Listening Online is Essential for Customer Service

Oct 2012

By now, it is common sense that any company that wants to make the most of its social media presence must reply to everyone who addresses it directly on Twitter. Although there might still be some debate about what the appropriate timeframe for that reply is, the necessity for a reply is unquestionable. But what about the Tweets where a company’s name is not @mentioned or #hashtagged: should a company reply to random Tweets where their name is simply brought up?

The other day, one of my Tweets included the word “Penske,” referring to the famous truck rental company. I wasn’t addressing the company or even intending for them to see my Tweet; I was just sharing an anecdote from my moving experience—and getting very specific, apparently. Shortly after, Penske responded to my Tweet. They, too, got specific.





My first thought was that it must be an automated Tweet reply after some software detected their name in my public feed, so it’s not a big deal. But as soon as I realized that it was a real person addressing me specifically, I felt like it is a big deal. Penske taking their time to respond to something they ‘heard’ on the Twittersphere, even though they didn’t have to, makes me think that they are listening, which makes me trust them. I talked back and they responded again, our interaction becoming a conversation between two real people, not just between company and client. That moment left me with a strong impression of Penske, which I then shared with my +1,000 friends on Facebook and with other people in real life as well.


Penske wasn’t my only experience of this kind. A few months ago, I mentioned two big stores in my area, giving props to one over another.  I intentionally tagged only the one I was praising because I wasn’t trying to make the other one look bad; I just wanted to make a useful observation for others with a diet similar to mine. It wasn’t long before the store to which I didn’t give props in the comparison responded to ask what they could to do better.




We had a conversation on Twitter that left me hopeful that, one day, I’ll walk into New Seasons and their selection of vegan meals and desserts will be bigger, which means that, in the mean time, I’ll be checking in their store periodically to be the first one to notice when it’s finally happening and, of course, Tweet about it to the world.

Responding to Tweets that are not addressed to you specifically can mean walking a fine line. You might doubt the merits of seemingly stalking fellow Twitterers or talking uninvited. My advice? Get rid of all that doubt and start a conversation with anyone who says your name on social media—the difference between the companies who start conversations with their audience and those who don’t is that clients will remember the conversations that took place, not the ones that didn’t.


This is a guest post from our friend Sabina Urdes, a TV producer and photojournalist in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter.



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