Twitter: The Next Customer Care Channel

Gartner’s Jenny Sussin posted an article on LinkedIn last week regarding the impact of Twitter’s change in its direct message (DM) character limit policy. Essentially there is no longer a limit. This is a huge change, so you need to consider what this means for your customer engagement program.

Twitter as a customer care channel is well established, though the fact is most posts sent directly to brand handles still go unanswered. Combine this with the fact that almost three-quarters of consumers posting a complaint or specific request expect a reply within an hour and about a third expect a response within 30 minutes, and you can see where this is heading. Hand-held, everywhere, and asynchronous, Twitter is poised to take over as a primary initiation channel for customer engagement. 

Simply put, the switch in DM policy means that your customers can let you know they need something. Also you can now use DMs to address this need in about one or two exchanges. 

Here are the significant process and policy considerations that grow out of this change:

Agency and PR Directed Responses Such As, “Yowza – That’s Not Supposed to Happen!” Are Dead

Seriously, would your phones-based team answer the phone like that? Of course not. Customers raising issues expect real answers from real people who can really help them. Your social customer care needs to be charged with and prepared for prompt responses and solutions.

24/7 Social Channel Coverage Is Required

If your product can be used 24 hours a day, then you need to offer social channel support to match. You also need to offer social channel support if your product is purchasable 24 hours a day. For example, if Amazon can sell it, you too need to be available. If not, then you are surrendering two-thirds of the buying moments to your competition, especially during the 16 hours a day your team is offline.

Your Entire Organization Is Now Involved

Most businesses have effectively created a thin perimeter defense around the organization vis-a-vis customer care and phones teams. Customers have access to agents. Agents have access to scripts and little else. The deeper product knowledge and the real answers are locked away. Of course, the big exception to this is community and peer support, but even there the community is often separated from your internal subject matter experts. You need to connect those experts with your customers and spread that community knowledge across your entire organization.

OK – the above are known issues and they are legitimately difficult to solve. But because they are known issues, solutions exist. Consider the following:

Get Engagement Right

Build and train a social customer team that can address questions timely, then provide real information. Take advantage of the fact that Twitter is asynchronous to encourage and to gain the right information from resources like data sheets or links to accepted solutions in your peer forums. This is the information you deliver to customers. Twitter literally connects your customers with the entire knowledge available on the Internet. Your challenge is to train your agents to find it and deliver it, whether inside or outside of your firm.

Operate 24/7

Most social customer care teams are small – 20, 30, 50, 100 agents. Your monthly phone center turnover is probably higher than that. It’s therefore unrealistic to think you can staff 24/7 with that team, and not experience high-value employee burnout. Instead, you need to reach into your organization.

Connect your employees, connect your community super-users, and tap your phone centers to address the simple issues that appear on social channels, while routing the rest to a scalable, skeletal off-hours team. It’s not a matter of resource constraint – 20 people, 24 hours – but rather a matter a task allocation. Ask yourself, “How can I spread this over what already exists?” 24/7 coverage is within your grasp, and now is the time to achieve it.

Provide Real Answers

To provide better answers, connect your agents with your internal subject matter experts. The amount of information effectively locked away in your employee’s heads is staggering. Enable agents to access the full knowledge store inside your firm and to use that information to craft to superior responses. It’s all about excellent customer experience.

Twitter’s change in DM policy is significant indeed. Ramp your social customer team in effectiveness, including SLA governed responses, measured productivity, and so forth starting now. Your social customer team must also be on point with its solution accuracy, and this means getting the correct answer to the customer the first time. Not only will you accelerate your shift toward low cost, high scale channels (can you spell R-O-I?), but you’ll also drive improvement in NPS/CSAT that will ensure your social recommendations grow over time.

It’s all about winning in a connected world, and Twitter just gave you a great new tool to do just that.

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