4 Ways to Use Twitter for Customer Service and Support

social media how toDo you have customers?

Are they on Twitter?

Are you using this amazing tool to support your customers?

Keep reading to discover four ways to provide amazing customer service with Twitter.

Why Twitter for customer support?

 ”I genuinely believe that any business can create a competitive advantage through giving outstanding customer care.” ~ Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

This is one of the best quotes I have heard. It must give any business a lot of comfort. Even if you have a million complaints, you can still lead with better customer service.

When my business recently had to weather a severe storm, we decided to default everything to simply being there for our users and customers. It was an incredible experience.

And what better way is there to give your best customer service than through Twitter?

Twitter has changed continually over the past few months, as the service becomes more and more mainstream.

The results we’ve seen from using Twitter as our most important support channel day in and day out are incredible.

Here are the 4 most powerful insights on using Twitter for customer service that I’ve learned along the way.

#1: Use the Speed of Twitter to Your Advantage

This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. “On Twitter, you need to be fast in responding!” But just how important really is speed in responding on Twitter? Here’s an example.

fast response example

This is the effect which speed in customer service can have.

To take advantage of this, I make it a rule to keep response times under 5 minutes for our customers. This makes an immense difference. No matter what problems come up, nothing trumps being there for people, exactly when they ask for it.

It’s a rule so simple that it is often easy to overlook. We were fortunate enough to have people publish articles on this, purely because we were so fast in responding. That’s why I can’t stress enough the advantage it gives you if you don’t let more than 5 minutes pass before you respond.

#2: Personalize the Experience on Twitter as Much as You Can

Another very important yet easily overlooked part of giving support on Twitter is personalizing the experience. This means you aren’t speaking to your customers behind a corporate logo.

Instead, make every effort to replicate a face-to-face interaction. This gives the absolute best results, in my experience. Here are three of the most important things you can easily do:

  • Personalize your Twitter bio.
    personal bio example

    Provide your personal Twitter handles in your company's Twitter bio.

    Put your name and the names of everyone who could possibly tweet on your business account. It builds a lot of trust. Your customers, if they have very urgent questions, can also turn to your personal accounts instead.

  • End tweets with names.
    It has long been recommended to end tweets with your initials—”lw” in my case. I always felt this didn’t make a lot of sense. Instead, end your tweets with your actual first name. It will give your customers a much better chance to connect with you, especially if you also have the names of the other people tweeting in your Twitter bio.

    tweet with name

    End Tweets with your first name, so you can connect on a more personal level.

  • Use your face as an avatar instead of a logo.
    A third tip that can help you personalize the experience is to use a picture of your face, instead of your logo, for your profile picture. Two great examples are Dino and Dan from Triberrand Pete Cashmore from Mashable:

    face instead of logo

    Test putting your own face as an avatar for your company's Twitter profile pic.

    It’s one simple step that can immediately make you more approachable and human.

    Some people have told me in the past that they can’t replace their logo for various reasons. No problem at all. There is still something you can do.

    For the most pressing questions from your customers, switch from responding with your business Twitter account to responding with your personal account. This way you can provide a personal exchange with the branding effect of your logo remaining intact.

    Again, Dino Dogan from Triberr is doing a terrific job and earns a lot of kind words for doing exactly that.

    twitter response

    In special cases, just jump in and reply from your personal Twitter handle.

#3: Use Direct Messages on Twitter to Your Advantage

One of the keys to great support is to help the most people you can in the shortest amount of time. If you have a very widespread problem, with a ton of incoming tweets in a short amount of time, using DMs can be a lifesaver.

Here is a quick 3-step guide to help you cope:

  • Send one public tweet explaining the situation. Anyone who finds your Twitter profile will see that tweet first.
  • Then, reply to any @mentions with a DM. First, you won’t clutter your business’s Twitter stream with @replies for other customers looking for what is going on. Second, you can go into more detail explaining how you can help each customer.
  • Switch back to sending @replies if there is no acute problem anymore, but only regular questions and support requests.

I have to admit that I got the above wrong for a long time. I would send lots and lots of @replies in a short space of time. The problem was that all of the customers who were looking for what was actually going on had to scroll down many times to find the public tweet that I sent first.

DMs are also extremely useful when a simple @reply doesn’t give all of the information the customer needs.

In these cases, try DMs instead of the regular “please send an email to name@company.com,” which tends to prolong the time it takes to solve the problem.

You can send 2 or 3 DMs in a row if this allows you to answer your customer’s problem right away.

royal dutch airlines

Use DM's wisely and make people aware you have sent one.

#4: Give Great Customer Service to People Who Aren’t Your Customers (yet)

This is quite a new concept that I learned from the great Gary Vaynerchuk and Rand Fishkin.

Did you know you can provide amazing customer support via Twitter to people who aren’t actually your customers yet?

Helping people who have problems or questions of all sorts about your niche, but not directly your product, can be an amazing way to generate new leads.

Let me walk you through this.

When I first got started with Buffer, there wasn’t any traffic directed toward our site, but we realized there were still a lot of people asking questions about the space we were in.

Lots of great questions were floating through the Twitterverse unanswered, such as “How can I schedule tweets?”, “What is a great tool to clean out my Twitter followers?” and “What is the best social media tool to manage my stream?”

I would jump in and answer questions without even hinting at our own tool—simply being helpful and pointing people in the right direction.

You can do exactly the same thing. Whatever service you are offering, there will be a great number of people asking questions related to your field. When you just help them out, many people naturally check out what you are building and become loyal customers.

Here are 3 great tools to set up search terms so you can find those future customers’ questions:

  • TweetDeck or HootSuite columns. You can easily set up search terms with the most relevant words contained in questions you want to answer for people. Here is one that I used:

    search best twitter tool

    Setup search terms to follow relevant searches for your brand.

  • InboxQ: Another great way to find and answer questions from anyone is InboxQ. It works as a neat Chrome browser extension. You can save searches and receive notifications whenever there are new questions you can answer:

    twitter inboxq

    InboxQ is a great Chrome browser extension to keep track of people asking questions.

  • Twitter Search: Although Twitter’s search tool isn’t perfect, it has some terrific customization options—especially “advanced search,” which will allow you to pin down exactly what you are looking for:

    twitter advanced search

    Don't forget good old Twitter search to find great questions you can answer.

By nature, I believe that Twitter is simply a terrific place to give great customer support, but it hasn’t been fully embraced for this role by many companies yet.

I hope some of the ideas above will help you make your customers love you a lot more.

What do you think? Can you improve support for your business with some of the above tips? What else are you doing that I might have missed here? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Leon Widrich

Leo Widrich is the co-founder of BufferApp.com, a smarter way to publish your tweets and other social media posts. He writes more social media tips on the Buffer blog. Be sure to connect with him @leowid anytime. Other posts by »




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  • Keith Townsend

    Interesting and creative ideas here that any business can use to separate themselves from the norm. Not enough companies doing this. Awesome post

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aiden-Moor/100001939456401 Aiden Moor

    Great to know about this post and these awesome tips. These will be very helpful for customer.

  • Paul Ricketts

    Really like the info contained in this post, simply brilliant, follow the steps and start making progress, simples!

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks for a great post, Leo! Definitely some practical pointers on how to provide real time customer support on Twitter. 

    Question: do you have someone dedicated to monitoring your Twitter account 24/7? Doing that via mobile? Getting email notices? What do you recommend to small businesses who only have a couple employees?

  • LeoWid

    Hi Phil,

    Great to see you here and really glad the post was useful for you! 

    Yes, that is a great point. So actually, it is myself and the 3 other people in our team (Joel, Tom and Alyssa) who monitors Twitter for bufferapp mentions. However I personally also have lots of different search terms setup that don’t mention our username, like “How to Buffer” for example. This works best for me as separate columns in TweetDeck where I have set them up as search terms. 

    Of course, I think 24/7 is difficult, that’s why more than 1 people on the main @-menions is key. With non-username mentions, I feel you get the “wow” effect just by spotting it, even if it is less frequent. 

    Hope that is useful, let me know if you have any more questions, would love to help out. :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Paul, great to see you here and so glad it was useful, give me a shout if I can ever help with anything ! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Aiden, awesome mission accomplished! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Keith, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words, so glad there were some interesting ideas in there for you! :)  

  • http://intesols.com.au/ Moin Shaikh

    That’s absolutely awesome Leo. Twitter has always been a real time experience for both individual users and corporates. With your points above to use it as customer service tools, i must admit that it is going to be next  CRM (Cust. Relation Management) for companies. And now as you replied to phill, companies are out with their mobiles for 24/7 support which satisfies your posts condition/rule number 1 about being speedy! Afterall, customers don’t see time when posting their question be it morning 11 or midnight 12. But they always note time in the clock when you reply to their query! Thanks,

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  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

    Great tips, Leo!

    My coworkers and I are all about #4. Since we don’t have the resources to sit on Twitter all day (which is sad, because I’d love to), we set up Twilert to send us notifications on specific keywords or phrases. It’s helped us help others AND track down a lot of leads!

  • http://www.facebook.com/justing Justin Grimsley

    What software/platforms do you recommend for teams (more than just two people) using Twitter as customer service to prevent multiple replies, dm’s, etc.?

  • http://www.benlang.me/ Ben Lang

    Excellent tips!

  • Edwin Culp Williams

    Awesome.  Already starting to use twitter more.  Thanks.

    ed

  • http://twitter.com/JensWebWork Jen’s Web Work

    Are there any free tools that alert you when you receive a direct message or mention on Twitter? That would really be helpful!

  • Edwin Culp Williams

    A big help for those of us who are having a very difficult time optimizing  our “Social Media” tools.

  • http://www.cleancutmedia.com/ Clean Cut Media

    great post. i agree, great customer service is always the way to go and can do wonders for any business.

  • http://reelseo.com/about/grant Grant Crowell

    Thanks for sharing, Leo! Have you seen any examples yet of businesses using video on Twitter for customer case? I use TwitVid and it works great even as a mobile platform. Considering we’re talking about replicating person-to-person interactive and humanizing the customer experience, online video in as close to real-time as possible would seem an ideal way to accomplish that. http://www.reelseo.com/twitter-video-marketing-tips/

  • http://www.muschamp.ca/ Muskie

    You can use Topsy.com to monitor Twitter, you can create a search and then subscribe to an RSS feed of it. If you really want instantaneous you can keep a browser tab open to Topsy I guess. IceRocket also has their Big Buzz but lately I’ve found Topsy and subscribing to RSS feeds more useful.

  • http://www.ivisionmobile.com/ Maria

    Thanks for a great post, I found it to be very interesting and informative.

  • http://www.socialmediajedi.info/ Clive Roach

    A great post. I like it a lot. I do disagree with one point, and that is switching to personal accounts. I would stick at it and get an approved alternative icon which allows faces to be shown and the logo too. I managed this at Philips, so give it a go!

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  • http://intesols.com.au/ Moin Shaikh

    If you’re looking for an iphone app, there is an app that sends you notification when someone mentions you or send you direct message. Here’s the link: 
    http://mashable.com/2010/05/19/twitter-iphone-official/ 
    I am still searching for such app for other phones and desktop.
    Thanks,

  • LeoWid

    Hi Moin,

    Great to see you here and thanks a lot for the amazing comment. You are absolutely right, Twitter can definitely be seen as the next form of CRM!

    Yep, a customer always feels how long it takes to get a response, and especially as a lot of companies haven’t fully adopted Twitter yet, you can really separate yourself out from the competition through this! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Clive,

    Great to see you here and really glad you liked the post. Yes, I completely agree, there is definitely times where jumping in personally doesn’t work, if you are working for such a major brand as Philips, I think this wouldn’t be the greatest thing to do. Thanks a lot for chipping in on this! :)

  • LeoWid

    glad you did Maria! :)  

  • LeoWid

    yes, exactly, just like @garyvee:twitter  says, glad you found it interesting! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Edwin, thanks for stopping by here for a comment. Awesome, mission accomplished then! :)

  • LeoWid

    Hi Jen, great to see you here.

    Definitely, I would suggest you take a look at Twilert (http://twilert.com), they do an amazing job here! :)

    Let me know how you get on or if I can help with anything else. 

  • LeoWid

    cheers Ben, glad you liked it, always great to see you stopping by! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Justin,

    Great to hear from you. 

    Yes, that is a fantastic question and a problem that is happening in our team also. The sad answer is, there is NO tool, which does this in a great way right now. So, if you are an entrepreneur yourself, I suggest you might want to build it yourself, tell me about it and I will use it, blog about it and pay for it. 

    The tool that comes close to this though is SproutSocial, which we are using right now. You might want to have a look at it for this! :)  

  • LeoWid

    Hi Mandy,

    Fantastic to see you here.

    That is great to hear, yes, exactly, I think Twilert is a great way to do this. I hope  @twitter-417514067:disqus   can take a look at your results, I think this will be very helpful for her! :)  

  • http://www.eatpraylovemovies.com/ Mansi

    Thanks for sharing this. I was tempted to download InboxQ even before I finished reading the entire article!!!

    Cheers!
    @EatPrayLoveM

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  • Stacey

    Awesome post – especially the tip about InboxQ. Amazing! Thanks so much.

  • http://www.i95dev.com/ Victor Achilles

    The other advantage of Twitter is it offers APIs which could be utilized to build customized screens to offer instant services.

  • http://twitter.com/BryanQuinn Bryan Quinn

    A great post. It can be very useful to use DMs correctly and not for spamming followers as sadly some people do.

  • Dainis Graveris

    Beautiful article, Leon! I enjoyed #4th the most as I am big fan of Gary Vaynerchuck and his philosophy. 

    Btw, I also wrote post about Twitter tweeting techniques, consider reading if you are interested how to become tweeting guru - http://j.mp/HmwtGa :)

  • Penina S. Finger

    Spot on, Leo! I actually discourage clients from opening company Twitter accounts unless they are able and willing to do these things.

    I didn’t know about InboxQ and can’t wait to check it out.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/annamonique Anna Monique

    Great post Leo! As always. :)

  • http://www.MikeWilliamsPro.com/ Mike Williams

    Great post my friend. Someone else asked my question so I am giving a BIG THANK you for the Post. Customer service is the backbone to any successful business. Treat customers right and they will take care of you. Twitter makes reaching their problems so much easier. Master listening to the market and you win! Thanks again.

  • Vuxicon

     Try HootSuite you can have more administrators. But that option is not allowed in demo vesion!

  • http://rmctech.net/blog RmcTech

    Leo, what’s happening! I align particularly with having a personal touch to your tweets. The entire industry, or change in the way we digitally communicate, is based on that personable, real life person, presence. It’s the main thing! 

  • http://www.rackservers.com.au/ Rob RS

    Twitter is a great way to communicate with customers. I find it one of the most useful tools for customer service.

  • http://twitter.com/LuckaLee Elizabeth McGarry

    I am taking public relations classes right now and I have been trying to figure out specific ways to use Twitter because it seems there is still so much confusion on how to use it to your company’s benefit. I love your tips on using it as immediate customer service — especially including personal touches, like using your first name.

    Thanks for the help!

    Elizabeth

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  • econwriter5

    Another tool I’ve found incredibly helpful is engag.io. It’s basically an inbox for your social media profiles, which sounds kind of lame but is actually really helpful in tracking and responding to conversations. It threads them, like of like Gmail, which is much easier to read than through TweetDeck (which jumped the shark once Twitter acquired it) and HootSuite (better choice over TweetDeck).

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  • http://www.dubtizzle.com/ Dubtizzle

    Some companies locally in the Missouri area are epic at Twitter Customer Service like Charter Cable technicians. Thanks for some of the tool suggestions!

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