Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service? | Twitter Bird on Key of Keyboard

Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service?

Twitter understands that it is often a channel for immediate customer response, and it is not only embracing its role as a customer service channel but beginning to focus on selling itself as an indispensable channel for customer service.

Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service? | Twitter Bird on Key of KeyboardOn August 6th, Twitter released a Customer Service Playbook designed to convince organizations of Twitter’s importance as a customer service channel and to demonstrate how they can use the channel to generate effective results with customers.

Twitter makes the pitch this way:

The introduction of the 1-800 number changed the way brands approached customer service. In the nearly 50 years since, customer service hasn’t changed much, until now. We’re in the early days of the next revolution — customer service on Twitter.

To begin, Twitter has been used for customer service for so long now, that it seems odd for Twitter itself to proclaim a revolution this late in the game. But even if the revolution is already maturing into the status quo, Twitter is right that customer service communication has undergone a significant shift in the last decade.

No Channel Is THE Channel

So, is Twitter really THE channel for social customer service? In its post, Twitter cites a statistic from Social Bakers which says that 80% of all social customer service interactions occur via the platform. And while that statistic measures the quantity of interactions not the quality, Twitter obviously holds an important place in the social customer service universe.

Still, can it be THE channel for customer service? No, because no channel is THE channel for customer service. That is why seemingly the entire professional world has been talking about the idea of omnichannel customer service for years now. You need all channels, or at least, all of the channels that are right for your organization.

But what if you’re a pick-one-channel-and-stick-to-it type of person? Well, before you walk into a meeting and recommend shutting down your company’s Facebook page and 800 number, it might be helpful to review some of the weaknesses Twitter has as a customer service channel.

It Can’t Be Everything, If It Doesn’t Reach Everyone

Twitter began its release post with the idea that Twitter is a revolution, much like the 800 number. The problem with that analogy is, of course, that almost everyone has a phone now, and between 80-90% of the population had phones when the toll-free service lines made their debut in 1967.

In the United States as of this writing, only about 20% of the population is actively using Twitter (65 million out of about 321 million). Of course, some of that population are not active in the economy, so let’s just call it 25% (Facebook, at 156 million, is closer to 50%). Depending on your industry, that percentage may or may not be higher, but I think it’s safe to say that Twitter alone is not going to cut it for any major consumer brand.

Limited Length Means Limited Complexity

The 140 character limit, which makes the platform extremely unfriendly to complex customer service issues, will always constrain what types of customer service interactions begin on Twitter.

Viewing the effects of this limitation through the lens of customer effort, some of the key aspects of effort are transfers and multi-interaction service experiences. Many a customer will not begin a service interaction (I’m one of them) on Twitter, because they know that they are immediately going to have to go to a medium that allows for more in-depth interactions.

Not Everyone Wants an Audience for Their Issues

Twitter is public, and many people don’t want to complain publicly, either because they don’t want to be perceived in a certain way or they simply don’t want the details of their transaction to be public.

Twitter’s DM system has historically made it so that you could not privately message a company (or anyone for that matter) who was not following you. In April, Twitter changed this policy to allow organizations to choose a setting where it can accept DMs from anyone.

Obviously, this is part of Twitter’s strategy to position itself as a customer service channel. Over time, this change is likely to help mute the “don’t want to complain in public” weakness of the platform, but it will take years, millions in marketing from Twitter, or both for organizations and especially consumers to understand that this change has occurred and to embrace it. As an example, did you know about this change before reading it here?

Can Twitter be THE Social Customer Service Channel?

With such profound weaknesses, Twitter might not be able to be the hub of your customer service strategy; however, it might be able to be the hub of the social media part of your customer service strategy. While it still suffers from its short-form format and lack of widespread adoption, if you are in an industry where the majority of consumers are active Twitter users, it could be your centerpiece channel.

That doesn’t mean that you should not try to offer as many channels as possible, particularly Facebook for consumer brands. One of the core ideas of omnichannel strategy is meeting customers where they want to communicate with you.

It does mean that resources are always limited, and organizations must choose where to invest their time and capital. Twitter makes a strong argument that, in the social sphere, it is a platform worthy of customer service investment and that it would behoove most organizations to maximize their effectiveness with the channel.

Twitter may not be THE channel, but it is an important channel in almost any omnichannel customer service strategy.

To that end, Twitter’s Customer Service Playbook provides a helpful, deep dive into the strategies and techniques that can help companyies maximize their service interactions in the land of the blue tweety bird. Download it for free here.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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