Apple launched a Twitter account dedicated to customer service this March, which reflects the fact that Twitter is increasingly becoming a customer service platform.

Twitter recently launched new features that make it easier for customers to move from public tweets to private messages to customer feedback when communicating with businesses.

The move puts Twitter in a race with Facebook to become the customer service platform of choice.

That being said, here are some ways your company can leverage Twitter to deliver better support to your customers.

Define Your Customer Service Strategy

Twitter’s customer service playbook recommends that companies should begin by establishing their customer service strategy.

This should be rooted in your general marketing, branding and customer service strategy.

How do you want your company’s service to be perceived in relationship to the competition? How will your Twitter customer service advance this strategy?

Twitter advises creating a brand vision statement that includes two to five key words defining what you will deliver to your customers, how this will differentiate you from the competition and what you will do to prove you differ from the competition.

When developing your strategy, Twitter emphasizes the importance of distinguishing three different stages of customer service that can be delivered on the platform.

  1. The reactive stage occurs when a customer’s tweet directly mentions customer service issues, using phrases such as “@[brand]” and @care.” This invites a direct personal resolution from a customer service representative.
  2. The proactive stage includes messages that describe resolutions for broad customer service issues. This stage might involve sharing a solution to a known software bug, for example.
  3. The final stage has general posts that engage your entire following with relevant content, which anticipates potential customer service issues before they arise. For example, Amway’s Twitter feed includes informative posts that address various concerns of its followers.

Different types of tweets are appropriate for each stage of resolution, and each stage requires different skill sets.

Most companies begin by learning how to directly resolve issues and gradually develop the ability to proactively engage their customer base.

However, your optimal Twitter customer service strategy depends on which stage your company currently identifies with in your relationship with your customers.

Define Your Performance Goals and Metrics

After fleshing out your strategy, Twitter recommends defining performance goals and metrics. Performance goals fall into a number of broad areas.

One is customer satisfaction, which involves measuring what percentage of customers are satisfied with your resolution to their issue, how many are willing to recommend you to others and how many continue to engage with you.

Another area you can measure is operational performance, such as the average time it takes your team to respond to a tweet, how many tweets you respond to and how many tweets are resolved on Twitter versus moving to other channels.

You can also measure revenue opportunities, such as click-through rates and conversion rates.

Finally, you can measure brand building goals, such as impressions, potential reach and new followers.

Set up a Support Infrastructure and Start Listening to Customer Feedback

When you’re ready to deploy your Twitter customer service strategy and launch your account, Sprout Social recommends setting up an infrastructure to manage your service requests.

Casual users can use native Twitter apps, but professional service teams should consider setting up a customized interface that enables interacting with multiple customers at once, such as Sprout’s Twitter Dashboard.

Finally, you’re ready to start engaging customers. Don’t shy away from negative feedback. Instead, monitor it and use it as a research tool to identify customer service trends you can proactively address.