Twitter and Online Customer Service: Are Your Ears Burning?

Diane Clarkson [Posted by Diane Clarkson]

 

A recent analysis by PR firm Burson-Marsteller and Proof Digital Media found that more than half of Fortune 100 companies are using Twitter with two thirds of these companies using Twitter for some kind of customer service function.

 

In other customer service channels, companies pick up the telephone or open an email to hear about customers' issues. Customer service on Twitter is not simply about responding. Think of Twitter as a conversation. You may be a participant in that conversation  with a direct message and the expectation of a response. Or you may be the topic of a conversation if your customers are tweeting their complaints to warn others or vent their frustrations. You will only hear this conversation if you are listening. Twitter gives you the opportunity to shift from being the topic to a participant.  If you respond well, you can convert a frustrated customer into a happy one while salvaging your reputation amongst their listeners.

 

Recently, blogger Heather Armstrong was frustrated with the service she’d received (or not received) from Maytag and, without satisfaction in other customer service channels, took to Twitter to vent. Her complaints about the company reached her one million followers. The next morning, she was contacted by someone from Whirlpool, Maytag’s parent company, who resolved the problem. Ms Armstrong tweeted her satisfaction.

 

Granted, Ms Armstrong is not your average customer. In August 2009, she was featured on Forbes list of the Most Influential Women in Media.  This incident has sparked debate over whether or not a media personality should their celebrity to complain about customer service.  eBusiness professionals should consider this debate as less important than whether or not they are listening to Twitter to know what people – anyone – are saying about their brands.

 

There are many potential eBusiness benefits to Twitter and I wrote about this in May 2009 in a report called “How Twitter Can Influence eBusiness”.   I will be publishing a report next month looking at Twitter and online customer service.

 

I believe more and more people will reach out to Twitter for customer service over the coming year.  That growth will bring expectations for instantaneous and personal response. Meeting these high expectations will have implications across many business areas including staffing and training, operational structure, CRM and knowledge base management.

 

If you are attending Forrester’s Consumer Forum in Chicago on October 26 -27, I will be presenting on “How Twitter Can Influence eBusiness: Assessing the Twitter Opportunity” and hope to see you there.

 

You can follow me on twitter.com/diane_clarkson