Written on June 10, 2014 at 7:00 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
There I was at the airport, in a long line of jet-lagged travelers that was devolving into an angry mob before my eyes. All outbound flights had been grounded by weather, so none of us were going anywhere in the near future—and the customer service reps were starting to come unglued. I called my husband, Dan, to warn him I was stuck before dialing United Airlines to try to bypass the chaos and rebook my flight home. Dan hit Twitter. While I waited on hold, he engaged in a productive back-and-forth with @united, learning that my best option was to book a hotel and accept a voucher for a future flight. Dan texted me this update and I snagged a room lightning-fast, before they were all gone.
Using Twitter to get quick, courteous customer service is one of the best reasons to maintain an account on the social media site. Because these interactions unfold in a public forum, companies know their reputation is always on the line. Therefore, they tend to staff their Twitter accounts with reps trained to listen attentively and resolve issues on the double. Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more users Tweet complaints and get results—even possibly incite change.
For instance, I watched a Safeway (@Safeway) customer post that an advertised sale price was no longer ringing up at her local store and get a reply the next morning honoring the lower price. A Chico’s (@Chicos) shopper who complained that shipping to Canada cost too much was promised that the policy would be reviewed. A Whole Foods (@WholeFoods) customer who expressed distaste for her store’s plastic take-out containers was informed that packaging decisions are made by local management. Of course, people also visit the Twittersphere to praise products and businesses (which is a nice thing to do). But more often, it’s the best way to circumvent lengthy hold times. Case in point: When General Motors (@GM) recalled cars because of a faulty ignition switch earlier this year, one woman bypassed phone support by Tweeting instead, and her problem was soon addressed. Bottom line: These days, if you have something to say to a company, Twitter is the smartest place to do so.
Twitter communications director Rachael Horwitz sums it up perfectly: “Twitter is public, so brands are listening.” Keep her advice in mind when you try Tweeting for service satisfaction.
• Address the right audience. You post a Tweet to a company by using their Twitter handle, which always starts with @. To find the correct handle, type the name in the search field on the home page.
• Be concise. Remember that you only have 140 characters to get your message across. Composing a Tweet is the modern equivalent of sending a telegram. Skip any unnecessary preamble. Include only key details.
• Follow along. While Tweets are public, there is an option to continue a conversation privately within the Twitter platform, through the Direct Message (DM) function. In order to do so, both parties must be following each other. If a company’s customer service rep asks you to follow them, this is likely why. (It’s often a good sign.)
• Don’t wear egg on your face. If you set up a new Twitter account, be aware that the default icon is an egg, which displays in your profile and Tweets. To avoid screaming newbie, change that icon right away. “It doesn’t really matter whether you have a lot of followers,” says Horwitz. “But companies are more inclined to take tweets seriously from someone who seems engaged with Twitter. So you should create a profile to convey that.”
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.