :) YAY!!

    • Rachel

      Bummer! Yeah, any kind of response to you, even a “We’re not sure”, would have been better than silence, because at least then you would have known the company was listening and wanted to help. It’s amazing what a difference just a tweet can make in making a customer happy!

  4. david k waltz

    Rachel,

    I’ve seen some groups of people use Twitter to have conversations, kind of like Instant Messaging, and others seem to use it to say “look at this blog or website”. I have yet to use Twitter to contact a company – guess I need to try that sometime!

    Being a finance guy, it is interesting to think about the “is it worth it” question. A lot of variables to consider, among them intangibles. Have you seen any ROI calculations on these types of activities?

    Thanks!

    • Rachel

      Unfortunately I haven’t seen any ROI calculations, though I’m sure at least some of these companies have got to be keeping track of the “is it worth it” question from a financial standpoint. Food for thought: When I was looking at a different company on Twitter (can’t remember which one now, though it was not one I mentioned in this post), the employee behind the account mentioned in a few tweets that he/she was answering phone calls as well, which leads me to believe that some companies fold Twitter customer service into the “regular” service reps’ normal duties. So it may not cost much at all to have employees offer support through Twitter, especially if it’s just another responsibility added to their already-existing job descriptions.

      Of course, this is probably not true for everybody–I wonder, for example, if Xbox hires people just to work the Twitter account, since so many questions and complaints come through that way. But my guess is that using Twitter for customer service likely doesn’t cost as much as running a phone center–or at least doesn’t add much to already-existing costs. :)

      Thanks for the comment, David!

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    Love the takeaways, Rachel!

    Zappos does a great job of keeping things personable on their Twitter account, which probably goes a long way in fostering brand loyalty. When people need help or assistance, they want the interaction to be amiable. Good to see that Zappos is very much in tune with that.

    As for Microsoft’s XBox Service division: I can personally attest to their competence in customer service. I remember calling them up a few years ago (before Twitter was even around) and having a very productive conversation about how my XBox was performing at the time. The rep that I spoke with was friendly and helpful, and was able to replace my system free of charge. The company was legally obligated to do that anyway, since the hardware was defective, but it was the helpful service that made it a smooth process. It’s nice to see that they’re upholding the same standards of service on Twitter these days. :)

    Great post!

    • Rachel

      Zappos seems like such a great group of people. Plus there’s lots of cute stuff on their website–I just wish their shoes didn’t cost so much! But maybe I’m just cheap, haha :) And glad to hear that about Xbox’s phone support! It’s always good to see companies that actually know what they’re doing when it comes to helping customers. :)

  6. Kyle

    Great stuff, Rachel!

    I’ve never thought about the customer service potential of Twitter, but it totally makes sense. I often get frustrated when dealing with automated prompts when calling customer support so I could see Twitter being a much more approachable platform.

    Next time I have issues with my Xbox I might consider firing up Twitter because it looks like Xbox Support has their stuff together over there.

    • Rachel

      Agreed: I would think that Twitter is a much easier way to get in touch with customer support instead of waiting on hold for an hour with a phone rep. As long as the company’s Twitter account is operated well, of course! :)

      Thanks, Kyle!

  7. Bret Bonnet

    Zappos is the bomb diggity. If you ask me – they are the gold standard of customer service. Being an owner of a business myself, I’d love to know how many returns they take on a daily basis that are really “valid” returns because their policies are SO friendly. You know unscrupulous people HAVE to be abusing the system…

    I think Zappos is the Nordstrom of the online world!

    • Rachel

      I’ve only heard amazing things about Zappos–and that’s an interesting question about the returns. Seeing as they have free shipping both ways and will refund you full price for up to a year after the purchase, I’m sure they’ve got to have a lot of people gaming the system, as you say. Would be really interesting to see how that plays into their finances!

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  12. Bob Pepe

    I am considering using Twitter for customer service. This article was very helpful. I personally love it when I can tweet a question and actually get a reply. It will build brand loyalty and cut down on calls to the call center

  13. Eli@coachdaddy

    Taco Bell does a stellar job of putting a human touch on its social-media presence. I have a high standard when it comes to following companies on Twitter. You’d better show me some personality to get my follow!

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