We know that it’s no longer a forward-thinking statement to say that your company should have some sort of presence on Twitter – 99% of brands are already on Twitter, according to one study, so chances are, your company already has a Twitter account. How are you using, Twitter, though? Is your account merely there for SEO and marketing purposes? Has Twitter made it over to your customer service department, and if so, do you have a dedicated strategy in place to manage it? If not, read on – Twitter can be an extremely effective way to optimize your customer service.

First off, actually use Twitter to manage customer service. Yes, we mean you.

We already mentioned that 99% of companies say they have a Twitter account. Of these companies, only 30% have a dedicated customer service handle to manage customer queries through Twitter. It’s great to have a Twitter account, but it’s meaningless for your customers who want customer support and can’t find it through Twitter.

To show you just how effective Twitter can be, once you put a team in place, let’s look at a few companies who are using Twitter very, very successfully as a part of their multi-channel customer service platform.

How to use Twitter for customer service, Step 1: Be responsive

JetBlue is commonly called out for their superior customer service on Twitter. Specifically, JetBlue is known for being extremely responsive to customers who Tweet for help. JetBlue understands that customers appreciate the short-form, quick answers people go to Twitter for, and when a crisis hits (such as a big storm), they dedicate extra staff to help customers out.

JetBlue tries to reach out to customers within an hour of a Tweet. Most companies surveyed took an average of 5.1 hours to reply on Twitter. If you want to wow customers, follow JetBlue’s lead and dedicate a team who can respond quickly.

How to use Twitter for customer service, Step 2: Make it super simple to find help on Twitter

When you go to create a customer service team dedicated solely to answering questions and providing support via Tweets, go ahead and create a handle that is designated for customer service. Nike, for example, a huge company, has a main Twitter handle for the brand, but they also have a Twitter handle called @NikeSupport that is dedicated to customer questions. Nike Support has logged over 160k Tweets so far, compared to the Nike brand handle, which only has 11K Tweets. Clearly, people like contacting Nike’s Customer Support Twitter service, and since it’s easy for customers to find, they know who to Tweet when they have a question.

How to use Twitter for customer service, Step 3: Be there for your customers – when they are

Your customers’ lives don’t keep standard business hours, so you may need to consider having a Twitter presence that doesn’t, either. After the standard 9 – 5, there are likely still customers who have questions and need support. If they contact you via Twitter, and it’s after hours, are they going to get an auto-message, or will a real-live person be there to offer feedback? A popular online food-ordering company called Seamless offers Twitter support 24/7 to their customers, and their page is a popular, around-the clock forum for customer questions.

Your particular business may not require Twitter support around-the-clock, and you may be able to set up a clever auto-reply system that works well off-hours and that satisfies your customers. Examine your typical customer requests, and the hours they are made, before you determine your hourly support strategy.

Finally, let your customers know that Twitter is there for them

Once you staff up, have developed a customer support Twitter strategy, and have set your Twitter hours, advertise! Let your customers know that they can get quick replies and get in contact with a support team through Twitter. Create a customer support-specific handle that is easy for them to find, train your reps thoroughly on how to use Twitter for customer support, and start tweeting away.