Customer Service in the Social Sphere: Addressing Negative Tweets

Blog-Missteps-PFEarlier this month, my colleague Colleen wrote a very interesting post on the Topography of Twitter Networks that laid out the six network types on Twitter and explained how each network has a different structure of connection and influence. Her blog provided insights for how to classify various forms of Twitter behavior, a topic well worth considering as brands strive to fully understand how to leverage Twitter.

Colleen’s blog on these new insights into Twitter behavior reminded me of a report I had read recently that was more Twitter basic if you will, but still very important to consider.

The report I saw on SlideShare by Software Advice is titled How Experts Would Fix 8 Twitter Missteps. Some of the most common missteps cited in the report really surprised me. Some of them are simply so basic it is hard to believe brands have not yet corrected them. The report focused on dealing with negative sentiment on Twitter.

Here are the highlights of how to handle negative sentiment from the report:

  • Silence is NOT golden. Surprisingly, one of the most common missteps brands still make when dealing with negative comments on Twitter is to do nothing. The Software Advice report cited one study that found that only 29% of customers receive any response when complaining via Twitter. The report suggests that brands “acknowledge the issue head-on, address customer by name, apologize and attempt to fix the issue.”
  • Do NOT Ask an Upset Customer to Take Action. Don’t ask an upset customer to help you – make getting their issue corrected priority #1.
  • Make it clear you are there to help. Whether you are directing the unhappy customer offsite to deal with the issue at hand or giving them the info they need right then and there, be sure they know you want to resolve the issue and fast. Be sure to tell them “we want to help.”
  • Select your words carefully. You have a very limited number of characters – make sure that you are being crystal clear about the fact that you are going to take action and resolve the issue.
  • Public resolution. Even if you are going to take the conversation offline, be sure to go public and let everyone in the social sphere know the issue was resolved.

For the report, customer service researcher/CRM analyst at Software Advice, Ashley Verrill, compiled a list of the 130 most socially active brands on Twitter, such as Target and American Airlines, and analyzed their recent customer service interactions–focusing on those with negative sentiment.

Blog-TwitterImage-PFShe then consulted with social strategy experts to get their advice on these Twitter customer service faux pas, and more importantly what brands should do to provide a better customer experience.

After downloading the report, Software Advice reached out to me and arranged for me to speak with Verrill for her takeaways on the topic.

“Regardless of whether companies want to acknowledge it, consumers are going to use social media to complain and provide feedback on their experiences,” said Verrill. “Yes, in previous years it’s true customers didn’t necessarily expect to get a response, but that is no longer the case. An increasing number of consumers today expect a response, often times within a few hours (or less).”

Verrill offered this tweet from Ann Gregory as an example: ‘@AskTarget maybe try helping @stacyreno resolve her issue?’ She noted, “I’ve seen these kind of interactions over and over again. When you consider the propensity of these messages to travel further, faster in the social space, it’s easy to see how ignoring social customer service requests can be detrimental to your online reputation.”

“No matter how big or small your company, monitoring social media should be a part of a coordinated customer service marketing strategy. It’s important that you’re aware of what your customers say, and social networks are increasingly the best medium for doing that,” added Verrill.

Many brands are well versed in leveraging Twitter as part of their overall marketing communications strategy. Understanding how it plays into your customer service strategy – especially when customers take to the social sphere with negative comments – is especially important. Do you have any dos and don’ts for handling negative comments on Twitter or other social venues to share?

Pam Flores
Pam Flores

Senior Consultant

Pam is adept at fostering relationships with respected thought leaders and influencers in myriad industries and disciplines. She is an expert in media and influencer engagement and specializes in designing and executing outreach programs that engage and activate influencers to deliver share of voice in ongoing conversations applicable to clients. Pam has 20-plus years of experience in social engagement, media and blogger relations, thought leadership, community building and copywriting.

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