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Should we have a separate Twitter account for customer service?

pingdom customer service
SUMMARY: Should Pingdom have a separate Twitter account for customer service? What do you think? Tweet this

We take customer service very seriously at Pingdom. If you need to get in touch with us, for whatever reason, you can do so via phone, email, chat, and social media. We’ve even made it easy for you by collecting all service and support information in one place.

Twitter is one of the channels we use for support. In fact, quite a number of messages to our Twitter account @pingdom are really support issues. Now we ask ourselves, and you, if we should set up a separate Twitter account just for support?

customer service

Using Twitter for customer service

We’ve had a Twitter account for many years now, and with over 90,000 followers it’s used quite a bit for support. Many support issues that come our way via Twitter are quick and simple to deal with, suitable for the medium. Others require more details than we have and more interaction with the customer than Twitter is suitable for.

Sometimes we use direct messages to collect personal information and give replies. But even that has it’s shortcomings obviously, mostly due to the 140-character limit.

The simple truth is that, for many support issues we get to our Twitter account, we have to refer the customer to our Support hub anyway, to open a ticket so we can help them better.

So, lately, we’ve been thinking about whether we should have a separate Twitter account for customer service and support. Nothing has been decided, mind you, and we’re writing this article very much as a part of the process of us coming to a conclusion.

Benefits of a separate Twitter account

For businesses to have a separate Twitter account for customer service and support might be more common than you think. A recent survey found that 32% of the world’s top 100 brands have a separate Twitter account for customer service. This was a significant increase from 23% in December of last year.

In fact, especially in the technology industry, it’s not hard to find examples of companies with separate Twitter accounts for support:

  • 4Square
  • Adobe
  • Amazon.com
  • Chartbeat
  • Cisco
  • Citrix
  • Dell
  • Etsy
  • Microsoft
  • Nokia
  • Rdio

There are many benefits of separating out customer service to its own account. Let’s deal with a few of them.

As with many areas of business today, customer service is specialized activity, requiring dedicated staff. You may want to have everyone in the company spend some time doing customer support because it’s a great way to get to know the company and its customers, but that hardly removes the need for dedicated support staff.

And working across functions might be fine as long as the company is relatively small, where the same individuals share responsibilities across communications, social media, and customer support. But it can become quite untenable as the company grows.

Besides that, the more you can isolate a customer service issue to just the people involved, the better it is. This is not so you can hide mistakes from others, but so that you can have a more direct dialogue with the affected. By putting customer service tweets on its own timeline, you reduce the amount of tweets on the company’s main account.

But above these issues, many of which primarily concern the company’s internal organization, having a separate account also affects branding. Of course, everything a company does can potentially affect how its brand is perceived by the market. But moving customer service to a separate Twitter account might mean that more effort could be spent on building and maintaining the company’s brand via the main account.

customer service

Drawbacks of a separate account

It sounds good to have customer service on a separate account, doesn’t it? Well, even the prettiest rose has its thorns.

First of all, let’s recognize that no matter how you try to keep customer service separate, customers will inevitably contact you for support on the main Twitter account. You will then have to choose whether you deal with them there or whether you ask them politely to contact the support account. At no point should you refuse to deal with a customer that needs help, no matter how they contacted you, that much is clear.

The main argument against separating the Twitter presence is arguably that you run the risk of splitting up the audience. For the community, there are two accounts to follow instead of one. And for you in the business, there are two accounts to staff and manage instead of one.

Are followers then likely to follow just one aspect of the company’s Twitter presence? Clearly not everyone will discover both Twitter accounts nor will everyone want to follow both. More than likely, only a limited number of customers will follow the customer service account, and instead simply reach out to it when they need help.

In fact, out of the Twitter accounts listed above, the customer service accounts have only about 9% of the followers of the main accounts, on average.

Another concern is that if more people are in charge of a company’s Twitter presence, they must be careful not to “dilute” the brand, to maintain the company’s image and deliver a consistent company message.

What’s your view?

As you can see there are no easy answers. Whatever is a benefit for one point of view can easily be turned into a negative as well.

Now we’d like to hear from you. What do you think we should do? Should we keep doing what we have been doing, which is to provide support on our regular @Pingdom Twitter account, or should we move support to a separate account? Put in another way, how do we provide you, our customers, with the best possible support on Twitter?

PS. Since someone is bound to find out we might as well preempt the questions and admit that we have registered @Pingdomsupport, but that doesn’t mean we will necessarily use it.



16 comments
DeeBaig
DeeBaig

Pros and cons are there. I guess the crucial factors will be how convenient will customers find a separate account and how frequent will customer need to contact support on main account. For example, if customers will need to contact support on main account for every other issue then having a separate account is just going to be an administrative burden. Some kind of survey can be done to evaluate user preferences. DbaiG Bolee.com

DeeBaig
DeeBaig

Pros and cons are there. I guess the crucial factors will be how convenient will customers find a separate account and how frequent will customer need to contact support on main account. For example, if customers will need to contact support on main account for every other issue then having a separate account is just going to be an administrative burden. Some kind of survey can be done to evaluate user preferences.


DbaiG

Bolee.com

Pingdom
Pingdom

Thanks for the comment.

Pingdom
Pingdom

Thanks for the comment.

Steen Schütt
Steen Schütt

I never understood why people ask questions by tweeting - it's much easier to explain in an e-mail, support ticket or live chat (IRC and the likes) when you don't have to keep it under 160 (?) characters. I like Trillian's support system. Much like a ticket system, but all tickets are public by default (and searchable), so it's a lot like a forum but not quite. The customer can of course make it private if he is sharing sensitive data with the staff.

Steen Schütt
Steen Schütt

I never understood why people ask questions by tweeting - it's much easier to explain in an e-mail, support ticket or live chat (IRC and the likes) when you don't have to keep it under 160 (?) characters. I like Trillian's support system. Much like a ticket system, but all tickets are public by default (and searchable), so it's a lot like a forum but not quite. The customer can of course make it private if he is sharing sensitive data with the staff.

WilliamTM
WilliamTM

Definitely. I always think companies should have a few accounts (depending on what they do). Big companies such as 4sq, yourselves, etc, should have two - the main one (for news, info, downtime, etc), and the support one. Companies such as web hosts, I think, should have three accounts at least - one for general news, info, etc, one for support, and one for status updates - eg, "server 3 is down. ETA 10 mins". Further to that, I think separating that even further would be a good idea - for example - a company like MediaTemple could do @mtstatus_shared, @mtstatus_vps, etc. The way I see it is that I'd rather pick what I want to see, rather than have it all forced on me. One company that comes to mind which I hate, is Namecheap. They have a Twitter account which normally posts any news or info, but for some reason they run competitions off it too, which I have no interest in - they usually have a series of questions lasting up to a week. I really do not want to see that, and I wish they'd run it off a seperate account. I don't follow them anymore which is a shame as I'd still like to see what they post sometimes.

WilliamTM
WilliamTM

Definitely. I always think companies should have a few accounts (depending on what they do). Big companies such as 4sq, yourselves, etc, should have two - the main one (for news, info, downtime, etc), and the support one.

Companies such as web hosts, I think, should have three accounts at least - one for general news, info, etc, one for support, and one for status updates - eg, "server 3 is down. ETA 10 mins".

Further to that, I think separating that even further would be a good idea - for example - a company like MediaTemple could do @mtstatus_shared, @mtstatus_vps, etc.

The way I see it is that I'd rather pick what I want to see, rather than have it all forced on me.

One company that comes to mind which I hate, is Namecheap. They have a Twitter account which normally posts any news or info, but for some reason they run competitions off it too, which I have no interest in - they usually have a series of questions lasting up to a week. I really do not want to see that, and I wish they'd run it off a seperate account. I don't follow them anymore which is a shame as I'd still like to see what they post sometimes.

Markus Klock
Markus Klock

What kind of chat? Are you guys on IRC? :)

Markus Klock
Markus Klock

What kind of chat? Are you guys on IRC? :)

Pingdom
Pingdom

@Steen Schütt Thanks for the comment. Twitter has its obvious limitations, but it can also be a very fast way to communicate.

Pingdom
Pingdom moderator

@Steen Schütt Thanks for the comment. Twitter has its obvious limitations, but it can also be a very fast way to communicate.

Pingdom
Pingdom

WilliamTM Thanks for the comment.