A Twitter Guide to Handling Anything Your Customers Throw at You

May 10, 2010

There are a lot of examples of companies that handle the unexpected well on Twitter; there are just as many, if not more, of companies that didn’t. Don’t be in that latter group.

Following is a quick guide to handling the worst of what your customers or followers can throw at you.

Routine Service or Product Requests
Automate that as much as possible, say Joseph Hughes, a senior executive with Accenture’s Customer Service & Support Business and Chris Boudreaux, a senior manager within Accenture’s Strategy business unit.

As reported by BusinessWeek, the Accenture executives say that way, “call-center workers can put the best approaches to work repeatedly.” Technology, obviously, is key to this and other best practices on Twitter, they say. In this case, “Clarabridge makes automation software to help with” such customer requests. Other software packages that would be of help include Attivio’s real-time analytical software, which can help companies quantify and react to customer opinions. Also, Dell’s IdeaStorm can “connect marketers with product development staff to build a bridge from the conversations happening on the web to the goods and services your company produces.”

If You Say Something that can be Misconstrued, Clarify Immediately.
Earlier this year Alex Payne, an engineer at Twitter, posted the following message, as reported by MarketingVox: “If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)”

The comment, which was deleted, set off a firestorm among third-party developers, who thought Twitter would be implementing features that might compete with third-party Twitter tools such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic. As it turned out, they were right.

At the time, Payne quickly apologized – and in fact, shut down his blog in part because of this episode. But questions remained and weren’t fully answered until Twitter announced new plans for its third-party development later at its conference.

Do Whatever It Takes to Mollify Irate Customers
A recent clash between Southwest Airlines and actor-director Kevin Smith illustrates the difficulty a company can have defending or explaining a policy that may be unpopular with customers in 140-character increments. In some situations, just apologize. As reported by MarketingVox, the incident began when Smith was asked to leave a flight because of his size. Smith retold the event on Twitter; Southwest, for its part, responded within hours with its own side – and apologies as Smith’s defenders mounted their own attacks. Granted, Smith has a following because he is a public figure, but such incidents can quickly go viral no matter who the passenger is.

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