How to use Twitter as an effective customer service platform: a case study Jamie Gibbs

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Is it possible to deliver great customer service in 140 characters? It has to be, since social media is fast becoming the go-to platform for disgruntled customers to vent their frustrations, so it’s important to know how to use it.

The strongly worded letter of complaint has been the stereotypical cornerstone of British consumer behaviour, with the slightest of grievances being met with swift retribution from the local media and MPs on behalf of the customer. These days, now that everyone’s connected to everyone else through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it’s much easier for customers to grind their axes publicly. Here’s a look at how are doing it right, and how you too can use Twitter to overcome customer grievances.

A speedy reply is key

The main drawback to the instant communication offered by social media is that it has greatly shortened customer’s patience to the point that a 24 hour turnaround for a response just isn’t quick enough.

So what makes a good response time on Twitter? This largely depends on the query (and which department the social team needs to get in touch with) but a response within a few hours is a good starting point. Even if resolving the problem will take hours or even days, that initial contact should be as quick as possible. For example:

@treth1 Hi Michael. Sorry you’re having problems with the site. But we can get to the bottom of this!

— (@Confused_com) March 8, 2013

@confused_comThanks will try again in a couple of hours — Michael Trethewey (@treth1) March 8, 2013

The speed of the reply was key to managing this customer’s expectations; if left unanswered, it could have easily escalated into an official complaint. On a platform where every emotion is public, it’s not the kind of publicity you want to attract.

Make it personal

Another benefit of Twitter is the ability to strip away the veneer of the faceless corporation and interact with customers on a personal level. This improves trust in the brand and shows the customer that you’re going beyond the call of duty to solve their problem.

@jules0971 Hi Jules, sorry about that. Can you email [email protected] with your details and we’ll get it sorted for you. ^JC

— (@Confused_com) September 28, 2012

@jules0971 Thanks. Can you follow us so you can DM us your full name? I’ll be able to let them know to expect an email from you ^JC — (@Confused_com) September 28, 2012

@jules0971 Great, glad to hear it. I’ll tell him…I mean tell me…tell myself ;) ^JC — (@Confused_com) September 28, 2012

The original tweet was sent late in the evening, so the Confused social team replied the next day. What marks this interaction is that, not only did they respond on behalf of Confused, they let the customer know who she was talking to by using the ^JC at the end of each tweet (the Twitter profile shows a “who’s who” explaining each acronym).

Not only that, but they also got in touch with the customer via their personal Twitter account in order to make sure that the issue was dealt with quickly. As you can see from the above tweet, the customer was appreciative of the ‘personal touch’. ^JC replied with a light hearted follow up, showing that the blend of professionalism and personality can go a long way in providing effective customer service.


Twitter works as a platform for meeting customer expectations and dealing with queries and problems, but what about the rest of your customer base? What do best on Twitter is engage with people who might not otherwise have reason to speak to a price comparison brand, and they do so in a way that’s interesting, useful and engaging.

Sharon Flaherty, Head of Content and PR for said,

“Twitter is a useful tool for communicating with ‘potential’ customers not just an outlet for customers to get in touch when they may need help getting an insurance quote. This may be a piece of content on the latest trends in car insurance prices to keep our followers up to date or it could be a tool such as our car name generator which allows you to generate a birth certificate for your car.

“We see this as a form of effective customer service delivered through this social platform and one that is growing in demand and popularity as the relationships between brands and customers becomes more conversational.”

@conorweldon You need to check out our quick video guide to making the perfect pancake Conor :) ^JC

— (@Confused_com) February 12, 2013

@conorweldon No worries Conor :) ^JC

— (@Confused_com) February 12, 2013

Through the use of interesting content, the brand is able to interact with new sectors of its audience, creating new customers through this engagement. From this, the customer knows that the Twitter channel is one where discussion and interaction is encouraged, making for a much more enjoyable customer experience.

Jamie Gibbs is the resident social media zombie and gadget nut for car insurance comparison site He’s a self-confessed dual screener; one eye on the TV, the other on his iPad (though not at the same time, that would be weird).