Thursday, August 12, 2010

5 Tips For Great Customer Service On Twitter

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Twitter has grown leaps and bound in last 4 years and now has over 190 Million members worldwide. Many companies have now jumped into using twitter as a means to provide customer support. Why? Well because more and more people are getting on twitter and it is way less expensive then phone support.

Recently I turned to twitter for help with one my services. There were two main reasons for me to turn to twitter 1. publicly complain about the company because I was not happy with the service and phone customer support 2. I was hoping that someone at the company will pay attention and get back to me. I achieved both. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these guys were paying attention and immediately responded.

So how was my experience? Well not much better than phone support. Though the twitter support agent tried her best but she was limited by the process and to some extent the technology. I think twitter could be a great customer support tool. However, we have a lot to learn. If companies want to use twitter as a viable customer support channel then they should be willing to pay attention to what is being talked about their customer support and brand and learn from their mistakes.

Based on my experience, I have outlined 5 tips that can help companies provide better customer support on twitter.

Five Tips for Great Customer Service on Twitter
  • Knowledge - Have similar knowledge of your products and offers as your phone counterparts have. It is frustrating to hear different answers from two different channels. Not knowing who is wrong and who is right adds to the customer dissatisfaction. Whatever you say or mention on Twitter is going to be indexed by twitter, search engines and many 3rd party tools and will be there forever. So if you give wrong information via twitter it can and will be used against you. So you don’t want interns to run you Twitter customer support.
  • Expectations - Answer tweets promptly or set clear expectation about when the customer can expect a reply back. Every second a customer has to wait adds to the customer’s anxiety because he/she is not sure if you got their tweet or not. With phone support you know that there is a live person at the other end. With email there is an expectation that it will take a day for someone to respond or you can send an auto response. With twitter customer expect immediate answers. Live up to those expectations or set them properly upfront else twitter customer service can backfire.
  • Resolution - If you can’t resolve an issue in 5 tweets then have a customer support agent follow up by phone or offer to send a DM when the issue is resolved. You get thousands of tweets in a day and it is hard for you to respond each of those and resolve them in 140 characters. Remember not everything can be solved and should be solved via twitter. Set up a proper escalation process. At least for now, twitter cannot replace the live conversation or in person resolution experience and satisfaction for every single issue.
  • Timeliness - Do not leave anything to the next day. You cannot go home without solving an open issue. Pass those issues to the next rep or hand them over to phone support. Since tweets are most likely not getting tracked in a CRM system as your phone or email support is, it is hard for you to remember the previous conversation and it is really annoying for the customer to explain everything again the next day. Ideal solution will be to track all your tweets in your CRM system. I personally had to explain my case 3 times to the same customer support agent because it was not resolved on time and each time I had to start over again.
  • Information – Do not ask anything that is not required. You are dealing with 140 characters so limit the information that customer has to provide. If a customer provides you with her phone number/account number etc. you don’t need to ask her details about the products she has bought or the service she is subscribed to. All that information should already be in your CRM system. Most of the customers don’t know what products or services they have bought all they know is that something is not working when it should. Use your CRM system to find detailed information about that customer and the products/services they have.
(You can rearrange the above 5 tips to form a TIKER, Timeliness, Information, Knowledge, Expectations and Resolution, solution for Twitter Customer Support)

Remember, twitter (or any social media) is a new platform for customer support and it will take time before you can have a proper process and everything worked out. You should be prepared to take criticism and learn from the criticism because there were will be people who will write blog posts and tweet if your twitter customer support does not meet their standards.

Hope this helps. If you have a customer support story then leave it as a comment.

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  1. These are some excellent tips. I think the key is trying to make your Twitter channel be as good, or better, than traditional lines of customer service, like phone support, because with Twitter the rest of the world is potentially watching.

  2. Hey Anil - great post! I just finished a case study on Twitter customer service, using actual tweets, from Zappos, Delta Airlines, Expedia, and Comcast. I would welcome your thoughts!

    Thank you again for the great post.

  3. As an example, many phone support services incorporate voice technology to read data from customers directly and representatives use complex software systems to access previous communications data relating to each customer they are dealing with to provide the greatest level of personalized interaction as possible


I would like to hear your comments and questions.