Are You Being Served? Twitter Your New Customer Service Tool!

‘Are you free Mr. Humphries? I’m Free!’ Back in the heyday of British Sitcoms, this iconic line rang out over TV screens across the UK and Ireland. Are You Being Served was a comedic representation of what happened behind the scenes at a Quintessential British Department Store. In this case the focus was on the Ladies and Gentlemen’s Clothing Department.

For anyone who is too young to remember (ok I admit I watched the re-runs as a kid!) Are You Being Served? created characters that reflected Department stores in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It had a hierarchy of importance, ranging from senior management, middle management and department store management. All trying to justify their positions in the face of bizarre circumstances.

The stars of the show were the staff on the ground, whose characters were poles apart from each other. Despite the staff being formal in nature, the series follows their misadventures and comical mishaps with each other and with their customers. Their intentions are driven by their own self-interest and one-upmanship. Often leading to their customers being bemused by their actions. Effectively their customer service policy was dreadful but still maintained a politeness. Often customers were given the wrong sized clothes which generated the catchphrase ‘It will ride up with wear!’.

Great Customer Service is about listening and understanding the needs and wants of your customers. It should never be about you and trying to push your own self-interests. The best customer service policies help to drive improvements in customer care and in developing new products/services to meet customer demand. In addition a well-executed customer service policy will create loyal relationships in the long-term.

Twitter Your New Customer Service Tool!

For a business this helps to create influencers who will rave about your brand to their followers and build your Twitter community. This allows a greater degree of control from the customer’s point of view and enables them to communicate more freely with a brand.

However caution must be exercised in using Twitter as a customer service tool. Why? People will complain directly to you if they have an issue. Unless you have a customer service policy in place, a situation with a customer complaint can escalate quickly and there is the potential for it to go viral. Therefore damaging your brand. It is no different from having your off-line customer service policy.

Here are some tips to using Twitter as a Customer Service Tool.

  1. Be Human – Yes it sounds simple. But often the simplest things are most effective. You want your brand to get off on the right foot in Social Media? Just be yourself and be human! People can relate to another person rather than someone who is hiding behind a logo. You’re not Batman after all! Find your Social Media Voice, talk naturally to your customers and relate to them on a personal level.
  2. Don’t be Robotic – Whatever you do, please don’t automate your responses. Nothing aggravates a customer more than a robotic automated response. From a customer’s perspective it seems cold and shows you simply don’t care. Act in real time and real person.
  3. Listen – Again it sounds so simple it’s almost silly. But it’s the most effective customer service strategy. Listening allows you to understand what customers’ needs and wants are. They then can be applied to improve your service and business. Not listening and trying to enforce your own opinion will simply turn customers away in droves. Remember on Twitter things can go viral and damage your brand!
  4. Turn Negatives into Positives – Businesses have a paranoid fear of receiving complaints on Twitter. At the end of the day people can see them and it can be a turn off! The biggest mistakes that businesses make with complaints on Twitter is not dealing with them in real time. Often complaints are left there for days and this leaves customers frustrated with the lack of response. People want to feel like their issues are important and are dealt with promptly. However by engaging quickly and by offering a timely response to a complaint can actually have a positive impact. Just watch for people who ‘Troll’!
  5. Inject some humour – OK, this is not for everybody and can be risky. Not everyone likes a Smart Alec! But sometimes humour can defuse a situation and demonstrate your HUMAN! Look at the way Tesco Mobile operate their Twitter account. They ‘Troll the Trolls’. This has changed their brand perception and made them more likeable
  6. Create a Twitter Customer Service Policy – Ensure you create a Twitter Customer Service Policy that users sign off on and make sure its legally water tight! The policy should put in measures and control in the event of customer complaints and how they are handled. Ensure users of your Twitter account are trained up regularly. This will help to avoid a public meltdown of your business on Twitter!

Oh and one last lesson folks. It’s the lesson we were all thought about in business school, call it business lesson 101 or whatever you want to call it! It’s the very essence of customer service and your business life… The customer is ALWAYS right, no matter what! And believe me, this applies to Twitter as well. Next time you log on Twitter, ask your customers… Are You Being Served?

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