Twitter for customer service: look before you leap

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Quick. What is the best way to get a brand’s attention? Tweet something nasty about their product or service. This is what many of us believe for a variety of reasons: (a) it is true that when brands are publicly embarrassed, especially by ‘influencers’ they are shamed and feel the need to get into damage control mode (b) cribbing is natural Twitter behaviour; the platform seems to be ideal for complaining as one can get away with complaints about anything (weather, food at a restaurant, politicians, movies – you name it) and criticise anything under the sun (c) brands are there on Twitter anyway and are bound to see your tweets. The last aspect, brand presence on Twitter is often a result of ‘tick-the-box’ approach without much thought to it’s role and how it will be fulfilled.

If a brand in the service category (airlines, hotels etc.) or a category which requires customer service (e.g. satellite dish services, telecom) chances are Twitter will be used to redress consumer complaints. We see that all the time with airline brands, telecom providers, banks and so on. But when ‘Twitter as customer service’ is implemented in a haphazard way paying lip service to social media presence, it can actually cause enormous harm for a brand. In fact, it is undoing all the good work done by the brand in advertising.

Take Voltas AC for instance. For several years now, its advertising has been noticeable on television. I personally thought that the South Indian character ‘Murthy’ and his ‘all-weather AC’ was clutter breaking, relevant, memorable and endearing. The fact that the theme has continued for several seasons (when campaign ideas are changed every 6 months) speaks of the confidence the brand team has on the advertising theme. If I were in the market for an AC, I would be interested in checking the brand out. I am sure a lot of hard work has gone behind it and the campaign seems to be a success. But when you look at the brand’s casual approach to its Twitter presence, you can’t help feel that they are actually undoing all the good work done by the ad agency. See this to get an idea of ‘apathy’ that the brand’s social media presence connotes, in direct contrast with the advertising. And it does not seem to be an isolated case – they simply rely on bots to deliver automated messages.

Twitter customer service

Voltas is from a reputed corporate house in India and they even use the corporate brand’s name and the founder’s picture in the Twitter bio. Will the obvious frustration and anger towards the brand’s behaviour in social media not affect the brand in the offline world? But the scary part is, marketers are still in the tick-box mode and do not seem to the think through the detrimental effects of a half-hearted social media presence, especially for customer service.

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