Why WooThemes Shouldn’t Have Retired Twitter Support


WooThemes recently announced that they were closing down @WooSupport and would no longer be providing social customer care on Twitter. Advocates were quick to jump in and applaud the move, crying out that 140 characters are not fit for support.

“With our users being of the techie variety most are on Twitter and it’s a space where we frequently get questions about products, potluck inquiries, reports of glitches, panicked alerts about problems, shout-outs, suggestions et al.”

WooThemes says it themselves: their customers love Twitter. This is a huge missed opportunity for WooThemes to build a valuable, high-exposure social brand.

Social customer care: Live where your customers live

Customers love initiating a conversation with a company on social media because it is much easier than opening a support ticket or even emailing support directly. Now, WooThemes’ only support option is for existing customers (with an order number) to submit support tickets – and only through a form with NINE required fields.

If I were a customer working on a new installation, I might just put off filling out that form for “later,” especially if I just had a quick question. Even when I did get a satisfactory response, it wouldn’t be easy for me to come back for more help. All these little hassles just to get some quick help? It would be difficult to forget the hoops WooThemes made me jump through to get an answer. High effort experiences are the most common cause of customers leaving.

I’m squarely in WooThemes’ target market. I spend so much time on Twitter that it’s also my first instinct to tweet at companies I need help from. It’s so easy for me to start a tweet and ask a question. Encouraging customers to interact with your brand on Twitter opens the door to an entire segment of customers – like myself – who might not be willing to fill out a questionnaire for support, but still want to talk to you!

Lowering the barrier to interaction means that you can elevate your customer’s experience one tweet at a time. At the end of the day, customer support is only about making the road to success as easy as possible for the customer.

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It’s not the platform, it’s you

“But the truth of the matter is Twitter is not the place to handle support queries and when we try we shoot ourselves in the collective foot.”

Multiple advisory firms would disagree. Twitter has been gaining momentum as one of the most important places to handle support. Gartner found that not responding to support channels can lead to an increase in churn by 15%. Harvard Business Review found that customers who experienced a good social support interaction were 3 times more likely to recommend a brand. Even more, Bain and Company found that customers who received a response over social media would spend up to 40% more with the company.

It’s a good business decision to help your customers over Twitter, or wherever your customers gather online and ask questions.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that responding on Twitter is the same as responding over email. It requires you to adapt to the channel, just like you do with phone and email support.

Warby Parker has gotten pretty creative on Twitter by sending out amazing video replies to resolve more complex issues. When one customer was having trouble getting her glasses delivered, this customer advocate stepped up and sent her a personalized response.

They also link to general videos about resizing and adjusting frames to address the most frequent customer inquiries.

General Motors has a support team that actively coordinates mass vehicle recalls, and owner grievances over social media. G.M.’s support team even coordinated a round-trip ferry to ship a customer’s defective car from a remote island in Alaska to the nearest dealership in Juneau. They did it all on Twitter, through private messages with the customer.

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All this is to say that there are many ways to send help on Twitter, even with only 140 characters.

social customer care is getting answers first time to customers


“A lot of time, energy and to-and-fro is saved when we know certain things about the inquiring customer upfront – including logins details, order history etc – and this is best and most securely done through ticketing.”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Having all of your data unified will provide a great customer service experience and improve the lives of both customer and support agent. With the right support software, this integration is already possible. By pulling in Twitter to your existing help desk, you can get a complete, single view of the customer and support them armed with all necessary information.

How to use Twitter for customer service

“The @WooSupport account has less than 1,000 followers but it is more the principle of it all…”

“Our support-related goal on Twitter is simply to point people to the best places to get help.“

While I agree with WooThemes that Twitter isn’t the best place to be troubleshooting complex programming errors, most customers understand that as well.

The purpose of Twitter customer support is quick, efficient answers to questions that might not otherwise be asked. 71 percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that you can do. By reducing the time it takes to ask a question, and receive a reply, you’re providing a better customer experience, According to Forrester.

WooThemes has a great self-service. By doing a good knowledge base audit, and using the links to direct people to the right knowledge article, you’re connecting the customer to the answer with minimal trouble for them.

Using a low number of followers to justify closing down Twitter support misses the point of a support handle. Most customers don’t follow a Twitter handle — they don’t want to talk to support very often! A better metric success metric would be the handle’s engagement or the number of tickets reduced over time due to social support.

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If you want to get really fancy, try integrating HubSpot or other CRMs to see if a tweet to your support team increases the lifetime value of your customers. You could also use custom URL parameters to see whether social customers continue on to complete goals in Google Analytics, such as signing up for the blog.

social media customer care benefits

Social media support doesn’t go away just because you ignore it

“The idea of someone with a larger social media following being able to fling something aggressive out and make everyone jump is not just.”

Twitter is not going away just because you ignore it. The haters, venters and curious bystanders will still be on Twitter regardless of your presence. This is even more true for WooThemes, because their customer base is made up of digital natives.

I understand why WooThemes thought a retreat was the best strategy – they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Twitter support wasn’t going well for them, and they believed that if they could focus on other areas instead, they could maximize channels they felt more confident in. Unfortunately, those aren’t the channels their customers feel comfortable in.

We come back full circle to the point: meet your customers where they are. The one incredibly powerful currency driving business today is engagement. It builds trust, relationships and in our connected world, it’s the sole driver of overall growth. A lack of engagement doesn’t just lead to losses, it undermines the growth of your customer base.

If you have customers who are actively trying to interact with your brand on a daily basis and those messages go unheard, it’s your loss. If you’re able to capitalize on it – and it’s a worthwhile investment to try – then you’re definitely on the right path.

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About the author
Sarah Chambers

Sarah is a Kayako alumni. She is passionate about keeping customers loyal through amazing customer service. Outside of customer service, Sarah is a yoga teacher, self-diagnosed Twitter junkie.

  • Really interesting piece that got me thinking.

    I was reminded of this article by Matt Dixon: https://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers – one of the biggest drivers of customer disloyalty is when customers perceive getting service to be a high effort exercise. One of the most significant drivers of that, he found, was being made to channel switch (i.e. switch away from the customer’s preferred channel).

    Will be interesting to see how that plays out for WooThemes! I hope WooThemes is willing to share their progress and what they’re learning from the change.

    • Marina Pape

      Hi Jamie.

      Having written the post about why WooThemes made the decision to retire @WooSupport, and being a fierce lobbyist for it, I also found this a pretty interesting read. We stand by the decision to close the @WooSupport handle, a small step in the ongoing odyssey and bigger picture of how best to help our customers. That’s at the heart of it all.

      I liked the point in Matt’s article about ‘reducing effort being central to customer service’. WooThemes are firm believers in that, and the bigger picture of our support strategy tells that story: for example, in a few weeks, we’ll be releasing the 2/3 field, intelligent contact forms we’ve been working on. Overhauling our Help Desk and dedicating more resources to documentation, are more examples.

      Your calling this ‘radical experimentation’ got me fired up in all the right ways! I will certainly share progress and learnings, and look forward to hearing more from you as time goes by.

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  • I think every company needs to do what they believe is right for their customer (hopefully they have spoken to their customer first to understand what is right for them, rather than just make an arbitrary decision!). Not sure with regards to this whether WooThemes joining automattic has anything to do with retiring their Twitter support; but you can see automattic isn’t big on Twitter support. @WooThemes joined Twitter in 2008, and 23.5k tweets in that time isn’t a huge amount. So you could say that Twitter was never really an important channel for them. Nonetheless, it does send out a message.

    My overall sense, is that many organisations do not truly explore what social can do, regardless of whether that is from a service, marketing, sales etc perspective. I feel, and this is a broad generalisation, that most organisations simply exhibit social tendencies, and in truth, are still tied heavily to their traditional approaches and mindsets (often without realising it). Organisations should not focus on the fact that a platform is called Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Youtube, but rather try to understand the unique characteristics of that particular platform. What is it about Twitter or Facebook that people have latched on to; they should design with this in mind. And there’s still room to integrate this with traditional channels. It’s all about multichannel (or omnichannel), right?!

    • Organisations should not focus on the fact that a platform is called Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Youtube, but rather try to understand the unique characteristics of that particular platform.

      10x upvotes! @guy1067 I am not sure if you follow Gary Vaynerchuck, but this is straight out of his gospel.

      I listened to a great talk by a fellow called Luke (https://twitter.com/lbrynleyjones) at UserConf London the other week, where he took us through some tips for social media engagement and doing social customer service right. Hilarity obviously ensued with some of the big corporate examples simply not getting it. But then some big corporates (and of course, loads of SMBs) really did get it and do social customer service well.

      I’ve been reflecting on what the difference was. I think you’re right – it is that the unique characteristics of the platform need to be understood to do social customer service well.

      However, I think it goes beyond that: for those truly standout service experiences, I notice dthat the only time those occurred was when the team needs was culturally connected to their customer, which includes ‘this new fangled thing called social’ and the nuances of each different network. Great example: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/10/argos-ps4-badman-twitter_n_4933119.html

      • Jamie, I’ve been in the social customer care space since 2008 when I set it up at The Carphone Warehouse, so have seen how it has evolved over many years. I know LBJ well, and have been following Gary for many years. You raise an important point about culture, and really, it is culture that underpins all of this change. Technology plays a part, as does data, but it is culture that provides the transformative piece. For many, they are still stuck in a tech narrative. I put together a five year retrospective about social customer care last August and brought together many people I’ve got to know over the years in this space, you might find it interesting as well – http://bit.ly/1zGg7D3.

        • @guy1067:disqus oops, excuse me – I didn’t recognise you out of context! I actually follow you on Twitter in my socserv list. And there I was recommending Vaynerchuck to you ;-). Nice to see you here and thank you for your contribution! Hope to see you around more

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