How to Use Twitter for Customer Service: Lessons From Elon Musk

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Future Workers

Customer service genius

For business owners still unsure how to use Twitter to create great customer service, lessons from Musk can help your business go from average to remarkable.

Customers have always valued great service. Although Twitter may be a relatively recent thing, studies show customers love using it. Therefore Twitter has become an important part of customer satisfaction.

The advantages to using it for customer service have been beautifully demonstrated by Elon Musk. People reach out when they have a problem or question. It’s not only a great opportunity for quick problem solving, but as Musk demonstrates, it can also present great opportunities.

Just like the electrification of road transportation, Elon is paving the way for this customer service revolution on Twitter. It’s the biggest customer service change since the advent of the 1-800 phone number 50 years ago. The twittersphere is to customer service what electricity is to cars?


He demonstrates how to communicate with customers who complain without focusing on the blame. He actually responds to customers, rather than just trying to please them.

Why you should answer back

Unlike over the phone with an agent, everyone can see an issue being resolved in real time. It’s an amazing opportunity to shine! People want instant gratification. They don’t want to wait forever on hold by phone.

Imagine you call tech support of a huge company and your call gets immediately transferred to the CEO! Imagine that level of satisfaction and delight. Using Twitter makes that possible.

A few great examples from Tesla’s CEO

The tweets speak from themselves. In each case, Elon Musk is answering customer complaints on Twitter to reinforce the brand’s loyalty to satisfy its customers. Both of these are pure gold:


This complaint was taken from idea to reality.

Within 6 days, Tesla announced this new change on its official website:

"We designed the Supercharger network to enable a seamless, enjoyable road trip experience. Therefore, we understand that it can be frustrating to arrive at a station only to discover fully charged Tesla cars occupying all the spots. To create a better experience for all owners, we're introducing a fleet-wide idle fee that aims to increase Supercharger availability."

Wow! This is how you do customer service on Twitter and take it to a higher level!



Musk replied 45 minutes later. Then, 200 followers weighed in on Twitter

With one Tweet, Musk was able to broadcast one of the company’s core values to both customers and employees: Treat everyone the same, whether an existing customer or not. Tesla dealerships are modelled on Apple Store experience of not being pushy. That single reminder to one customer had incredible reach.

In turn, the tweet invited loyal brand ambassadors to chime in furthering the conversation initially acknowledged by the Tesla CEO.

Not convinced this could apply to your business?

If you value great customer service, you can totally do this too. What may at first have seemed like a waste of time, Twitter has quickly become the most popular way of reaching out to businesses.

Tweets to brands are on the rise. There has been a 2.5X increase in number of Tweets to brands (and their social care usernames) in the past 2 years.


Why is this happening?

People love getting customer care on Twitter. It’s quicker than anything else [URL] while also giving a more valuable personal engagement.

But this is good for your business too

The fact that Twitter is a public conversation (with an audience) is a good thing. With the public watching, a single notable interaction can then get shared and provide a huge outreach.

Talking publicly to businesses has introduced a new customer relationship and brand interaction.

In exchange, you receive valuable feedback and an opportunity to learn and improve. Not only that, but you also gain perspective and motivation.

How Elon Musk does it

By responding to customer questions and complaints, he’s showing them he truly cares and values his customers. There’s a feeling of transparency with that direct connection to a company…(needs work here perhaps)

He doesn't apologize or put the blame to someone else in the company.

When he’s not answering his customers on Twitter, Musk uses the platform to share big ideas. Again, this is a about visibility and engaging with his audience.

There’s another element to this that brands can learn from. His Twitter feed also shows his human side, as it allows for personality and even humour to shine through. People love authenticity in their leaders. Although brands aren’t people per say, you should definitely think about having a consistent and predictable voice to your customer interactions on Twitter. There’s definitely room for personality!

Why Elon is so great at this

Elon listens and he answered his customers personally. Then he makes changes incredibly fast, making it a specific customer experience public for everyone to see and share online.

He’s able to show everyone on Twitter that a large company can act like an agile startup. This = success.

How you will do it?

Ask yourself, how do you want people to be treated?

Just like implementing a CRM in an organization, everyone involved needs to be onboard with a clear vision.

Why using Twitter is so great for any business owner

1. It’s cheap

Actually, it’s the cheapest and most efficient cost per resolution of any channel!

Using Twitter for customer service saves about 80% per interaction compared to phone calls! support interactions on social cost 1/6th of those in a call center.

According to Forbes, it can cost as little as $1 to solve a customer service issue on social media. 

2. It’s fast

This is true for both the customer and the business. Both benefit from a great platform for customer experience. People love using it. It’s a quick problem-solving channel. For businesses, this is equally true. They just need to recognize the benefit of responding fast.

3. Increase customer satisfaction

Companies using Twitter for customer service see a 19% increase in satisfaction.

It starts with listening. Real conversations that people are having. Listen, then act fast. It’s hard to beat the immediate satisfaction that comes from a quick response. Acknowledging what people are saying builds trust and shows you care. It all depends on the customer’s needs. With some tweets, you can create real moments of delight.

4. Create more reach

It’s a one-on-one communication in front of a live studio audience. That personal yet public interaction with your brand gets broadcast to everyone, not just the person you answered. Resolving issues on Twitter increases the positive outreach of a brand.

5. Gain experience insights

You’ll learn so much about how your customers really feel. Both positive and negative Tweets will reveal opportunities to improve your business and your customer experience. Moreover, it will deepen your understanding of your customer needs over the long term.

6. Gives you an edge in your industry

There is a huge opportunity because most companies aren’t doing this right.

This study [URL] found that 60% of people were able to resolve their complaint over the phone, whereas only 16% were able to do so on social media. That presents a huge advantage to businesses who are the first to use Twitter effectively since they will set themselves apart from the competition.

You can really set yourself apart in your industry. A recent study [URL] found that right now, companies are more likely to respond to questions about products and policies, rather than acknowledge customer complaints. 40% send the issues offline (to either direct message or phone lines).

Start shifting some of those resources from traditional problem-solving channels such as call centers and live chat.

Studies are there to prove it

A research study by Twitter in partnership with Applied Marketing Sciencestudy relating to customer service on Twitter and the airline industry.

Study: Twitter customer care increases willingness to pay 


Increase willingness to spend more

When a customer Tweets at a business and receives a response, they are willing to spend 3–20% more on an average priced item from that business in the future.”


Increase likeliness to recommend


“Twitter found that customers who received replies from an airline demonstrated stronger satisfaction and recommendation ratings—and were also willing to pay a significantly higher price for a future ticket.”


Fastest responses generate more revenue

“When an airline responded to a customer’s Tweet in less than six minutes, the customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for that airline in the future. Similarly, in the telco industry, customers are willing to pay $17 more per month for a phone plan if they receive a reply within four minutes, but are only willing to pay only $3.52 more if they have to wait over 20 minutes.”

Negative tweets can yield 3x the money!

Turn that frown upside down and into pure gold. Negative tweets are a huge opportunity to create positive impacts.

69% of people who started with a negative tweet towards a business ended up with a positive feeling because the business replied to their problem.

Indeed, this means that when negative tweets are answered they can end up producing a higher brand favourability and sentiment than those who send positive tweets.

Twitter study telco example:

Not only that, but also

“a 3X higher willingness to pay for their monthly wireless plan, compared to those whose original Tweet was positive.”


It’s the lease frustrating customer service channel

It’s the best customer service channel for customers since it provides the least frustration. They even prefer it to face to face interactions!

This could be the most cost-effective way to increase brand loyalty since it’s so easy to use it to provide great customer experience.


The revolution has already begun

Today, 80% of customer requests take place on Twitter and 30% of top brands have dedicated customer service Twitter handles.

Companies such as Nike, Xbox, UPS, Zappos, Comcast, Amazon, Best Buy, JetBlue, American Airlines, Weight Watchers, just to name a few. Xbox claims it has the Guinness World Record for “Most Responsive Twitter feed”.

It’s already happening. Ok, so what are you waiting for?

Tips for getting started:

1. Use a separate Twitter handle such as @YourcompanySupport or @YourcompanyHelps

This does three things:

a) It makes it easier to keep track and sort customer help tickets.

b) Avoids negative attention in the company’s primary feed also allows that primary Twitter account to focus on its marketing priorities.

c) Shows everyone you’re ready for business.
A dedicated social care handle such as “HiltonHelps” shows you’re available for immediate assistance on Twitter. Those companies get 10x better response than those who don’t have dedicated handles.

2. Sign each tweet with your initials. People like to know who they're talking to, just like on the phone. Makes it more personal.

3. Respond super quickly. Make sure someone on your team is checking and responding to inquiries.

4. Set up a message button and support indicators for an even better customer experience.

Did you know Twitter provides these customer support features?

This way, people know they can expect a reply from you, plus have the option to message you privately.

5. Handle more the complex issues offline. In such cases, go one on one, by resolving the situation over Direct Message (DM) deep link, email, or phone.

If you’re staying on Twitter, direct message lets you deal with a private topic.

To do it right, make sure you have the people

The Twitter for Customer Service Playbook says, “Users expect quick responses, personal and friendly interactions and timely resolutions.”

It’s not a question of just using these tools or putting anyone on your team on it. In fact, hiring for social care on Twitter is a whole other kind of skill level than customer service phone agents, for example. To act quickly and delight, you’re going to have to empower your agents.

Whoever’s doing this needs to represent the brand’s voice, and also have good social media etiquette. Think about your brand’s character, its attitude, its personality. Maybe your brand sounds like 'The Dude' from The Big Lebowski? Or maybe you want to go more James Bond, Jason Bourne? Whatever!

Voicing that in real time in any given situation will require good writing skills, passion for solving issues, and a deep understanding of social media etiquette.

In conclusion

Therefore don’t ignore the praise, but remember to tap into those negative tweets. Elon Musk does this amazingly. Doing this increases both customer sentiment towards a brand. In turn, people will be willing to pay more when a company does this (or in Elon’s case, willing to wait for more production delays).

Responding increases word of mouth awareness, recommendation, and customer satisfaction. Recommendation means customers are more likely to share their experience both online and offline.

What a great way to tap into customer sentiment. Twitter is accessible to anyone. You find out what people are really saying about you and how customers really feel. The best part is you just need a Twitter account. Adding Twitter’s customer care tools makes it even better.

You also don’t even need a CRM to do this. Any businesses can collect customer satisfaction using Twitter’s customer feedback tools which allows them to then compare those to traditional service channels. However, increasingly, we will see Twitter integration in CRM software. There are GNIP and Fabric CRM integrations, and CRMs Sprout Social and Oracle will be the first to use Twitter data and functionality to create transformative solutions for brands.

Customers love to tweet. And you love your customers. The Twittersphere is the perfect place to grow that relationship.

It’s win-win. Twitter's reach, cost-effectiveness, and the satisfaction it brings through service-related issues benefits both business and customer.

Hopefully, this articles has convinced you to invest in the best customer service you can offer on Twitter. There’s a huge opportunity for businesses who acknowledge their consumers’ customer service-related Tweets

With these tips and you can take your customer service from average to remarkable.