April 10, 2013, 9:46 AM

How tweets can meet customer needs

An IRCE speaker describes how Warby Parker uses Twitter for customer service.

Lead Photo

Dave Gilboa

Retailers that don’t engage with consumers on Twitter miss an opportunity to provide convenient and effective customer service, says Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of online eyeglasses seller Warby Parker. Not only that, but a retailer’s activity, or lack thereof, is amplified on social media, he adds.

“Keep in mind that everything is public,” he says. “If you can show customers that you can provide a great experience, they’ll be public with their endorsements—and if you’re not responsive, people will notice, too.”

Gilboa will discuss how Warby Parker turned Twitter into one of its most popular customer service channels—it’s still behind phone and e-mail but growing fast, he says—at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 in Chicago this June in a session entitled “Tweeting for customer service: How to make Twitter a customer service channel.

Warby Parker launched in 2010 with a policy that it would respond to every customer interaction with the brand, regardless of which channel a customer used, Gilboa says. Soon, customers started sending service inquiries through the social network.

However, Warby Parker realized that sometimes a quick question in Twitter’s 140-or-less character count might be hard to answer within the same space limit, Gilboa says. “Rather than sending a dozen tweets to answer the question, we started having the team record a quick video, put it on YouTube and tweet the link back to the customer,” he says. Customers responded so well to the personalized responses that the videos went viral. Now the average YouTube response has 80 views, despite each being designed for a single customer, he says.

“We’ve been blown away by how popular those video responses have been,” he says. “The great part about Twitter is everything is public, so everyone else can see how thoughtful we’re being.”

In addition to customer service, Gilboa says that Warby Parker shoppers also use Twitter to seek out styling advice. They tweet images of their at-home or virtual try-on sessions (the retailer’s web site has an augmented reality tool for testing the fit of eyeglass frames) with requests for feedback on which frames look best, he says. While a team at Warby Parker answers those queries, so do the customer’s followers and random followers of the brand on Twitter, he says, which “has been kind of a fun outcome.”

All retailers need to figure out how to serve customers via Twitter, Gilboa says. To get started, they should make a point of simply responding, somehow, to every tweet directed at them, he says. “Customers have an expectation that when they send an e-mail or call a company, they’ll get a response. They have the same expectation when they tweet at a company,” he says. “If you only selectively respond or don’t respond at all, you’re leaving a lot of customers frustrated and disappointed.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Gilboa to speak at IRCE because of his experience co-founding and building up Warby Parker, which last year made Internet Retailer magazine’s Hot 100 list of up-and-coming and innovative web sites.

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