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October 22, 2009
Twitter: the killer app for customer service
"Hello, this is Sam Kaufman from the AT&T Internet Executive Office, and I am calling about your tweets."
That's what I heard yesterday after posting a few tweets about my less-than-stellar customer service experience with an AT&T DSL technical support rep. The rep was trying to diagnose my DSL problems and after telling me to stay on the line for 10 minutes, he never returned after 30 minutes. I hung up. He never called back.
With a few hours of my AT&T tweet, @ATTJohnathon, a customer care rep on Twitter contacted me, asking if he could help. I DM'ed him my account number as he requested and he passed it on to Sam. Turns out Sam is part of the Customer Advocacy Center, where escalated customer complaints are sent. Sam says he has recently started receiving tweets from the AT&T Twitter team for follow-up.
AT&T is on board with social media for customer service. In addition to the five fourteen customer care reps on Twitter, the company has 23 social media channels on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Posterous and blogs.
Comcast may have been the first high-profile company to use Twitter for customer service, but now others are seeing the benefits as well, such as DirectTV, Wells Fargo, Alaska Airlines and FourSquare.
Twitter is the killer app for customer service. Companies can discover aggravating service problems by using a variety of tools to listen on tweets mentioning their name. A response can be nearly immediate.
It's good word of mouth, too. Mediocre service is such a standard that any form of pro-active Twitter customer service is worth talking about.
Other blogs that reference Twitter: the killer app for customer service:
I am not sure I agree. Well, I do and I don't. Twitter is great for taking care of customer complaints. But, most of the time, I think these complaints are just a result of not having good enough telephone or face to face customer service (just like in your case).
So, the telephone is probably the killer app for customer care, if a face to face meeting isn't possible.
No company wants to get negative word of mouth. Twitter is great for taking care of the people who have been mistreated by customer service and decided to voice their negative opinion about it online. But, turning a negative experience into a positive one is probably not preferred to doing it right the first time. Neither from a customer perspective nor from a cost perspective from the company.
That said, I think companies should have a presence on Twitter and other online arenas to monitor what is being said about them, listen and engage in the conversation, both positive and negative.
Thanks for your comment. I didn't mention that I also had a problem with FourSquare yesterday and tweeted about it. They don't have a customer service 800-number to call. WIthin minutes, the the person on the FourSquare Twitter account saw my tweet, and let me know that they were having server problems that were now fixed. Small companies without call center infrastructure can now use Twitter for service.
The fact remains that unless you make a spectacle of yourself, either by smashing a monitor with a hammer at the local office or tweeting, it takes more than a phone call to receive acceptable service these days.It's a shame, really.
The hammer-wielding grandma at a Comcast office is my all-time-favorite angry customer story.
Jackie, great post! I agree that social media is providing yet another avenue to serve customers whether reactive, as in your case, or proactive, as in an experience I had with Comcast earlier this year: http://bit.ly/3iOjrU
I discovered your blog on Alltop and look forward to returning.
Great post that’s the exact sentiments I have about Twitter and social media in general. I think that the more companies who embrace social media as a communication device between themselves and their customers the better. I recently wrote a blog discussing the exact same issues http://is.gd/4vSIr .But one point that I’d make is that social media itself isn't a onestop shop to solving customer service problems, traditional channels of communication are still needed and in need of improvement. In your case, if the technical support rep had dealt with your case, there would have been no need for you to complain via Twitter. Yes social media is a great thing but we need to look at all the channels involved in customer experience.
Jackie, you are absolutely right. Companies have to embrace social media as a way to stay connected whether they like it or not. That's where today's customer lives - on line. But Mike's comment says it all...it is a shame that our customer service is in "fire putting out" mode rather than striving on the front end to be the best we can be for our customers.
I tweeted a complaint to both @ebay and @paypal and neither of them replied.
From a company perspective, I think it's great to be using Social Media for more than just tooting your own horn. Jackie made an effort to get her issue taken care of, and after being ignored, took it a step further.
Many people out there are kind of passive aggressive and would never, ever take the time out to contact a company directly, but find it "easy" to complain via Twitter/FB/Myspace, etc. (Often with no expectation of hearing from the company.) Considering that is often the way the world works, I find social media channels to be an absolute asset to our business here at Sweet Leaf Tea. You are able to to exceed consumer expectations in a transparent manner by helping/educating/or just plain listening to a consumer.
Companies that are embracing Twitter and other social media are adapting to the changes of customers. As the younger generations weave the Internet deeper into their lives, companies will need to do the same to keep customers happy. Everyone likes receiving great customer service, and if Twitter is one way of getting it, then I am all for it.
Twitter is a channel like the phone or email and has its strengths and weaknesses.
Because it has the potential to be visible by a very large audience and can have detrimental effects on a brand, some companies are careful to monitor and act upon tweets.
Although twitter is currently a good place to get a company’s attention, its 140 byte limitation is woefully deficient to efficiently or effectively provide support and instead is only viable in initiating support and getting closure -- and brand recognition -- once the issue has been dealt with.
Once more consumers understand how tweets can allow them to circumvent other support channel queues and get them more immediate attention, the twitter queues will quickly become unmanageable and only those consumers whose reach and reputation in social media warrant special attention will find twitter to be any more effective than their alternative support channel.
To call twitter a “killer app for customer service” is grossly overstated and totally unscalable.
Maybe not "the" killer app, but at least a killer portal to better customer care - provided there is anyone listening. It's time slow adopting businesses wake up to the fact that while they might not be here, their customers surely are - and they need to begin actively engaging and monitoring discussion of their brand on all channels, and certainly Twitter must be part of that watch.
Companies need to first and foremost focus on ensuring that their direct support channels are providing the highest possible value. These channels have far superior technological capabilities to deliver, measure and manage the customer care process than Twitter or any other social media touch-point will ever have.
Sure, monitoring brand perceptions in social media using comprehensive tools like Radian6 is indeed important for some brands, but not first addressing the deficiencies in direct support channels places a company in the endless and ever growing role of putting out fires rather than dealing with the fire’s source.
I was at the media140 conference today and one of the problems that brands spoke about was the fact that they have huge resources and systems in place to answer people by email and phone but then somebody comes along on Twitter and expects to jump the whole queue and have their question answered in less than a minute. Good customer service is essential in modern day business but we have to be realistic as well
Totally agree twitter is the killer app for customer service, that is why we build HelpdeskOnTwitter ( http://helpdeskontwitter.com ) , a multiuser twitter client just for companies doing customer service on twitter, featuring conversation view of tweets and ticket system. We use it everyday ourself and hope other people will find it useful too.
I agree with many of the posters here. I applaud AT&T for engaging in social media, but it appears the company is fumbling with the basics of customer service. Until it gets the basics down pat, there will always be a disconnect no matter how much the company uses Twitter.
Niall -- Do people really expect to have their questions/comments on Twitter answered immediately? It would seem a lot of people use Twitter as a venting mechanism when they've exhausted a good deal of solution avenues, including customer service.
Twitter is great for service recovery (which is what you described). But when it is only used as a "band-aid on a cut" instead of addressing the root cause and fixing it, then the real customer service opportunity is lost.
Sure, Comcast uses Twitter and it helps them with service recovery. But I am not so sure that it has improved their overall Customer Service. They made the same exact service install error to a colleague a month or so ago, that they made for my installation a year ago. It doesn't appear that they fixed the root cause to me! However, I did advise my colleague to tweet about it and Comcast contacted him right away to get it fixed. But problem shouldn't have happened in the first place.
You've tabled a great topic worth considering, hence the diversity & quality of responses.
For my part, I'm not convinvced that twitter is the "killer app" for individual customer service - at least in its current form. As has been mentioned, speed / danwidth of available service response resources and the quality of customer input are going to be issues in a broadcast forum with a 140 character limit.
That said, twitter could develop into a very effective listening post for service failure root cause analysis, aggregating thousands of data points across user comments and developing systematic solutions for service issues. Even in this, twitter and the companies that use it still need to work on how to get meaningful commentary, as a majority of the negative service-related tweets still follow the, "xyzCo service sucks!" format.
Building on this, it could eventually become a "killer app" for service recovery, based on its ability to find and aggregate large volumes of vocal complainers in a single venue. If these could be recovered successfully, the tool c-ould act as a platform for the newly recovered / loyal evangelists to provide the same volume on positive commentary.
Isn't the goal to meet or exceed the customer's expectations by consistently delivering a valuable experience? So, the Company failed and then succeeded - and the fact is that the success and failure are both due to humans.
Twitter is a communication channel - customer service requires superior human involvement.
I'm a huge fan of the idea that Twitter can help resolve customer issues. Why not? Customers are commenting and if companies can respond on the platform that their customers use - that is great service.
I wish more companies would offer this kind of interaction and support - it really breaks down the walls and allows a better dialog between company and customer.
I couldn't agree more with April: Many people out there are kind of passive aggressive and would never, ever take the time out to contact a company directly, but find it "easy" to complain via Twitter/FB/Myspace, etc. (Often with no expectation of hearing from the company.)
When it comes to customer service, this is what I use Twitter and Facebook for. Though I do admit that I DO expect a response, I don't think that my problem has to be resolved through Twitter itself, nor do I think that I'm jumping the phone queue by posting instead of calling. Often, I do it as sort of a test to see if the company is paying attention when I have something to rant about or even rave about - it's not just for the complaints!
Great post! I'm a customer service fanatic and really enjoy reading your blog. I think following and being followed can be both beneficial to the customer as well as the company - it is such a fast way to get opinions, updates, news, etc... out there.
I am not currently on Twitter, but I think you just convinced me to get started!
Twitter is not Customer Service. Twitter is immediate gratification meets CRM
I believe the following statement to be true:
The need to broadcast a problem to the world would not be necessary if the customer had confidence that their issue would be solved timely and to their satisfaction.
There are lots of and lots of good reasons to broadcast, this comment is not about all those good reasons: Co-Creation, Innovation, Community, Collaboration, to name a few. This post is also not about Service Communities like Lithium and Helpstream, Parature and others. While not about them, they might be part of the solution.
Using Twitter for support masks a larger issue. Therefore I believe the following also to be true:
If your customers are trying to get your attention on Twitter to solve a specific ‘me only’ problem, your processes are either horribly inefficient, broken or you have product issues.
The the rest of the post is available on my blog
Interesting suggestion, and I think there's some truth to it. I often go to Twitter to see if it's just me having some sort of service issue with a company or if it's more widespread. I do wonder, however, if companies are more likely to fix issues via twitter for more prominent bloggers/twitterers.