Twitter: Your B2C Company’s New Customer Service Desk

You’re out at an electronics store looking for a new computer and having the worst time of your life. The staff is rude, they don’t answer your questions and seem to be pushing products you don’t want on you. You end up leaving without your purchase. Where do you go to complain? The customer service desk? Demand to see the store manager?

angry computer customer

In this day and age, you’ll probably get more satisfying results heading on over to Twitter. By tweeting your complaint with the store’s handle in the message, you’ll most likely get a reply from the business’s headquarters apologizing for the service, or even offering you a deal next time you come in.

So what does this shift in customer service mean for your B2C business? Well, if you’re not active on Twitter, unhappy customers may tank your company’s reputation.

 “Complaining” on Twitter & Your Company’s Reputation

Twitter is so effective at getting a response from businesses because users tend to use it for a good old fashioned public shaming. If a business is called out publicly, customers know that the business usually has no choice but to respond or risk getting a bad image.

I myself have used Twitter to reach out to a company about products that were damaged during shipping. I honestly wasn’t expecting to get a reply, but the response was quick and they switched to sturdier packaging for future shipments. The whole exchange was polite and painless.

Companies have a lot to gain by interacting with their customers. Not only does it make customers feel important, but their loyalty to the brand can increase with a simple polite exchange. I know in my experience with the aforementioned customer service, I would buy from them again in the future.

Don’t Ignore Twitter Complaints

Having complaints publically posted on social media can be intimidating to brands. The most common excuses for why many companies ignore them are:

  • “The conversation will turn into negative publicity.”
  • “I can’t monitor social media all the time.”

By not replying, you’re already generating negative publicity. You’re coming off as a brand that doesn’t care about its customers. In today’s age of 24/7 information, you should find time to address customers outside of hours. For small businesses, it can be very difficult, but for larger brands that can afford to hire people for social media people, it should be a priority.

The company I spoke with replied to me on a weekend, which was very nice. This company is based solely online, but I was still surprised because some online companies have customer service hours.

After my exchange, I daresay my final tweet gave the company good publicity, as I praised their efficient and polite customer service. So thinking that online conversations will just turn ugly if you respond is silly. As long as you treat the person as an individual and not a transaction, you’re sure to gain good publicity as word of your good customer service spreads.

New Ways to Connect with Customers

According to WIRED as of 2015, 80% of online complaints or questions users have are made on Twitter, with the remaining 20% on Facebook. Twitter is the place to be if you want quick customer service.

Twitter has already made several decisions to make business to customer conversations as simple as possible. It has gotten rid of its 140 character limit in its Direct Messaging system, allowing users to provide more in-depth messages. In addition, the company plans to partner with Sprout Social and Oracle. The goal is to provide businesses with insights into customer tweets and how they can better address questions and complaints.

Business can draw customers to their Twitter profile and encourage users to communicate with them. This strategy not only maintains customer loyalty, but can help you improve the product or service you provide.

LEGO: A Success Story

LEGO is a great example of interacting with customers to improve your product or service. When LEGO first started, it was rather keen to talk to their customers. But thanks to parents complaining that LEGO “stole” their children’s Lego set ideas, the company just stopped communicating with customers.

But once LEGO found out that their building blocks had a huge adult fan base, they came out from their shell and began marketing to the vast consumer base they found online. Sales skyrocketed and LEGO expanded with sets like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. They even put out a movie. Since their founding in the 1930s, Lego remains as popular as ever.

Quick Twitter How-Tos

The last thing you want when responding to a customer complaint is to dig yourself into a deeper hole. I highly suggest checking out our tutorial blogs before you start replying to customers on Twitter:

Once you have the Twitter basics, you should be prepared to handle any situation with grace and dignity. But don’t think it stops there—there are still some things you need to know about how to efficiently handle complaints.

Separate Twitter Handles Can Handle Complaints

Is your brand is getting enough complaints or questions that it’s overrunning your feed, making it difficult to sort through them all? To handle the load, consider creating a separate Twitter handle to respond to customers.

Support handles

A Twitter account for customer support will also make customer’s lives easier. They know that the support handle is meant to address their concerns and can go there directly. It’s also more efficient and less stressful than calling on the phone or emailing.

When Outside Forces Step In: Satire Accounts

Interestingly, if there are enough customer complaints on a brand’s Twitter feed, outside forces sometimes make satire accounts to troll irate customers. The most recent example is the controversy surrounding Target’s decision to switch to gender neutral signs in their toy section.

In response, a man created a fake Target customer service account called Ask for Help to respond to customers angry about the change. Surprisingly, none of the complainers caught on that it was a fake account and responded back as if it were the actual company replying. The troll’s cover was not even blown when the responses were inappropriate or callous.

Now, the trolling took place on Facebook, not Twitter, mostly because Target’s Twitter already has a dedicated customer service page that is easily linked to from their main page. So the account would have easily been seen as a fake.

To Ignore or Not to Ignore

Just like with all online relations: don’t get defensive or freak out when something doesn’t go according to plan. In the case of fraudulent accounts, social media sites have a way of dealing with the problem for you. Facebook made Ask for Help change their name to show that it is a satire account and not connected to Target:

Unofficial Ask ForHelp

It’s difficult to say how a satire account will affect your brand. In Target’s case, they seemed to go along with it, letting Ask for Help deal with unruly customers. My own research into their Facebook account does show that they replied to complaints very well. Though let’s be honest: Ask for Help’s responses were probably exactly what Target wanted to, but couldn’t, say.

Though Target didn’t issue a statement about the fake account, they did tweet this image towards the end of Ask for Help’s run, implying that they found Ask for Help’s antics humorous at the very least.

target trolls

More Change on the Way?

You may have to hone more than Twitter skills in the upcoming days. With Facebook’s introduction of Business on Messenger and other ways for businesses to get in touch with customers, Twitter is threatened with being left in the lurch. It needs a way for businesses to get in touch with customers directly and have a way to analyze how those customer’s complaints will be addressed.

A business that is on Twitter but doesn’t have any customers that use the platform won’t get the same engagement as if they were on a different platform customers did use. Facebook comes to mind, as around 1.49 billion people use it compared to the 316 million who use Twitter. To put those numbers into perspective, the Earth’s population is about 7 billion.

Social media is always in flux, so it’s important that you stay on top of the game. As customers begin to use social media and interact with brands differently, you must adapt your strategy accordingly to remain relevant and meet their needs.

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