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Are Customer Service Twitter Responses Missing the Point?
By: Aprel Phelps Downey
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Customer service departments hold the power to make or break a company. Handling a customer issue with grace, dignity, and an ounce of respect can send a business skyrocketing. Take a customer issue and add more problems and headaches to the equation, and it is a recipe for disaster. More and more companies are facing the second scenario when it comes to handling customer issues on social media.
Companies get caught up in the social media game of trying to score the next biggest public relations campaign. In order to achieve this, some aspects of social media customer interactions get set on autopilot. Customer complaints are answered with automated responses as opposed to a personal human response. Each automated response is the same generic statement regardless of what the content of an individual tweet is about. It has reached the point where many companies seem to have forgotten that without those valued customers there would be no need for the next big social media promotional campaign.
Bank of America is one such company that found itself struggling in light of automated responses sent out on Twitter. A recent string of foreclosure-criticizing tweets were poorly handled with automatic responses such as "Let us know if you need assistance” and “We’d be happy to review your account." By the time a real person got involved in the situation, the damage had already been done.
Not all companies rely on the automatic response system. Some do make an effort to place a real person behind the computer screen. However, these individuals are restricted in what they can say and how they can respond to the customer complaints. The true nature of human interaction is removed from the equation. A compassionate response that might put the customer at ease is replaced with a generic, company-approved statement. In the end, the response from a real person addresses the true nature of the customer’s problem in much the same way that the automated responses do.
By the time a customer takes a complaint to Twitter, all other traditional channels have been utilized. At this point the customer is tired, frustrated, and in desperate need of a resolution to the issue at hand. With an average Twitter response time of approximately 4.5 hours, companies are not doing a great job at handling customer issues. Even when a response is given, it often falls short of sufficiently addressing the problem and oftentimes creates problems that did not exist prior to the customer turning to Twitter.
It is high time for companies to step up their social media customer service game. Ditch the automated response systems. Give customer service representatives the ability to diffuse a situation by injecting a little bit of humor and a touch of the human spirit into each response. Make customers feel appreciated, noticed, and valued. A little bit of love goes a long way, even on Twitter! 

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About the Author
Aprel Phelps Downey is a writing/marketing professional who holds more than seven years marketing experience, including all aspects of promotional and informational campaigns and website development.  To learn more about Aprel please visit her website at www.aprelphelpsdowney.com or follow her on twitter: @aphelpsdowney.
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