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Did Twitter just make social customer service a whole bunch easier?  

26th Aug 2016
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This week, Twitter made the following announcement:

The update may seem innocuous at first glance, but it could yet be one that acts as a vital conduit for businesses in their bid to tie customer service and social media strategies together.

The idea is that customers can Direct Message (DM) brands directly through external websites via a button embedded straight from Twitter. The button is expected to act as an instant messaging option for customers visiting company websites, without having to go through the process of live chat, email or FAQs. And it’s free to those who want to embed it.

So why has Twitter seemingly been so generous?

“Private messaging or chat over social media is becoming more important in customer service. It means that a brand really can have direct, one-to-one personalised relationships on social media with their customers,” says Blaise Grimes-Viort, chief services officer at Emoderation.

“In theory, it is great for the brand – it means they can use social media as part of their whole customer service strategy, it takes the conversation off a public channel and it means the customer can share more detailed information so it should be easier to resolve queries.”

Twitter only had to look at how Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger platforms were performing to appreciate the importance of instant messaging. The combined apps are now processing around 60bn messages a day, and Facebook recently opened the Messenger platform up to chatbots in order to give brands a foothold in the platform.

Twitter responded earlier in the year by announcing that DMs would no longer have the same 140 character limit as public messages, but this latest update is said to be more about acknowledging the microblogging site as more committed to improving its capabilities as a customer service channel.

“The embedded DM buttons negates the need for a user to visit Twitter or spend time searching for an @ handle, that ultimately speeds up time to first contact and that’s great for true social customer service,” says Lee Benecke, social media and content consultant at Amaze.

“For Twitter, it’s another step towards embedding its platform into the customer service funnel. However, true customer service integration takes more than a button. It requires more from Twitter and it requires brands to adequately train teams on how to use social as part of their customer response.”

The ‘more’ from Twitter may well be in the pipeline, but for brands looking to incorporate this latest update into their customer service mix, what are the key challenges to consider? Simon Preece, the founder of social media strategists, slp consulting has already pulled together the following checklist:

  • Rather than just “sticking on another button”, think about what the audience is trying to do and how/where this button can help.
  • Manage users’ expectations. Is adding a DM button suggesting that you’re going to give me live support? Or is it literally just another way of launching a DM? Why not make it absolutely clear for the user on the website?
  • Consider the added feature to pre-populate the DM with text. This could help give context of where the user has come from – a real strength of live chat options.
  • Remember - consumers are savvy enough to realise what this is. If people don’t get a swift resolution they can (and will!) resort to using a public @mention.
  • Test how it works on mobile devices before taking the plunge. Often Twitter integrations fire up Twitter in a mobile browser rather than the Twitter app. It really needs to be the latter in order to aid a smooth transition.

Brands will need to alter their privacy settings to fit, with Twitter’s blog on implantation stating the button “works best when your account settings allow you to receive Direct Messages from anyone, whether or not they follow you”.

Beyond this small technical point, however, the success is likely to be determined by the same metric that has always determined customer service success on Twitter: how quickly a brand is able to respond to requests

“For customers, it’ll only be as good as the people running it,” adds Grimes-Viort. “Private messaging is changing the speed at which brands have to respond, as it’s more comparable to live chat than anything else. Brands will have to be able to respond quickly to every DM if they want people to use a private message rather than a public one. There’s still a perception that companies will respond quicker to a public complaint than a private one.  

“Twitter tends to be where people go to publicly shout at or praise a company. Brands will have some work to do to increase their response times – that will be the incentive for customers to use private messaging as the first option.”

Replies (2)

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By WA10
01st Sep 2016 14:31

I think both! It's easier to communicate over Twitter as the customer but you still need more staff to keep an eye on it / deal with it.

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Replying to WA10:
Chris Ward
By Chris Ward
06th Sep 2016 08:56

Thanks WA10. I guess the key question is - would you rather use Twitter for getting a customer service query resolved on a company website, or live chat? Which would you feel more confident getting a resolution with?

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