Just because you may be a local brick and mortar business doesn't mean that you can't leverage the power of social media in your favor and use Twitter for customer service. After all, social media is made up of people, not cloud-based, imaginary creatures or digital avatars, and people are your customers. They live and shop in your neighborhood and city as well as online.
A cornerstone of any good business is great customer service, and social media offers new and awesome advantages in the customer service field. Twitter is fast becoming a primary resource for the customer service departments of many major brands, and you as a small business can take advantage of this trend. According to the data, you even have an advantage over the larger players.
Customer Service in Big Versus Small Companies
Before getting into the Twitter customer service aspect, first let's take a look at what customer perception is when it comes to large companies and small companies and dealing with customer service.
CreditDonkey.com recently completed a survey of 1045 Americans over the age of 18 and asked them about their experiences with customer service of big and small companies. In almost every category relating to customer satisfaction, small businesses beat out big companies fairly handily. Over 94% of respondents said that small companies meet or exceed their expectations when it comes to customer service experiences, but when it comes to larger companies that number fell to 64%. A few key takeaways from the survey show that the smaller businesses generally do better than the big when it comes to:
- Anticipating their needs: 71 percent, compared to 41.8 percent
- Anticipating their problems: 63.9 percent, compared to 33.8 percent
- Consistently saying “thank you”: 96.9 percent, compared to 80.8 percent
- Following up: 68 percent, compared to 30.5 percent
Lower prices did beat out great customer service by 52% to 48%, which reflects the still gloomy state of the general economy. However, good customer service had the advantage over convenience by 56% to 44%. The only area where the bigger companies triumphed was that they are 9.5% more likely to ask for feedback after an issue is resolved, which presents an opportunity that is easy to capitalize on for a smaller business.
To Tweet or Not To Tweet, There's No Question
Don't make the mistake of looking at the data presented and determining that you don't need to follow the lead when it comes to using Twitter as a customer service platform. Regardless of the customer perception of larger companies, customers expect you to be online, and they are the ones who matter.
Social media strategist Jessica Reed wrote an excellent article recently on Social Media Today that outlines the reasons that you should be using Twitter as a customer service channel. Among the many excellent points she makes, she points to an infographic from Bluewolf which shows that social media-based customer service is expected to grow 53% in 2013, punctuating the demand from consumers for this practical and efficient solution.
Referencing Desk.com, she also points out that 83% of social customers will abandon a purchase because of poor customer service. Make no mistake, "social customers" are not an anomaly or outlier, they are the future of most business.
What You Can Do
Talking about the fact that you should have a customer service channel through Twitter is good information, but without some actionable items it's only an exercise in rhetoric. In addition to the great articles already referenced, here are some steps and ideas to act on in making sure that you learn from those already excelling in this space.
- Set up a dedicated channel for customer service - You should have a Twitter handle for your company, but you might also have a separate handle for your customer service channel. For instance, if you are @mycompany on Twitter, you could use @mycompanysupport, or @mycompanyhelp for your customer service handle. According to Interbrand, the world's largest brand consulting service, 32% of the top 100 brands have dedicated support channels. If you are in the type of business that gets a lot of complaints (most small businesses aren’t - cable service providers are) this is a method of keeping your main feed positive and moving negative conversations elsewhere.
- Set your hours - Just as you have your hours of operation posted on your front door, you should have your customer service hours listed on your support channel. Setting the proper expectations for customers is always the best way to avoid headaches. Adding a simple phrase like “Amanda: on duty” to your bio when someone is available can also help.
- Track Your Mentions and Respond - A good social media dashboard (Hootsuite, TweetDeck, InboxQ, Sendible, etc.) is a necessity when kicking your social media presence into full gear. It allows you to track your mentions, schedule your posts, run analytic reports, and much more that can save you tons of time and provide insights to improve. Discovering when your mentions are most active can help you decide the best times to man the customer service channel (if you can't be on 24/7) and ensure that your response times low and the ratio of responses to mentions stays high. The average customer support response time on Twitter is 4.6 hours, and Nike's support channel sets the standard for response, responding to 74% of all incoming tweets. At the very minimum, install a Twitter app on your phone and set alerts for every time you get a new mention.
- Be Proactive - In order to prepare for what to expect and how to respond, Samsung spent 90 days listening to their customers and mentions before they ever posted anything. Their posts and responses show that they are very in touch with their customers. When you are answering a popular question or giving good information, be sure to add the Twitter handle of the customer (if you are responding to one) in the middle of the tweet rather than at the beginning. That way every follower will see the tweet, not just the person with the inquiry. For example, "Hello @soandso, the answer to your question is this" instead of "@soandso, the answer...". And when you're experiencing a problem that affects your customers (for example, your stove is broken and you're closed for the week), get the news out before the questions or complaints start coming in.
Aside from all tools and systematic responses, there’s also Search.Twitter.com, which is a great search engine and tool for simple brand management and audience building. For example, you can look up someone looking for “burger” in “boston”. If you’re a burger joint in Boston, chime in!
Here's a quick search string you can type into basic Twitter search, which means that you're looking for someone who used the term "good pizza", in english, within 15 miles of Boston, and they wrote it in the form of a question.
- "good pizza" lang:en near:"boston" within:15mi ?
And if you’re using Swipely, we have built-in social media reputation management features as well.
How are you using Twitter as a customer service tool?