Twitter says tweeting customer service pays

Twitter researcher says rapid responses to customers’ questions and complaints pays off in real dollars and months of goodwill.

It’s easy to understand that customer service in social media, as in any other channel, is conceptually a good idea. Assigning an ROI to it, however, is another story. That’s what Wayne Huang, a researcher at Twitter, decided to tackle with what began as a pet project to examine that “electrifying moment of happiness” when a brand uses Twitter to respond to a customer, something the social media site is trying to increase.

“The majority of people are not getting any responses from brands,” said Huang. The goal of his research? “Prove out that customer service has actual value.”

Huang said he succeeded. His research showed a significant increase in customers’ “willingness to pay” after a brand responded on Twitter—goodwill that persisted months later.

“You’re just not expecting someone to reach out and help you on a public medium like this,” Huang said. “There’s definitely something that registers deep inside people’s emotions, and they remember it and are willing to pay more for it.”

How much more are they willing to pay? $9 to airlines, on average, but if the response is super-fast—within 6 minutes—that number jumps to nearly $20. “To get responses back quickly, people remember that, because it’s just busting through expectations,” Huang said. But, he added, every minute counts because the dollar amount falls quickly as the response time increases.

Customers who received responses “felt overwhelmingly much more positive towards the brand” vs. those who did not receive a response. “Even just acknowledging someone’s tweet, even if you can’t solve it at that moment, that can really add a lot of value,” Huang said. “When you do respond, it’s a strong social signal that (your brand) really takes customers very seriously. It takes just a few seconds, but it makes a huge difference.”

Huang’s research is important to Twitter because it also established a direct link between customer service responses and higher satisfaction with Twitter as a platform.

“We just want to get users to have more positive interactions with brands because that’s really where we think the light bulb goes off for users and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is what makes Twitter so unique and different,'” Huang said.

Last year, Twitter published a playbook called “Customer Service on Twitter.” Huang’s colleague, Jeff Lesser talked about it here.

Hear more from Huang’s interview with Focus on Customer Service co-hosts Dan Gingiss and Dan Moriarty by listening to Episode 27.

Dan Gingiss is a passionate proponent of amazing customer experiences and outstanding customer service, and a frequent tweeter and speaker about these topics. He is the co-host of the Focus on Customer Service podcast. A version of this article first appeared on SocialMediaToday.

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