Traditionally, one of the only ways to publically shame a company was to write to a national newspaper. Today, you just need to open up your Twitter app and type out #badcustomerservice. As long as you can keep your rant to less than 140 characters, it’s the perfect platform for getting your poor experience with a company off your chest.

Public tweeting can be very effective if done well. Tesco is a great example of this, as their Twitter feed is dominated by responses to customer service queries, helping customers in a speedy fashion. Superior customer service of this nature definitely benefits from public exposure; however, some communications may be best carried out in a less public forum.

This April, Twitter announced that its Direct Messaging capabilities, which previously could only be used when both parties followed each other, would now be available to anyone that accepts them. In order words, now, as long as both the customer and the company have their settings as “anyone can Direct Message us”, they can get in touch directly via DM. This is great news for large organisations that can’t possibly follow every one of their customers.

One of the keys to this change is ensuring that you take it as a positive and fully leverage the DM capability as you would any other channel. However, when making the move to sending Direct Messages to customers, rather than responding publically, it’s important to ensure that you don’t look as if you have something to hide. Turn communications into a positive, but don’t let it look like customer complaints are being swept under the rug.

Assuming the new DMs are proven to be secure, it will be possible to transmit personal information, such as phone numbers, email addresses and account details. In addition, Twitter announced in June that it would remove its 140 character limit from Direct Messages. This is a huge step forward for companies, which will be able to use Twitter as a true platform for customer communications.

There’s no doubt that Twitter offers a speed and ease of communications that many other platforms cannot. The more that companies acknowledge that the social platform is an important CX channel, the more their customers will take it seriously and will use it as a proactive means to a response. In order to give Twitter gravitas as a means of customer service, it can be helpful to actively publish the Direct Message option on the Customer Support web pages alongside traditional channels, such as phone calls.

Watch out though, as research finds that the average Twitter user expects a response within 60 minutes of posting, so it’s important that contact centre agents are fully briefed and primed to deal with enquiries via this channel. It can, however, be seen as a positive, as the fast-paced nature of Twitter can help agents respond to customers faster and more efficiently than most other channels, keeping costs down.

As you fold Twitter into your CX portfolio, it makes sense to also add other social media channels, such as Facebook, where customers can also be quite prolific on corporate pages. In such cases, companies should be brave and open in their responses to customers.

Moving forward, companies should find a way to encourage private, individual communication, including via social media platforms originally designed for mass broadcasts. If you can build a more personal connection with your customers, it can help to save both your relationship with them and your wider reputation.


By Lucille Needham, Director, EMEA Field Maketing at Genesys.

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