Social media and customer service are fairly uncomfortable bedfellows. For all that a brand must have a presence on social platforms, and for bigger companies a dedicated customer service account too, there is a major elephant in the room – social media is inherently unsuited as a customer service channel.

Looking at Twitter specifically, there are severe limitations for actually resolving queries and providing a good overall customer experience. How many queries actually get resolved by Twitter, and how many are passed to another channel for resolution?

To try and address these limitations, Twitter recently announced a new message button, that means customers can Direct Message (DM) brands directly through external websites via a button embedded straight from Twitter. The button is expected to act as an instant messaging option for customers visiting company websites, without having to go through the process of live chat, email or FAQs. And it’s free.

Twitter is aiming to help businesses to tie customer service and social media strategies together, but this doesn’t change the fact that as a platform Twitter remains unsuited to customer service. There are far better ways of utilising social media platforms for a brand and also far better ways of providing a good customer experience.

The customer service attention grabber

In some ways it is easy to understand why organisations have invested in Twitter and other social platforms as a customer service channel. There have been many occasions where a brand’s failure to respond to a customer effectively on social media has gone viral, and most are keen to avoid that kind of negative publicity.

But this means savvy consumers know a few well-timed and emotive tweets can save weeks of frustrating calls. Twitter and other social channels are plugged into marketing, PR and sometimes even the CEO, so issues will often get addressed as a priority.

Research by social media listening and analytics tool Brandwatch revealed some fascinating results about how brands use Twitter to provide a good customer experience. Just a little over 30% of responses included a helpful link, and less than 15% used the Direct Message feature or gave out a telephone number to get the query resolved.

This highlights the limitations of Twitter to actually resolve a customer query and deliver a positive customer experience. Even when a Twitter customer service account is staffed correctly and responses are made, more often than not it will take switching to another channel to get the query resolved.

The new DM button

The same applies to Twitter’s new DM button. It is a well-intentioned move (although one rooted in a desire for Twitter to keep pace with instant messaging platforms such Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger) to try and position itself as an effective customer service channel, but it doesn’t change any of its lack of suitability for this purpose.

The DM button is undoubtedly better as a means of taking the conversation private earlier, in the process, warding off (to an extent) savvy consumers that want to get the brand to commit to speedy resolution in the public domain. But adding a DM button is really just another way for a customer to contact a brand, and won’t make resolution of query any easier or more effective.

As it stands, there is no way of retaining the context and background info that make some live chat platforms a powerful customer service channel, and there is still nothing stopping a consumer from using the @mention to contact a brand if they feel a response is not effective. Ultimately, any success will be judged on how effectively a brand can resolve a customer query.

Social media as part of omnichannel

So while social media has limitations a channel for resolving customer queries, it can play a significant role in delivering an excellent customer experience, as part of an omnichannel strategy, providing to consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience, across ALL channels.

In addition to omnichannel providing such an experience, the right tools can also give brands unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent. This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel.

Despite Twitter’s intentions with the new DM button, brands should be wary of thinking it can add too much to the customer experience – it is after all, just another way of contacting a brand. But social media can play a major role, as long as it is included as part of an overall omnichannel strategy.


By Mike Hughes, director at PeopleTECH



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