Is Twitter an Effective Customer Service Tool?

Twitter has a great reputation for being a good way to improve customer service but it is receiving too much credit?

It’s a question that deserves some attention in the wake of a survey by Evolve24/Maritz Research of 1,298 U.S. consumers who had complained about a specific product, service, brand, or company.

While just over half (51%) of the respondents said they expected to get a response about their complaint, only 29% said they were contacted by the company. Of the people who did get a response, 83% said they “liked or loved” hearing back from the company.

The 29% corporate response rate is surprising because you’d expect it to be significantly higher given Twitter’s reputation as an effective customer service vehicle.

It begs the question about why the low engagement rate.

Is it because companies are listening and monitoring social media activity?

Do most companies dismiss complaints as the vocal minority or not want to engage publicly about a problem or issue?

Do many companies not care about complaints on Twitter, accepting them as part of the social media landscape?

Or are there simply too many complaints for companies to respond to many of them?

It is difficult to determine why companies wouldn’t respond to a complaint on Twitter given it is public forum.

One of the challenges facing companies is figuring out which complaints deserve a response. In the scheme of things, complaints fall into several categories:

1. Rants, which are passionate but made by people who appear to be constant complainers. In some situations, responding may only encourage someone to complain some more rather than address their problem.

2. Minor problems that may not want or need a response. This requires a company to make a judgement call on whether to address the problem or not.

3. Major problems that definitely deserve a response but require a company to determine how, who and when to do it. Some of these complaints can be handled on Twitter, while some should be handled via e-mail or by phone.

One of the interesting things about people who complain about company, product or brand on Twitter and other social media services is how quickly a problem can disappear by simply responding to someone. In many cases, someone who tweets about a problem simply wants to be heard.

The challenge for many companies when it comes to complaints on Twitter is being prepared to handle different situation quickly and effectively. This means being able to identify complaints as they are made, determining which ones deserve your attention, and then providing the appropriate response.

– Jay Baer has a post on the survey at Convince and Convert. Jay believes the two biggest factor that stop companies from responding to complaints are fear and a lack of resources.