James Biley advises us on Going back to Twitter basics

Now every day in the social world is different and if you're interacting with customers it's often difficult to know just what that day will bring. Customers will contact you for a variety of reasons, help, support, questions or in the need for assistance, solutions and resolution of service issues. Whatever the reason though there are a number of basic steps that you should always employ during interaction. Think of these as your ingredients to good customer service. You'd think most companies would have these 'basics' set firmly in place but you'll be amazed if you look across just a few corporate Twitter accounts that such basics seem to have been either forgotten or overlooked. So in a constant drive for better social communication lets go back, back, back, back... back to the start!

Firstly, think why you set the account up. What your social media plan was and what it was you were trying to achieve. If you like the social factors that you set in place to work alongside your product or service. If it was just your goal to push content out and not interact that's fine, but you might then wish to consider setting up a specific customer engagement channel. If customer engagement was your goal then it's these basics you really should have in place.

Rule number one, respond! Yes I do mean to every tweet, even if it's not complimentary. Now some would say the angry tweets should be priority. Personally I'd say deal with what comes in efficiently and in the order in which it arrived and don't get side tracked in just dealing with one person. Generally speaking tweets should be responded to within two hours during your opening times, which leads me to the next stage. Set your standards. 

At the top of your Twitter account you'll have a space for some text. Use this to tell your customers who you are, what you do, who runs the account and during what hours. I know text is limited here so be as helpful as you can. Customers will appreciate this and it helps to set expectations of service.

You'll also find you can add a link to your website - that's helpful too and saves people having to hunt for you if they just wish to look up some quick info.  Oh and do try to add your company logo and not just a random picture. You may think it's fun to change but this confuses customers and makes it difficult to identify your brand. If you want to change use your background and I'll come onto this again in a moment.

Ok, so with those steps in place lets look at your tweets.

Well I've already said 'respond' and yes that is very basic but again some tweets do get ignored and nothing frustrates a customer more! If you struggle to check your account during the day set your notifications so you are emailed when someone tweets you, this makes it much easier.

Now, when responding think how you can actually quickly resolve an issue. The idea should be that you make it easy for the customer and a pleasant efficient experience. If you know they will need to be directed to a web page, tweet them the link. If you know they need to call somebody send them the number or arrange for someone to call them if you hold their details. If you know they need to tweet a different account tweet that account in the reply and then arrange for that account to respond. If you know you need to go and check something or look something up tell the customer you'll need to do this and be right back. Keeping your customer informed is key. Most customers will know you don't control everything but how much nicer is it to receive a tweet saying 'we just need to check with our branch and will be right back' or 'let us arrange that for you' instead of 'can you please tweet, DM or email someone else'. While it may be the answer it's all in the delivery so your customer doesn't feel fobbed off!

Also please remember, that while you often know who you're talking to, your customer doesn't, so sign your tweets off with your name, or if you'd rather your initials. Eg: 'let us know if you need more help >JB' it gives the customer someone to go back to and humanises your tweets. It also helps you to easily identify who was dealing with an issue. Especially if you have a larger customer service team. If you do tweet a customer and they don't reply, there's no reason why you can't follow up to check if they saw your reply or if they do need assistance. You'll sometimes find people tweet things in anger and aren't interested in a response but at least it shows you cared and you tried to help.

So that should cover the basic steps with your tweets but don't forget your media and for that matter your likes. A picture can say a thousand words but your media is also very visible on your account so consider the images you share. The same goes for likes. They to are searchable and show on your account so again consider what you like. Your tweeting as a business not an individual. 

Oh and before I forget- background images. Updating these for seasonal reference, special features or promotions is fine but please remember to change them. Pumpkins in October and fireworks in November is all fine but a snowman in late summer can look a little out of place! Just keep your images relevant. 

Just know that you're not in this alone and if you want some great service examples just take a trip to @Pret or @virginmedia both of whom constantly display fantastic social customer service.

Remember if your account is worth having its sure enough worth interacting properly!

James Biley is the Marketing & Communications Director for Countrywide Estate ManagementGranville & Company and HLM. 

The #BeMoreSocial column was created for Flat Living and its goal is to drive more effective communication within the property management industry.

If you have a customer service experience using any form of marketing or social media that you’d like to share then tweet @JamesBileyand @FlatLivingLoves using the #BeMoreSocial.  We’d love to feature your examples in a future edition.