On Nov 18, 2009, USA Today published an interesting article called Social Media like Twitter Change Customer Service which highlights many of the comments on Twitter for Customer Service in other articles on my blog. Here’s my review of the USA Today article and the reader comments.

1. The use of Social Media for customer service (and Marketing and other business functions) is evolving. Not every company is doing a stellar job with customer service but more and more are engaged. According to one of the comments, even Governments are starting to respond to complaints on Twitter.

2. Consumers have heightened expectations, in terms of response time and availability of service (7 days a week/24 hours a day). A study by RightNow Technologies, a provider of customer service software, showed that 58% of those on Twitter who tweeted their dissatisfaction, wanted the company to respond to them. There is a perception that tweeting about a problem will give the consumer  higher priority with the support organization.

3. Social Media is an augmentation of support and support structures need to be rethought in light of social media. An interesting comment in the article says that ‘if a company’s DNA is not  truly dedicated to really listen to and respond to customers in a genuine and timely manner, no technology will provide a solution’.

4. Most organizations are struggling to use Social Media productively. But they are engaged. An interesting fact in the article is a study from Public Relations firm Burson-Marsteller and its digital-media unit Proof,  that  more than 50% of the Fortune 100 are using Twitter for

a. Customer Service

b. Recruiting Employees

c. Sharing  News

d. Publicizing  Promotions

5. Most companies cannot handle the volumes of requests on Twitter (but should they be doing that or directing the question to a responsive business as usual problem management organization).

6. It is difficult to resolve problems with only 140 Characters. What I didn’t see covered in the article was the issue of privacy. Surely no one would want to give out their customer numbers, name, address, and personal information to an organization in order for them to properly find the customer’s record in Tweets for all to see. Think Identity protection!!!

7. Companies are using Youtube and Facebook, help forums, blogs and company websites to try to provide ‘self help’. @Microsofthelps provides links to solutions and Microsoft hopes other users will help each other out. This is similar to a Quickbooks story I wrote about where one end user helps out another. When I worked at IBM, one of the software divisions, was provided bleeding edge ‘just in time’ training for common issues customers often called in to support’. They also produced information on ‘what data to gather’ before calling support. As Social Media evolves, the expectation of consumers will be that self help will be available in multimedia, instead of just print.

8. Twitter should also be augmented by some other key elements. The article talks about phone support, and email support but also mentions Chat support. I believe organizations should look at ways make it so easy for customers to reach them that they don’t have to resort to Twitter to complain. Some of the techniques would be

a. Have your company’s phone number and email on every page, easy to find and welcome customers to contact you. This was recommended in the book The Best Service is No Service that I reviewed in the post ‘Customer Satisfaction improves with No Service?’

b. Offer On Line Chat on your website and state the hours it is available.

c. Provide a good search facility to find all the self help that is available.

9. In the comment section, readers add that customers use Twitter to get companies to pay attention to problems with their customer service. Twitter is very public and issues can go viral quickly. While Twitter may not be the best at resolving all kinds of problems, the publicity is often the catalyst to get customer service improved. Executives don’t want to be embarrassed in front of  shareholders, their board of directors, their competitors or their customers.   For additional  impacts of negative feedback, see the first of the video  titled ‘Why Social Media for Customer Satisfaction’ on my blog post How Social Media affects Customer Satisfaction.

10. The article provides a list of major Brands that are using Twitter for Customer service, including which ones provide off hour service. It’s an impressive list including car companies, financial and insurance organizations, airlines, computer companies, retailers, restaurants, airlines, etc.

See the full USA Today article and list of companies at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-11-18-twitterserve18_ST_N.htm

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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