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Should companies flirt with customers on Twitter?

Small business owners have long known that every customer counts, and as some recent Twitter exchanges have demonstrated, even large ‘faceless’ companies are starting to figure that out too. You may already have seen the leading mobile providers competing publicly for a customer via a witty Twitter exchange and making it all sound like a romance.

An opportunity to ‘steal’ unhappy customers.

For those of you that missed it, comedian Chris Ramsey a.k.a. @IAmChrisRamsey had a problem. According to his mobile provider EE, he had used all his ‘unlimited’ data, but Chris didn’t agree and was looking for an answer.

As any customer service executive knows, every opportunity starts with a problem you can solve. An O2 representative was there quickly with a comforting solution: “We’d love for you to join us!” The response started a quirky conversation involving the customer, EE, O2 and Vodafone.

I want more attention from customer service team – I’ll go to Twitter.

This time the battle turned out well for EE and the customer; it proved to be the case Chris wasn’t actually on an unlimited data plan... But it easily could have gone a different way for EE, with a very public customer defection.

It was great to see the big mobile phone players showing they had a sense of humour. But the situation highlights a big risk for businesses too, namely that more and more dissatisfied customers are turning to Twitter to ‘jump the customer service queue’ and resolve their enquiries quickly and effectively.

To avoid a potential disaster brands need to focus on satisfying their customers via traditional channels. This might sound simple, but unless contact centres focus on metrics such as FCR, then there will also be a risk that dissatisfied customers turn to social media to vent.

Of course, not every customer can boast thousands of Twitter followers and there is no doubt that attention created by the social media spat did no harm to the popularity of the comedian’s UK tour commencing on the next day…

However, there is a real lesson here for all of us; it’s not just about showing your customers that you have a sense of humour, but a reminder to take customers seriously across every channel. Or the last laugh could be on your brand reputation.