Let Twitter help provide customer service

What used to be just for techies, Twitter has now evolved into a cheap and easy solution to enhance customer service. Ideally it should be one of several solutions which include telephone, email and online resources. In fact, the digital age of Twitter is used by more than 50% of Fortune 100 companies to recruit, send news announcements, and add a positive spin to customer service issues.

When using Twitter, a company must first figure out what they want to accomplish when using it as a customer service tool. For instance, Comcast employs a team of tweeters to help with customer service problems from the very simple to the more complicated when a technician is needed and sent out to solve the problem. Comcast has a tremendous presence on Twitter, and as the team monitors the conversations, they can join in and follow through until the issue is resolved.

What makes it all even more effective is  the conversation  between actual  company people and consumers. Employees from Comcast tweet from accounts that give their first name and photo; they are able to build relationships with customers. It doesn’t replace basic customer service using phone centers and live chats, but Twitter certainly compliments the actions because two-way conversations are out there using those 140 characters producing questions, answers and testimonials. It can be an effective way to diffuse the temper of the most angry individual and turn something negative into a positive situation.

Twitter can offer promotions and tips, but companies need to realize they have to offer value and can’t just talk about themselves. Whole Foods sees Twitter as a FAQ, and uses the philosophy if one person has a question, others will too.

According to Bob Warfield, CEO of Helpstream, which provides customer service technology to companies, he states, “It is a cool way for companies to engage customers in social media, but the experience can be loud and crowded.”

Consumers look for help, but companies don’t always have enough help to handle all of the tweets. Over 58% of tweeters who have tweeted about a bad experience, have never received a response from the particular company, but customers want immediate gratification. With people being on the internet day and night, responses on Twitter might depend on the scope of the problem or the availability of staff members. If a consumer is unhappy, can’t sleep and tweets at 2:00 AM, the odds of getting a response is unlikely. Where consumers should save tweets for urgent issues or ones that are still unresolved for customer service, the tweets lose their effect when the complaints are minor and most probably easier to work out on the phone.

Twitter should augment customer service, and companies should not expect it to be the magic solution. A company has to dedicate itself to responding and listening to customers immediately in a polite and professional manner. There is no technology that can replace that.