Top 5 lessons from Australia’s best and worst corporate tweeters
Matt Travers is the founder of service comparison website ServiceRage, which uses social media feedback to rank Australian companies. He has more than 15 years experience on the client and agency sides of digital marketing in Australia and Europe. He tweets from @ServiceRagecom.
Australia’s most successful brands on Twitter get dramatically better customer feedback than their struggling peers. So what’s the secret to positive customer relationships on Twitter?
At ServiceRage we monitor customer feedback, via social media, to 65 Australian businesses in banking, health insurance, energy and general insurance. We have analysed more than 30,000 tweets to help consumers find the companies with the happiest customers.
A striking feature of our rankings is the spread of feedback from company to company. The leader in each industry receives more positive than negative feedback while prominent brands sit at the bottom of the rankings, struggling to keep their positive percentages in double figures.
What accounts for these disparate results? We have distilled five lessons from our analysis, which may help shape your use of social media.
1. Listen, Then Act
Social media is an opportunity to interact with your customers, so make sure you look beyond your own marketing plans, listen to feedback and respond where you can.
Of the four industries we track, Energy has the highest proportion of negative comments. Aggressive sales tactics are one of the main sources of complaint across the industry and in the past EnergyAustralia has received its share of complaints like this one:
@energyaustralia Just had the rudest sales rep knock on my door in Fitzgibbon. Definitely not signing up with that attitude!
— Tyson Jones (@suckaleballs) January 14, 2013
So when EnergyAustralia announced that they would be ending door-to-door sales last week it received a wave of positive tweets that doubled the company’s percentage of positive comments when compared to its long-term average. Comments like this one acknowledge the company for listening and responding to customer concerns:
Good on you @energyaustralia! Great to see a power company give away door knocking.
— Dominic Collins (@pulauchristmas) February 24, 2013
2. Be a Person
Try to personalise your social media presence so your customers get a sense of the individuals behind your brand. Twitter is a very personal medium. With many users committed to sharing all aspects of their lives publicly, a single all-powerful organisational voice can grate. If your Twitter account is shared across a team, try signing-off with first names or initials. It is easier to empathise with an individual than a faceless organisation.
This customer has clearly had a frustrating experience with EnergyAustralila but the personal rapport with Finn moderates the negativity:
@energyaustralia Thanks for sorting this long-running debacle, Finn – so far so good. Clearly you’re The Man Who Gets Things Done.
— Sonya Hartnett (@SonyaHartnett) February 18, 2013
Matt at AGL is similarly appreciated by a customer who knows him by name:
— Chris Allsop (@capturethat) January 8, 2013
3. Prioritise Social
Many successful social brands achieve great feedback by prioritising customers who use the social channel over traditional channels. We see lots of examples of delighted customers who were frustrated trying to resolve an issue over the phone or face-to-face, but subsequently succeeded using Twitter. Here are a couple of examples:
Phone call, no joy. Wrote a letter, no reply. Sent a tweet, problem solved in two days. Thanks to your social media team @originenergy.
— Kieron Mayers (@kieronmayers) November 22, 2012
— Michael Batistich (@michaelbatistic) March 6, 2013
Generally these good experiences are not because the social channel is intrinsically better for customer care. It’s because the brand has allocated more customer care resources to the social channel, compared with traditional channels. So what languished in a call centre queue was resolved immediately via Twitter.
When you consider the public nature of social media and the way both good and bad experiences can reverberate around social networks influencing multiple consumers, it makes sense to ensure social media users have a positive experience.
4. Bring Something to the Party
If you are on Twitter, tweet! Obvious, right? But there are a number of major Australian brands with Twitter accounts that simply never tweet. NRMA Insurance (@nrmainsurance) has a protected account and is yet to tweet. Their competitor Allianz (@allianz_au) has been similarly silent. Not surprisingly, both these brands are near the bottom of our General Insurance ranking.
It’s understandable that you might want to register a good Twitter id and then spend some time learning the medium and planning your approach. But you can’t stay in limbo forever. At the very least you need to respond to the feedback you receive from customers. And ideally you should contribute to the conversation by initiating additional tweets.
It’s important to consider how social media differs from the wider web. On the web, it’s quite acceptable to register a domain name for a website and to leave it vacant for long periods. The metaphor of the Web is of property – they are ‘sites’ which may be ‘under construction’.
Social media is based on communication and the metaphor is more like a gathering. As soon as you register your account you are attending: other users can address you directly and mention you in their tweets. For example since we began tracking NRMA in July last year, they’ve received 11 positive comments and 34 negatives ones, despite their lack of participation. Staying at home is not an option – the choice is whether you are going to be a wallflower or a participant.
5. Have great products and services
Our final tip probably has the greatest impact but is actually unrelated to social media. The best performing companies execute their Twitter communications brilliantly and they have great products and services behind them. Ultimately Twitter is only a communications channel and it cannot compensate for a mediocre offering.
For example ING Direct built its number one position in Banks partly through two product offers that resonate with its customers. Firstly, by passing on fully RBA rate cuts to its mortgage holders, and announcing this decision a quickly as possible, it garnered numerous responses like this:
So stoked with @ingdirectaus for passing on the full RBA rate cut!! Already so much lower than the big 4, and more generous again this time!
— Nick Hilton (@nhiltonick) October 6, 2012
Similarly, its cash back offer for payWave credit card users generated many positive comments, along the lines of this:
Just got my new card from @ingdirectaus with payWave! Turns out I get 5% back for any contactless purchases until June! Woo!
— Jake Duyvestyn (@djake93) October 8, 2012
We’ve also seen a burst of positive comments for NAB in recent weeks, following its announcement of same day inter-bank transfers:
Yay for @nab’s new same day inter-bank transfers!
— Adam Fitzgerald (@xfitzyx) March 5, 2013
It is important to remember that for most companies, social media is a communication channel, not an end product. Finessing your Tweets will ensure you maximise the potential of the channel but, in the end, most customers will judge you on your products and services.
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