It’s 11pm and I’m in another passive aggressive Twitter conversation with an online retailer whose delivery times have let me down. As the TV plays on in the background, I frantically refresh my notifications, waiting to be awarded the social media victory that five days of delayed couriers so rightly deserves. Last week it was a rail network, next week it may be my bank. Such is life in 2016.
With more and more brands trading in traditional customer service call centres and email exchanges for the public behemoth that is social media, Twitter has become the go-to platform for consumers to openly unleash their frustrations. Although this may feel innovative, modern and ‘down with the kids’, are all these brands actually equipped to handle it? It’s one thing for a brand to have a Twitter presence because they feel they should, to cover all social media bases and be there to respond for the fear of missing out; and another for a brand to be equipped to succeed at Twitter customer service.
Having worked on the Twitter customer service team for a well-known high street food outlet as a graduate, you would think I would have a bit more sympathy for the people on the other side of the screen, and it’s not that I don’t have sympathy (honest), but I just don’t like feeling as though my complaint is being brushed under the carpet.
Granted, ignoring a tweet is easier than ignoring an exasperated ‘real life’ customer, but the principles are the same. You wouldn’t open a flagship store on Oxford Street if you didn’t have the resources, stock and processes to assist every customer who walked through your doors – so why have so many brands rushed into opening Twitter accounts? And why are so many still using it as a broadcasting platform rather than somewhere to meaningfully engage with their customers?
Brands typically rank their social media performance on response times and number of replies, but it doesn’t have to be about speed and volume. What happened to the customer is always right? Where is the sentiment tracking? Customer service on Twitter should be as considered and helpful as if you were visiting that bricks and mortar store. I want to walk through Twitter’s hashtag laden doors, be greeted with a smile emoji and asked ‘is there anything I can help you with today?’
Of course there are brands that do it well. Marketing Week positions the financial services sector as the best performer for Twitter customer service, whereas grocery and clothing retailers fall short – sectors where you would expect brands to have confidence in their tone of a voice and engaging content well suited for social. They are brands that have met 1000s of ‘physical’ customers every day since the dawn of shopping.
It seems simple. Any company that has an active Twitter account must have the team behind it. The team to maintain the brand tone of voice, the team to create the engaging content, the team to do the right reporting and the team to respond to every message as if that little profile picture has miraculously materialised in front of them.
A clear and thorough Twitter management strategy, with robust protocols in place, paired with interesting content that customers actually want to interact with, could be the ‘easy’ win that takes a brand from receiving angry Game of Thrones gifs to pictures of happy cats. And who wouldn’t want that?