How to respond to Twitter complaints and enquiries

It wasn't a long time ago that if you wanted to speak to a business, make an enquiry or lodge a complaint you had to either write a letter or visit their bricks and mortar premises and speak to a representative in person. A typical response might take anywhere between three to five days, sometimes longer.

By Zafar Jamati, senior content executive 

In an effort to reduce overheads and win customer loyalty, it wasn't soon after this that companies began to move their customer service to call centres, often outsourcing it entirely.

For years, this approach was subject to the wrath of the public as companies fought the perception of foreign call centres and battled to reduce key performance indicators (KPIs) such as time-in-queue, abandonment rates and first-call resolution, among others.

While many large companies still face this challenge, customer service is becoming social. Today is the age of live chat, tweet-a-complaint and Facebook businesses that wear the badge of honour because they are the seller that "typically responds within one hour".

According to a survey by Edison Research, 32 per cent of social media users expect a business to respond within 30 minutes of an enquiry and 42 per cent expect a response within an hour.

So, what are some sure-fire ways to respond to customers on social media? The first is to make sure you are already engaged and active on social media. The second is to consider the acronym, ironically, called LATE: listen, answer quickly, take it offline and explain.

Listen
Listening is about setting up alerts and notifications so that you know as soon as someone tags or messages you. You can either check these periodically or use dedicated software by social media monitoring companies such as Talkwalker that take a more analytical approach to filtering and forwarding alerts.

Answer quickly
Answering quickly is about meeting the customer expectation to respond within minutes rather than hours. Respond promptly, politely and succinctly. Remember that the tweet is viewable publicly, so you not only want to reassure the enquirer, but also others following the conversation that you are taking action.

Take it offline 
Once you've acknowledged the customer and responded quickly, there may be further details of the conversation that you don't want to discuss publicly. Private contact details, order numbers and other sensitive details should always be communicated confidentially with the customer.

If it's a complaint, then taking it offline serves to resolve the problem outside the public domain. It prevents the conversation escalating, especially if other members of the public reply, and serves to calm the customer, reassuring them that you're helping to resolve their problem.

Explain and resolve
Ultimately, you need to answer the question, resolve the complaint or fulfil the enquiry. If it's a customer, make sure to transfer them to your business CRM and continue the conversation there, helping you to build a long-term relationship and possible repeat business.

Not all plain sailing
However, as one company found out, speed isn't always of the essence. Sometimes, taking pause and replying with a more considered approach may be the better option.

January 2018 didn't get off to a good start for Virgin Trains when the company's East Coast Twitter account was embroiled in a customer service scandal that went viral. The company had to apologise unreservedly for a tweet that some social media users described as sexist.

Passenger Emily Lucinda Cole, 27, tweeted the company, saying, "when virgin trains mess up and the older male train manager in the resulting conversation dismisses you with that hideously patronising word women shudder at in contexts such as these: 'honey' @virgin_trainsEC."

Virgin Trains East Coast responded with, "Sorry for the mess up Emily, would you prefer 'pet' or 'love' next time? ^MS"

For more information on social media management, contact Stone Junction on 01785 225416 or e-mail me at zafar@stonejunction.co.uk

Zafar Jamati

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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