Lessons on using Twitter customer service

A lot of companies now offer quick and easy customer service response via Twitter. If in doubt these days, if I'm moaning about a company (or praising one for that matter) I will include their Twitter address in my tweet, and many will respond within minutes or hours.

I think this is a good thing - as long as it's done well. I've had some really zippy and helpful responses. But sometimes a company is far too slow in responding. At other times, even if the company responds quickly, it doesn't exactly do itself any favours.

I used Twitter to bring the above moan to the attention of my bank. Lloyds makes it clear just how much it regards Twitter as a way to ask it questions from the name 'AskLloydsBank.' It seemed a reasonable question - I've a relatively new business debit card, yet when I buy stamps or travel by tube, for instance, I can't use my card to pay contactless.

Back came the reply within an hour or so:

Well, I suppose it was nice to know I was dealing with CL. (No, it wasn't. I didn't really care.) But have you spotted what (s)he did? Answered my question by telling me what I already knew. Not exactly top quality stuff. So, subtle as ever, I replied:

To be fair to the Lloyds staff, at this point the actually read the question. (It's not just Lloyds. As anyone who has ever tried to use Amazon, eBay or Paypal customer service will know, they never read the question properly first time, churning out a knee-jerk reply.) Unfortunately, the response was not one to cheer my heart:

So there you have it. They can't provide a reason. Now, do you think that leaves me a happy customer? No. Twitter is genuinely a great medium for customer service - but in cases like this it proves worse than useless, and the company ends up looking worse that it did before responding. What's more, bearing in mind Twitter is a broadcast (these weren't PMs) they did it for the whole world to see.

Lessons? Yes, use Twitter for customer service. Yes, get back to your customers promptly. But read their questions first time. And if you can't give an answer, give the customer an easy mechanism to escalate the query. 'We wouldn't be able to provide a specific reason,' just isn't good enough.