You May Be Ignoring the Megaphone Effect of Twitter, but Your Customers Aren't

When a customer tweets to your company, is your customer service team quick to respond? Does your company even have a Twitter account? According to a recently released study from cloud-based customer support platform provider Freshdesk, a surprising number of companies are customer service laggards, even when they do have a presence on the social media site.

Freshdesk tracked and analyzed 100 companies taken from consultancy firm Interbrand's 2014 list of top consumer brands during a one-week span from December 15 to December 22, a peak time for customer interactions. When consumers tweeted to one of the top ranked companies' main Twitter handles, just 22 percent of tweets were answered. That number is even more problematic considering that the top 100 brands averaged about 1,000 mentions a week.

"Even when companies did have a presence on Twitter, they were using it for marketing," says Jill Soley, vice president of marketing for Freshdesk. "They're using it as another broadcast channel. But what they were not realizing is that Twitter is just as, if not more important, to be a place to listen to customers as it is to talk."

Companies that scored the highest in customer response on Twitter were American Express and Samsung, according to Freshdesk, with both replying to almost 100 percent of tweets. "What I'm seeing is that these companies are paying attention and responding," Soley says. "When someone tweets, they're on top of it."

Another issue uncovered by Freshdesk was a lack of separation of Twitter accounts—just 37 percent of Interbrand's top 100 brands had both a company account and a customer support account. Soley says that's fine as long as the company is both broadcasting and listening, but a better practice is to have two accounts.

"This separates the conversations," Soley says. "A lot of people know exactly where to go for support, and it makes it easier for the company. If a customer can't find a support handle, companies still have to be ready on their main handle to help customers or direct them to the right place."

Even when a top company replied to customer tweets, Freshdesk found that on average it took six hours from when the tweet was sent to a company handle and three hours from when it was directed to a customer support handle. In today's environment of emphasizing customer engagement, the numbers are out of step—customers expect a timely response and take notice if they feel that they are being ignored.

"Positive or negative, when someone chooses Twitter as a channel to reach out to a company, they want a response," Soley says. "The trick is to to respond, even if it's just giving a quick response acknowledging the tweet."

Companies that are not particularly Twitter-savvy can leverage technology to offer great customer service. "There are tools that exist to help companies; there's technology that makes it easier to monitor channels and listen for them, and support teams can be automatically notified," Soley says. "Your support team that is already on call can support that channel just like every other channel."

Additionally, while phone, email, and chat are the most popular channels for support, companies still need to reach customers where they live, and that includes Twitter.

"Companies need to recognize that even though the percentage of people using Twitter is much smaller than other channels, it's a megaphone," Soley says. "When people choose to use Twitter, often they're very intentionally choosing that channel because it's so public. That makes it a particularly important channel to listen to."

Related Articles

It takes more than just flashy amenities to earn customers' praise.

Posted February 20, 2015