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May 17, 2015 / Stephanie Vermillion

Use Twitter as a customer experience tool

Whether I’m leaving at 8 a.m., noon or midnight, I spend every single flight day with nerves in my stomach where Starbucks or my last-vacation-day lunch should be.

It’s not just the turbulence that gets me (although, the turbulence gets me – every time); it’s knowing the trip ahead is almost entirely out of my control.

If poor weather hits, the plane’s delayed, but “it’s not the airline’s fault.” (Right …)

If the airport has a power outage, you’re stuck on the tarmac with – yet again – a delayed flight.

And if the transportation you depended on to actually get you to the airport has a delay, well, expect some “sorry I’m not sorry” looks from across the ticket counter.

Use Twitter as a customer experience toolBut, doom and gloom aside, if the transportation system alerts you to a delay well ahead of time, you can adjust your plans and avoid those moments of last-minute terror. In the marketing world, we’d call that a (very) positive customer experience.

But how can a transportation system do that?

Twitter: the customer experience tool

When I was in London last week, my dad (yes, dad – so proud!) suggested we check the London Underground’s (the Tube’s) operating status via Twitter to make sure we caught our train on time.

As he went to Twitter, he realized they have a different account for each line, used to share service updates and answer customer questions.

I’ve yet to stop thinking about this smart, smart tactic.

The Tube system uses Twitter in a simple way to ensure customers have the best experience possible.

Are they alone? Oh, Lord no. Many brands are doing this well.

But the Tube, with its handful of accounts sharing much-needed information for each train line, uses Twitter brilliantly. Here’s a breakdown of its strategy, and how you can emulate it for your own brands.

Provide updates customers need in real time

Twitter parties are a lot of fun (especially those evening ones paired with a glass of red), but I’d argue the No. 1 most important use of Twitter is staying informed.

Customers want the information they need, when they need it. It’s that easy.

Sure, they’ll enjoy a photo of the old underground system for #TBT, but they’d rather know they should avoid the Picadilly line to get to work on time for a Thursday morning meeting.

Train and transportation lines aren’t the only ones who benefit from this strategy. No matter your industry, make tweeting important updates and news a social media priority.

Run social for a grocery store? Tweet about big sales, store hours, new items in stock, etc.

How about an athletic company? Share new product announcements, major discounts, new stores carrying your products, how to use your products, etc.

Respond to customers’ questions

All right, stifle those “duhs.” Of course you want to respond to customers who tweet questions at your brand, but surprisingly (or not) it’s not always common practice.

The Tube accounts respond to questions about service operations in the moment to, again, ensure happy customers.

With many large companies (which, with 1.23 billion annual passengers, the London Underground definitely is) Twitter is partially run by the legal team. That means employees responding to simple questions following their own intuition is a no-no.

But from a customer experience strategy, legal red tape that causes slow responses is simply no good.

If you’re in this situation, talk with (and listen to) your legal team. Build a trusting relationship and get to the bottom of how you and your employees can answer customer questions in the moment (before, say, a passenger misses her flight due to delayed trains).

This may take multiple meetings, but it’s without a doubt worth it.

And, before you brush this off as “nice to have, but we don’t have time,” consider this.

You don’t have to respond to every single question. Respond to those who need immediate help first (i.e., could miss a $1,000 flight), then answer others when there’s a lull.

Providing information customers need and answering important questions.

Isn’t that a no brainer?

Well, yes.

They’re two obvious tactics that, perhaps because they’re so obvious, are often overlooked.

So, if you can put on your Tube Twitter hat and use the social media site like it was intended, you’ll have yourself a handy, effective and free customer experience tool (and if you’re lucky, a dazzling British accent).

This post originally appeared on Stephanie Vermillion’s blog, PR State of Mind.

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