Does Twitter Customer Service Lead to a Higher-Paying Customer?

When an airline responded to the customer's tweet in less than 6 minutes, that person was willing to spend nearly $20 more with that brand in the future.

The big knock against social marketing has been that it’s hard to prove bottom-line value. However, a new study by Twitter shows that engaging in positive customer service can actually increase the amount that customer spends.

Twitter, along with Applied Marketing Science, examined customer relations between airlines and their passengers — a group commonly talking to each other on the site. When a customer airs a grievance about a late flight, broken luggage or ticket mishaps, many airlines are quick to respond through Twitter. Every month, Twitter users send more than 100,000 questions, complaints and comments to major U.S. airline companies.

But do those tweets actually help turn a frustrated customer into a higher-paying one?

Twitter and Applied Marketing Science studied more than 600,000 customer service tweets sent to major U.S. airlines from March to Sept. 2015, placing them into two groups: those who gained a response and those who did not. They also polled 1,156 Twitter users on their preferences and experiences.

Twitter found that people who received replies from airlines on Twitter were more satisfied with their experience, more willing to recommend that company with others and willing to spend more money for a ticket with that airline. Additionally, the faster an airline responded, the more those customers were willing to pay.

A Twitter exchange actually made more money for the airlines studied (an average of $8.98 more) than snacks or DirecTV on a flight.

graphs for CS ROIblog post.001Twitter blogged about the impact of a response:

When a customer Tweeted a question or complaint to an airline and received a response, they were willing to pay almost $9 on average more for that airline. At a time when air travel is highly competitive and fares from one airline are nearly identical to others, a single friendly Tweet can provide a quantifiable competitive edge.

Timing also matters, especially when it comes to airlines responding to travelers. If an airline brand responds too late, that customer may already be in the air, out of the airport, or handing money to a competitor.

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When an airline responded to the customer’s tweet in less than 6 minutes, that person was willing to spend nearly $20 more with that brand in the future. The longer an airline waited, the more returns diminished.

Even just recognizing the tweet and apologizing for the issue when there’s nothing the social media manager can do (such as airplane maintenance issues) can generate some goodwill and revenue down the line, as people recognize that their feelings are being heard by actual people on the other end.

a97db482-088b-4bb2-9078-651319b05276Customers who received a response through Twitter also said they were much happier with the service, Twitter noted:

Convenience is vital to travelers. It can be much easier to send off a Tweet while on public transit or in line for coffee than it is to call a 1-800 number or draft a detailed email. It’s a big relief for customers when they can get answers without changing their routine.

graphs for CS ROIblog post.002Responding to a Twitter comment also led to more goodwill through word-of-mouth marketing. Twitter found that among those who received a response from an airline, 82 percent shared that experience with others. People who used other channels of customer service (such as phone, email, or other forms of social media) did not share their experiences as often (44 percent).

When an airline responded to a customer’s tweet, this increased the likeliness to recommend by 41 percent compared to their baseline average score among all Twitter users.

Readers: What is your reaction when a brand responds to you on Twitter?

Photo credit: Visualhunt