By adaptive - December 1st, 2011

Customer interaction via Twitter is now gaining pace. Companies are increasingly integrating Twitter into their CRM support to enhance their brand value and reduce costs. Can Twitter offer tangible...

Customer interaction via Twitter is now gaining pace. Companies are increasingly integrating Twitter into their CRM support to enhance their brand value and reduce costs. Can Twitter offer tangible benefits to corporations looking to improve the efficiency of their customer service?

The immediacy and personal contact that Twitter delivers is now forming an increasingly important component of many corporations’ CRM activities. With Twitter giving power to your customers that have become key persons of influence, ensuring your CRM services include Twitter monitoring is a must. Negative tweets can quickly become a major issue for any brand.

Using Twitter proactively as a component of your corporation’s CRM is now a practical option, and simply can’t be ignored by any company that wishes to not only protect its brand values, but also promote closer connections with its customer base.

It is also important to understand how Twitter differs from other social networks your customers may be using. Facebook tends to operate like a lot of open information silos. A client might slate your business on your Facebook page but you get to reply immediately and everyone can see it. Retweeting on the other hand and the unfettered nature of Twitter, means the spread of positivity or negativity can be much faster, and your company has a lot less control over who sees these tweets.

Twitter integration

Phil Stewart is director of customer service for Virgin Media Business and he confirms that the organization sees Twitter as strategic. “By integrating Twitter into our customer services strategy, we've been able to offer our customers an additional channel to choose from,” he says. “We’re now finding that new and existing customers are coming to us directly on Twitter with questions about the services they’re using or are interested in using. “ Note the element of choice – Virgin Business Media isn’t telling people where they should go to contact the company but meeting the end customer wherever they want to be.

Stewart also stresses that negativity needs to be viewed as an opportunity as well as a criticism of your business. “Whilst negative comments might not be nice to see, they give businesses a great opportunity to gain feedback and make improvements,” he continues. “By getting in touch and offering help, businesses can make sure that any problems a customer is experiencing are resolved quickly.” In addition, customers who have been helped in this way will often respond with a very positive Tweet, turning the critic into an advocate through customer service.

This doesn’t happen by chance. “Social media success relies on having good, clear processes and policies,” Stewart says. “When developing our social media strategy we made sure that policies were in place to ensure that our employees and brand were protected, and that our customers would receive the quality service that they expect. Also, it’s not a static environment. “It’s vital that businesses regularly review how they’re interacting with online communities, and update processes and policies if necessary. This will ensure that you’re not missing out on any new features or developments that could help you to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.”

Virgin has learned a lot through the process, he says. First have an objective in social media rather than just jumping in – if you don’t have an objective you can’t, by definition, achieve it. Second, no matter how big your brand, don’t be surprised if you don’t get thousands of followers overnight. Stewart continues: “To provide excellent customer service on the web, you need to respond to questions quickly. It’s an undertaking that requires a lot of commitment, so before you start interacting with customers online it’s essential that you ask yourself if you’ve got the time to dedicate to this demanding, but highly rewarding customer service channel. Remember to talk with and not at your audience. Social media is a two-way conversation; simply churning out information at your customers will not deliver the results you want”

The indirect approach

The option to use an agency rather than handle your social media directly has been used by a number of companies. Luke O’Mahony at Brazil works for businesses including insurer Swiftcover. He confirms it’s possible to turn the sternest critic into an advocate if you handle them properly online.

“As an example, @AngryBritain had tweeted us to say that he was having problems resolving a claim,” he explains. “After a few tweets from us and a call from the customer service team, he was happy with the outcome and kind enough to tell his 20,000 followers by saying ‘GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE ALERT!!! Top marks to @SwiftCover. Claim settled today to my satisfaction and all by email/online. Nice.’”

It isn’t just a reactive thing, O’Mahony comments. And it does need management. “We've put together our own set of 'Rules of Engagement' - a general guide to how those representing companies should respond to a range of issues via Twitter or Facebook. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules and auto-tweeting the same message to your customers won't cut it on Twitter, but it is helpful to keep things consistent, especially if multiple people will be tweeting from the same account.” This raises the spectre of senior people taking instructions on their brand from an external agency – this in itself can require careful handling.

One of the main lessons Agency Brazil has learned is when to back off. “Sometimes, you'll find that people just want to have a rant and aren't interested in a conversation,” he says. “Learning how to identify these situations from the outset and not getting drawn into a virtual shouting match means that you can spend more time actually being helpful. It's also a big responsibility, as it's a 24-hour job. We'll have someone monitoring the account all the time, including on weekends, so you need to think carefully about resourcing. One last thing: you’ll be surprised at how willing people are to recognise the good work of companies too – it’s not all negative!”

Corporations have understood that good CRM is a cornerstone of their businesses. Today, social networks also form a vital component of that customer support. Twitter is no longer just another social network, but can be used effectively by any corporation to vastly improve its CRM.


The Social Media for Customer Service Summit is an in-depth, focused business conference on this critical new corporate opportunity.

With over 20 leading corporate practitioners sharing best practice, the conference is designed to help you develop better customer retention, positive brand sentiment and competitive advantage by incorporating social media into your customer service strategy.

Speakers contributing include Citi, Virgin Atlantic, Domino's Pizza, BT, Nokia, DHL, Zappos, KLM, Vodafone, and many more.

To download a conference brochure for all the info you need, go here: Customer Service Brochure


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