Research: Four ways brands can build customer service relationships on Twitter


Conversations happen in a public way on Twitter, and this is particularly true when customers want to be heard by brands. In fact, customer service is one of the leading reasons Twitter users give for following brands. And, in the past two years, there has been a 2.5x increase in these customer service conversations on Twitter.

To understand how satisfied people feel with customer service interactions on Twitter, we surveyed 14,040 Twitter users who follow or interacted with brands’ customer service Twitter accounts in the past six months. We asked about their latest customer service experience in terms of: friendliness, personalization, responsiveness, resolution, satisfaction and recommendation.

Our resulting research surfaced four key best practices for brands who want to shift from simply handling customer service to nurturing customer service relationships and experiences. Check out our infographic below for the top data points and read on for our recommendations as well as examples of brands getting customer service right on Twitter.

1. Be friendly: Empathize with the consumer and offer to help

Your mom was right: Being kind can go a long way. Our study found that when consumers have friendly customer service interaction — as defined by showing empathy and offering to help — they are more likely to recommend the brand. Of those who had a friendly interaction, 76% were likely to recommend the brand. Of those who had an unfriendly interaction, 82% were unlikely to recommend the brand.

The tone of your Tweets can also impact how customer service situations are resolved. Consumers are 20% more likely to reach a resolution with a brand after a friendly customer service interaction. Consumers are 25% more likely to be satisfied with a brand after a friendly customer service interaction.

Brand spotlight: Forging meaningful connections with consumers via personal, authentic and helpful interactions on Twitter is a top priority for Nike. They expertly balance creating interactions that have a friendly tone but remain very much on brand. Nike also empowers its representatives to make decisions that can resolve customer issues to ensure swift resolutions.

2. Be Personal: Use real names and sign every reply

Humanizing your brand is always a Twitter best practice, but it is particularly important for customer service. When consumers have personalized customer service interactions — as defined by a brand including both the Twitter user’s name as well as its brand representative’s name — they are more likely to recommend the brand. Of those who had a personalized interaction, 77% are likely to recommend the brand. Of those who had an impersonal interaction, 66% are unlikely to recommend the brand. Consumers are also 19% more likely to reach a resolution and 22% more likely to be satisfied with a brand after a personalized customer service interaction.

Brand spotlight: Capital One turns to Twitter to bring a personal, real-time touch to customer service, building stronger relationships with current and potential customers via @AskCapitalOne. Their goal is to humanize the brand through each interaction via a friendly, accessible tone and voice. Each interaction should make customers and consumers feel like they are talking to a real person. Capital One also excels at responding to users quickly, within 30 minutes or less.

3. Be Responsive: Respond in less than an hour

We found customer service response times on Twitter vary from 4 seconds to 221 hours. On average, however, 60% of consumers expect brands to respond to their customer service requests within an hour. In reality, brand response times average 1 hour and 24 minutes.

Our research found that brand responses to customer service issues on Twitter drive brand favorability to varying degrees across verticals. However, CPG, Tech and Auto were the top verticals where Twitter users reported feeling more positively toward the brand after receiving a customer service response.

Brand spotlight: Customers can contact KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) via Tweet with 150 social care employees covering 14 different languages. They provide help with booking, rebooking and/or changing flights, check-in, seat choice, ordering meals, arranging extra baggage etc.

They aim to respond within one hour. The brand’s Twitter header picture shows the time @KLM expects to respond, updated every 5 minutes based on the response time of the last hour.

4. Be accessible: Follow up to ensure the problem’s resolved

Many customer issues can’t be completely resolved in 140 characters. In fact, we found that on average there are five interactions per inquiry between brands and consumers on Twitter. Of those consumers who received a brand response to a customer service inquiry, nearly 30% never reached resolution.

Twitter is a live, conversational, public platform that allows for accessibility between brands and consumers anywhere, anytime. While customer service responses are happening on Twitter, brands need to continue to follow up to ensure a resolution is reached. Twitter users who receive a response and reach a resolution are 31% more likely to recommend a brand.

Brand spotlight: UK-based digital communications company O2 (@O2) wanted to create an easier way for customers to find out a range of account info without having to phone Customer Service. The brand created a six-month beta program called #TweetServe to offer real-time customer service on Twitter that allowed customers to submit requests in 140 characters or less.

The process was simple. Customers followed @O2 on Twitter and Tweeted @O2#TweetServe to register. @O2 automatically followed users back and sent a verification code in DM. Customers could utilize nine hashtag commands to request real-time info via Twitter DM (for example #charges, #data, #minutes, #ios, #offers), and opt-out anytime by replying #stop.


Twitter offers brands a unique opportunity to connect with customers and address their needs in real time. Exactly how you engage customers when they Tweet at you or about you can spell the difference between driving compliments or complaints. Our research found that being friendly, personal, responsive and accessible in customer service interactions are the keys to driving recommendation as well as positive sentiment with Twitter users.