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There are no “Strangers on a Train” with Twitter Customer Service

Josh Buller
By Josh Buller on Feb 13, 2014 11:40:00 AM

With January 2014 being the wettest since records began, many train providers experienced the wrath of the angry commuter as landslides, floodings and power outages affected services across the country. However sometimes a bad experience is inevitable, although train providers strive year on year to improve systems and reduce disruption.


When you tweet a high street retailer, a hotel, or your insurance provider, fast responses are important but not to the minute. The transport industry is special in its need to provide real-time service. Due to high customer demand for urgent information, Martin Hill-Wilson predicts that social can be expected to comprise 30% of all customer service in 2014.

With Social Customer Service here to stay, there’s no longer such a thing as a ‘Stranger on the Train’; you know who your passengers are because they’re tweeting to you in their hundreds - 1 in 3 commuters use Twitter daily. And the public nature of social media extends a journey’s community from the person in the seat opposite to the entire train, or in case of weather disruptions the entire country. Through convenient and public channels, customers united have a stronger voice.

Yet social media offered little relief last year. If harnessed correctly, the season for delays, cancellations, confusion and anger could actually hold promise of a little less panic. In his recent book, Martin Hill-Wilson shared some interesting statistics that point to progress:

  • The number of British consumers that dealt with companies through social almost doubled from 2011 to 2012
  • 68% of them felt they got a better Customer Voice
  • 65% of them felt that it’s better than traditional customer service channel’s

These rapid, public communication channels are one of the most effective ways to share passenger information when things go wrong. Just as passengers can make sure they are heard effectively, train providers can turn speed and virality of communication to their advantage and help more customers in real-time than traditional modes of communication could ever hope to achieve. The uptick in passengers turning to social media has been met and encouraged by pioneering businesses that have shown how harnessing social customer service can make adverse weather conditions a little easier on all of us—even turning to an advantage in some cases.

Here are 5 tips on how to run a best practice social customer service operation that will help to keep your customers satisfied when bad weather conditions cause disruption.

1)   Don’t hide from negativity

The only thing worse than looking as though you aren’t interested by not responding is actively deleting angry messages. Confront customers’ complaints head-on, and you’ll be surprised by how negativity diffuses.

2)   Provide real-time customer information

Prioritize those conversations that need a response right away, and make sure your social media team is well connected enough to give customers the information they need

3)   Keep service on social

Honoring the customer’s choice of channel offers a better experience, as well as valuable information for other customers looking for answers on social.

4)   Offer human interaction

No one wants to feel that they’re getting an automated, generic response. Use the customer’s name, apologize where it’s merited, and make sure that you’ve addressed their issue directly and explicitly.

5)   Don’t fear Social Customer Service!

Remember that your customers’ migration to social media offers you an opportunity to understand and respond to their issues faster than ever before.

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