My $0.02 to Dirk’s “Are you using twitter for customer support?”

More on how to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle

One of Twitter’s endearing qualities is simplicity. After it’s “@” (Reply), or, “D” (Direct message), you have the remaining 140 characters to get your message across. Another powerful aspect of Twitter is it’s ability to broadcast, as well as, persist these messages. This means that anyone can pick up on a previous conversation and breath new life into it.

Traditionally, if you’re in customer service, or, support, this is probably the last thing you want. Imagine you’ve been working on an open “ticket”, playing round robin with the customer and perhaps development, you finally close the matter and someone, out of the blue, shows up with a new wrinkle. You may never be able to close a ticket again.

Granted, I’m pushing it a bit, but not much. The primary issue here is, Twitter is unstructured and traditional customer service and support need structure. And for good reason too! Customer service and support are legally binding. Customers pay money, in one form or another, for support and perhaps maintenance of the product, or, service. Once we, as providers of these products, or, services accept our customer’s money we are on the hook to deliver for a certain period of time.

So how do we convert this Social Content 2.0 that lives not only in Twitter databases, but in all the social networks, from casual conversations into legally binding action items? My guess is you don’t. I think if you try then you’ll stifle the casual conversations and pollute your service/support systems.

This is what I think you need to do with your customer service and support folks:
1. Explain to them the journey they are about to embark on in the new social networking frontier.
2. Take the time to onboard, or, train them on how to the tools.
3. Encourage them to use the tools in their personal lives first so they can appreciate their new found power and enlightenment.
4. Arm them with a core message so they’ll always know how to handle themselves. Read Chip & Dan Heath’s book Made To Stick about Southwest Airlines’ “THE low-fair airline”.
5. Follow other companies leads, like Dell, and create their social network accounts with their real names suffixed by the company name. For example: DirkShawVignette. Real people want to relate to real people. Not silly unprofessional icons and bizarro, or, no empty profiles.
6. Create a company web page listing all of their accounts so others can a) validate these people actually work there & b) discover more Twitter accounts to Follow. Look how Radian6 does it. Look to them again when you’re ready to scale your monitoring process.
7. To protect the richness and integrity of your Social Content 2.0 and not blur the line between it and your customer service and support systems, I would move some of traditional inside the firewall systems to the outside. Moving to transparent development means anyone, customer, or, not, can participate in the development and debugging process. That means you can see any defects already discovered in the system along with the internal and external conversations revolving around them. The same for feature requests. Maybe someone already asked for exactly the same thing, only slightly different. Go ahead and add your $0.02. The same for usability features. Maybe you’re having trouble with a particular feature. Could it be you’re the only one? Maybe, or, maybe not. At least you can check it out for yourself.

My guess is you’ll see a reduction in backend customer service and support costs, an increase in overall customer satisfaction and a happier, more fulfilled development team that’s not only more in touch with your market but also your new flock of evangelists.

IMO, of course 🙂

Off you go now. Good luck trying to fit this into 140 characters. That’s what tinyurl is for.
Thanks for inspiration! I’m going to blockquote this stuff and repost on my blog.

Originally posted as a comment by stevenmilstein on Dirk Shaw’s blog using Disqus.

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0 Replies to “My $0.02 to Dirk’s “Are you using twitter for customer support?””

  1. Hey Steven,

    I have created a proposal to our support teams on how, who and why to use twitter, thanks for the insights. Part of my proposal was a scenario where i helped a customer out and was able to include this quote to support the case “thank you for doing the legwork; proof positive that social media is beneficial for customer relations.”


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