Many of us early adopters have experienced the power of Twitter as a customer service tool. Whether you just want to rant or you’re looking for results, Twitter has proven a useful tool for customers and companies who want to communicate better.
Now, Salesforce.com has added legitimacy to the concept of Twitter as a customer service tool. By integrating Twitter into their online customer management platform, they are helping position Twitter as a business tool that has tangible value. It’s not just for fun anymore!
Companies like Zappos and Comcast have done a good job using Twitter to talk with their customers. That alone makes Twitter a wonder since Zappos and Comcast couldn’t be more different in terms of the customer experience they deliver and the relationship they have with their customers. Zappos has used Twitter to continue to engage their customers and build an increasingly loyal fan base. While Comcast has used Twitter as a customer service safety net, a back channel for service when the normal channels fail.
On a side note, technologists and social media wonks ask how Twitter will ever generate enough money to survive. My suggestion is that Comcast (and every other big company that benefits from the customer service value of Twitter) should start sending monthly checks. Or maybe they should buy it. Either way they need to start seeing the value and supporting it so it remains available.
But companies need to be careful. The value of Twitter can also highlight weaknesses. If Twitter is an effective back channel for your customer service, it implies your normal channels are not always up to snuff. So backing things up with a crack Twitter team (like Comcast’s team headed by the legendary Frank Eliason) makes sense. It can legitimately help you help your customers.
Management needs to keep their eyes on the ball and make sure ALL customers have the opportunity to get great service, not just the Twitterati. Twitter Nation is still only about 8 million people (roughly the size of Minnesota and Kansas combined) and it skews toward techies, professionals, Gen X&Y and others who spend a lot of time connected to the world via a digital device.
My mom will never get customer service through Twitter. And there are millions others like her.
So I tip my hat to Twitter and the people who are making it an effective form of communication. I support just about anything that helps customers and companies connect better.
And I advise people using Twitter to learn from it rather than deify it. It will never slice your bread or shine your shoes. But it can teach us a lot about how to connect and communicate and in so doing, serve our customers better than ever.