Twitter: Fostering a New Relationship Between Companies and its Customers

How many times have you grappled with customer service personnel from different companies for hours, only for it to end with no solution to your problem?

Do you get irritated when customer service (individuals who actually work at third-party call centers) keep you on hold endlessly, only to transfer your problem to their seniors who then ask you to narrate your problem yet again? If luck is not with you, the call might drop and you’d have to start the entire arduous process once more.

However, if it was your lucky day, you’d be successful in getting your message across and the customer service representative (after reciting a generic solution) would acknowledge the complaint by giving you an unique case ID number. They would reassure you that the issue would be sorted out in the next 24- 48 hours. Then of course, you’d have to wait for the call and a possible solution.

Unfortunately, this is the state of customer service in India.

In such a difficult state, a small bird (named Larry a.k.a. Twitter) comes to the rescue. Twitter has increasingly become a reliable customer service channel. Try tweeting a harsh word about a company’s product and there is a very high chance that the company will tweet back, asking you about the issue and promising to sort it out.

The general procedure that most companies follow on Twitter is that they ask the dissatisfied customer to mail their problem to a generic email id along with their contact information. Somebody from the company gets in touch with the customer, solves the issue and tries to make the customer happy with their product.

My personal experience

I have decided to continue with my present  mobile service provider after being on the verge of shifting to a different one (thanks to mobile number portability) only because of the provider’s readily available Twitter support.

Kudos to Airtel for making a genuine effort to solve customer issues every time a dissatisfied customer comments on Twitter. I have had a similar experience with other brands too, like Moen and Daikin. When I didn’t get a sufficient response from their customer service channels, I turned to Twitter.

To my pleasant surprise, the customer service channels of both these brands became much more responsive after a couple of tweets and subsequent mails to them.

Why are brands more responsive on Twitter

After giving it considerable thought, I have come up with a couple of reasons as to the responsiveness of brands on Twitter. First of all, negative sentiment statements posted on social media platforms like Twitter have the capability of going viral and hurting the brand’s value and image in the eyes of customers.

As social media channels are open platforms, any negative sentiment is witnessed by a larger audience, therefore increasing the need to address any problems. In addition, as the relevance of social media is continually increasing, it is closely monitored by a company’s top management.

There is a good possibility that the Twitter handles of various companies are managed by external agencies instead of an in-house department at the company. Nevertheless, there is an established workflow to ensure that the correct people in a company are contacted when a dissatisfied customer is identified.

Pros and Cons for the Company

Maintaining a presence on Twitter ensures that the company gets a chance to control negative sentiment before it goes viral. By providing good service and resolving issues, they retain customers. Resolving one customer issue is one brownie point earned by the company in the form of a positive testimonial tweet from the same customer.

At the same time, there are many challenges with this mode of customer service. Ensuring the best service through Twitter might lead customers to forgo conventional customer service channels for Twitter.

Twitter should act as an escalation mode for customer complaints only and not become the very first channel for reporting an issue. If it does, the volume of complaints might become too huge for the social media department to handle. They might end up doing more customer service department work than concentrating on engaging with customers on positive experiences (the actual objective behind maintaining a presence on Twitter).

How many times have you resorted to Twitter to get your product/service issues sorted out and what was your experience?

Image Source: Rosaura Ochoa

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