Should Twitter be a part of your customer engagement strategy?

We would all agree that retaining customers is a given, particularly in today’s tight economic circumstances. So we have to find ways of ensuring that customer expectations are met, first time, every time.

That means developing systems which support every sort of interaction, with the same sort of targeted response metrics. The conventional call centre industry has grown up with the concept of measuring efficiency in terms of wait times, percentage of abandoned calls, and time to resolution. But today’s consumers may not want to use the telephone.

The connected generation has grown used to making contact with each other through whatever medium is nearest to hand, which might be a voice call, or it might be SMS, instant messaging, email or a social network. A business which wants to be seen as responsive, needs to mirror that level of availability.

 

Across channel not multi-channel

So contact centres have to be able to manage services across multiple platforms. In turn, that means matching customer expectations. Waiting a while for a return email might be seen as acceptable, but instant messaging demands, the name would suggest, an instant response. Can you support that? You need to be clear you can meet expectations before offering it.

One of the ways in which the load on a conventional contact centre can be reduced is through the use of proactive contact. The airline industry has led on this: if you book online, you can then expect to receive an email at the appropriate time which leads you through the steps of online check-in, making it difficult to ignore and reducing the number of voice calls with queries. Remember the days when we had to call an airline 72 hours before travel to “re-confirm”, then again on the day to find out if the plane was actually going on time?

The desire to be seen as proactive – not to mention the desire to be seen as up with the latest trends – has led a number of businesses to investigate broadcast social networking, and Twitter in particular. High profile tweeters have garnered wider media exposure – everyone knows that Stephen Fry has more than a million followers – and this has led marketing departments to get excited by the idea.

The good news is that there is no IT investment required to establish a corporate presence on Twitter, or Facebook, or any other popular social network. If you have a computer connected to the internet, you can start. But you should think very carefully before you do.

 

Twitter – questions to ask yourself

What is the objective in having a presence? How is it going to help your business? Is it there for marketing purposes, to build a brand? Will it better connect you with your customers, to learn what they are thinking and ultimately help you improve your products or services? Do you see it as a conduit for information which could ultimately reduce the load on the contact centre?

The recent travel chaos caused by the volcano at Eyjafjallajokull, is a great example of an unpredictable surge in demand for the contact centre. Tweeting information on the latest flight status would be a good way to keep people informed and off the phone lines.

On the other hand, there is a famous story of the pitfalls of Twitter for an airline. A passenger, frustrated by the cancellation of his flight by a well-known American carrier, commented on the airline’s Twitter feed that the service desk in the airport could not help him and where else could he get information. A rival airline, monitoring the Twitter feed, picked up the message, offered the stranded passenger a seat on its next flight, and won a new loyal customer.

The important message of this anecdote is that Twitter is a public medium and, while it is a good way to communicate with customers, you have to accept that competitors will also be following you avidly. That means you have to actively monitor the feed and be extremely responsive, especially to complaints and negative comments. This is a demanding role especially for a large organisation which might be expected to attract a lot of followers and comments.

That, in turn, means it has to be regarded as part of the contact centre infrastructure, to provide the link to the knowledge base and to track the issues raised. But get it right and you increase your business’s reputation for being responsive and well connected.