Last week, Delta Airlines made a big social media announcement that garnered very little press. The company announced that after six years, it was sunsetting its @DeltaAssist Twitter handle and combining it with the core @Delta handle. The @DeltaAssist account now carries this pinned tweet: "We're moving! Please tweet us @Delta for assistance."
This is a big deal because many companies grapple with this exact problem, but most arrive at the opposite conclusion. Most companies choose to have separate marketing and service handles, both because it's easier for the company and because it separates customer service complaints from the string of marketing posts that the company so dearly wants us to see. The thinking is that service inquiries might cause the marketing messages to get lost in the stream, or worse - someone might see that a customer has a complaint.
Making things easier for the company - instead of the customer - is a hallmark of old-school thinking, and that's inherently what's wrong with two separate Twitter handles in the first place. The expectation is that a customer desiring to contact a brand will spend the time to determine which handle is most appropriate before firing off that tweet. Of course, as most people who work in social care know, this is often not the case, and the main handle ends up fielding many customer service inquiries, sometimes awkwardly passing them to the appropriate service handle and many times not answering at all.
Customer expectations, as well as technology advancements, have made Delta's switch back to a single handle inevitable. Customers don't have the time or the inclination to search for the appropriate handle when all they want is a speedy response and a resolution to their issue. And Delta uses Sparkcentral as its core social care platform, software that was created exclusively for social care and not publishing. Because of this, Delta can easily filter customer service inquiries from other forms of customer engagement, like responding to a marketing message or answering a poll question, rendering the separate handle unnecessary.
It's impressive, though, that Delta has figured all this out before most other brands, who are sure to follow suit in due time. Some brands, like my previous employer, Discover Card, have held steadfast to the notion that a single Twitter handle is the best way to go, but they've always been in the minority. At Discover, my philosophy was that the company was so good at customer service, it might as well shout it from the rooftops of the world's most public customer service channel. In this way, customer service actually becomes a form of marketing, as prospects and other customers witness superior service out in the open and form positive opinions of the company.
But many brands aren't that good at customer service, and that becomes a big worry when you add in the unpredictability of social media. Executives, concerned about a negative issue going viral, often prefer silence in hopes the problem will just disappear on its own. This is why nearly 60% of customer inquiries still - in 2016 - go unanswered.
While it may seem like a small move for Delta to combine its Twitter accounts, it's absolutely not. Delta is signaling to the rest of the social media world that it is intent on being best-in-class in social care, and it isn't afraid to acknowledge that some customers have complaints but that complaints can actually become opportunities.