Sweet Tweets are made of this – how to respond to Twitter queries

12/12/2014 By Tim Barber

We recently released the first wave of results from Twystery® (our new technique using mystery shopping to assess how brands respond to consumer tweets). We sent 900 tweets to 30 brands across six product sectors, asking a range of questions. We evaluated them on several measures, including the response rate, the speed of response and the quality of response.

Our findings can be summarised in six critical rules for social media managers.

N.B. All tweets represent actual questions and responses received as part of our Twystery® research, but for obvious reasons they have been anonymised.

Rule 1 Always respond

The first rule of engaging on social media is…engage! If a customer asks a question, make sure you respond. In our Twystery® research, 84% of tweets were responded to – meaning one sixth were ignored.

There were interesting differences between sectors. Supermarkets had the best overall response rate at 98%. Banks and financial brands also performed well (97%).

Despite some sectors performing better overall than others, there were significant differences between brands within the same sector. For example, one subscription TV provider responded to 93% of tweets, but another responded to just 63%.

Rule 2 Put some effort into it

We see some business responses on Facebook and Twitter filled with typos and sloppy punctuation and grammar, as well as inconsistent in style.

This is not to say that all social media responses must read like The Times but if your response appears rushed, impatient or, worst of all, lazy, you are conveying the impression that you don’t value the enquirer.

Rule 3 Get the tone right

PIN convo bird

While social media users are (perhaps stereotypically) notorious for their casual attitude towards written etiquette, this is not to say that customer service responses should follow suit. If the response is too casual then you risk sounding inexperienced or unprofessional. Alternatively, if a response is formal and devoid of emotion, it can look as if your brand is boring, staid, inflexible and old-fashioned.

You have to strike the right balance – and to do so, you need to ensure that the words, spacing and punctuation combine in a response that is neither casual nor overly formal.

Rule 4 Mind your manners

It may seem extravagant to spend 20 characters out of the Twitter limit of 140 on pleasantries such “Hope that helps!” - which don’t on the face of it add any meaningful content to a customer response. However, these phrases can contribute to a positive impression from the customer’s viewpoint. Since social media platforms involve no real-time face-to-face interaction, it is important to convey empathy towards the customer through appropriate greetings. A simple smiley face used in the right context might help a customer feel welcomed and less defensive.

This is why one of the metrics we used to score responses for our Twystery® project is whether it has a friendly tone.

Rule 5 Think about links

One widely-used metric for measuring the standard of customer service is customer effort, i.e. how much effort it takes for the customer to get an answer to a question or resolve a problem. Brands should aim to make the customer journey as effortless as possible!

A simple way to do this is to include a URL or a contact (e.g. email, phone) in your response, so the customer can easily access further details. The last thing anyone wants is to have to tweet a second time for details you could have provided at the start.

Rule 6 Answer the question

Last but not least, answer the question! Obvious as this seems, online responses often miss the point of the customer’s query. We have seen Twitter account owners tweet an email address or URL to a customer who asked for a contact number.

Another response of this type directs the customer to a general, catch-all website where they need to go through trial-and-error searching and browsing to find the answer – time wasting and annoying.

I’ll end with this quote from Jeffrey Zeldman:

The best way to engage honestly with the marketplace via Twitter is to never use the words ‘engage’, ‘honestly’ and ‘marketplace’.

If you’d like more information on our Twystery® project, please visit https://www.bva-bdrc.com/solutions/twystery/ or contact me at tim.barber@bva-bdrc.com or @Tim__Barber.