Independent Thinking Blog

The Twitter Customer Service Conundrum

Should you use Twitter for customer service?

This is a question a lot of businesses wrestle with. Both whether to be there and how to use the platform wisely.

As a customer, I typically use Twitter for three types of customer service situations:

  • When a company’s phone tree is intolerable.
  • When a company’s in-person, phone, or chat options didn’t resolve my problem.
  • When a company’s social media team is better empowered to problem solve.

In other words, it’s an escalation mechanism when a company’s general customer service mechanism sucks, or is slow and/or ineffective.

Or, as my friend Alan Berkson calls it, “a channel of last resort.”

Is Twitter worth the effort?

Berkson suggests the answer is “no.”

He’s right. Twitter can be painful for companies. But–

What’s the alternative?

Don’t suck at customer service.

Some people will always complain. It’s what they do. Some are just unhappy people. Some are trolls. In the consulting world, we call them PITA clients. You accept they exist (or avoid them, or fire them), and move on.

Most people just want help. They take to Twitter (or Facebook or another social platform) because they’re frustrated and they want someone to feel their pain. And resolve the darn problem. If your customer service is awesome, most of them (ahem, us) won’t be there disparaging your brand.

Twitter can be a conduit to problem solving.

boy will fingers in his ears

Social media channels may not be ideal for customer service (they are not), but if your customers are there then you need to be there too. Build a strategy to manage the negativity. Create a response protocol that identifies whether to respond, when to respond, and who should take the lead. Define what channels to use and the best way to take a conversation offline.

You can’t just put your fingers in your ears and hope the problem will go away.

Feature photo by penerik (Flickr); young fire chief by Michael Gaudi (Flickr).

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