Did you know that when Twitter users see your business on Twitter they expect you to be responsive to their needs when they tweet you?

It’s true. Large companies like Netflix, Barnes & Noble, and The University of Phoenix manage dedicated Twitter accounts to handle customer service queries.  You might not have the staff or resources to run a separate customer service account for your business, but it’s critical for all businesses on Twitter — including yours — to respond to every customer query.

If You Snooze, You Lose — Big Time

In the context of this article, this near-cliché bears repeating: social media is a two-way conversation. It’s not about “blasting your message.” It’s about listening and responding accordingly.

For example, I follow a beverage company that is  distributed by Whole Foods Market nationwide. This summer, I tweeted the company something along the lines of “I’m always put on hold when I call your customer service line. Can someone help me with a nutrition question?” They replied … 19 days later.

Most people would not wait nineteen days for a call back or a return email. (Would you?) And most people on Twitter won’t even wait 19 hours for a response. According to recent research from The Social Habit, 42 percent of respondents expect a response from a brand within 60 minutes.

If your business waits 19 days, you run the risk of the user sending agitated follow ups, tweeting negative comments about your company, and in the end, choosing a competing company that offers the information that s/he originally requested.

Give It Your Best Shot

Here’s another example of a company that might benefit from more attention to customer service on Twitter. A few months ago, I purchased a certain candy bar that encouraged me to enter a code on its website for more information. It seemed like a cool way to drive people to the website — I even wrote to some friends about this seemingly great online/offline technique.

I should have tested the site before telling others about this — because once I  entered my code online, I got an error message over and over again. I tweeted the company about it. They replied with “Email us at info@companyname.com and our customer service team will get back to you!” 

This response sparked a flurry of questions in my mind:

  • Why isn’t the customer service team also on Twitter?
  • If I’m on Twitter and they’re on Twitter, why do I have to leave Twitter to write an email?
  • If I asked this question on a phone hotline, would the operator also ask me to write an email? 

Remember the last time you had good customer service on the phone?
Apply that experience in your Twitter interactions.

 

I’m not going to leave Twitter after the first tweet to email a company about a general Website issue. And you know what else? I most likely won’t go back to the Website. And I probably won’t spread the word about the “cool idea” I thought the company had.

If you come up with a great idea for your product or service, you don’t want it to die on Twitter like that.

Admittedly, not every customer service problem can be solved in exchanging 140-character messages. But your company should at least give a dang good try to answer a customer question. Your SMS-sized efforts will go a long way.

This idea of responding quickly and with care might seem daunting to businesses which are just learning how to reply to others on Twitter. If you fall into that category, stick around for my next post. In it, I will address how to easily incorporate customer service in your business’ Twitter strategy. Subscribe to my blog to have these tips and real-world examples sent to your inbox.

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/garryknight