For decades the fundamental medium for providing customer service and support has been the telephone. Companies have and continue to invest significantly in building out – or for some, sourcing – support teams dedicated to delivering immediate customer service to individuals via telephone. Over the past ten years technology advancements have opened numerous doors and provided additional options via new mediums including enhanced interactive voice response (IVR) systems, online self-service portals and live chat. And, more recently, businesses have been leveraging social networks as well - specifically Twitter.
Twitter, which launched originally in 2006, is a social networking service that boasts over 500 million users worldwide, of which some 200 million plus are considered ‘active’. By 2008, the hype around Twitter was the immediacy of information that could be provided, whether fed from news outlets, celebrities, individuals or companies. Additionally, conversations could be had, albeit short due to the 140-character limit.
Recognizing a potential service opportunity and working to build loyalty with his customer base, a digital specialist for Comcast named Frank Eliason launched @ComcastCares – one of the most well known and well-received customer service focused Twitter handles. Following in Comcast’s stead numerous leading brands are using Twitter as an additional tool, or medium, not only to track what people are saying about their brand, but also to respond to immediate questions and concerns. Large companies like Blackberry, Nike, American Express and hundreds of others use dedicated Twitter handles exclusively for customer service.
Of course, without a comprehensive strategy, educated and experienced social media trained service team members and metrics and objectives, providing support via Twitter could end up hurting your company more than it helps. After all, one of the key elements of Twitter is immediacy and customers Tweeting out to a customer service handle have the same expectations. In fact, response time is a key success metric when it comes to delivering support via Twitter.
For a mid-sized company like ours, committing personnel and resources exclusively to social would be impractical at this time. With that said, recognizing Twitter as a growing medium and working in collaboration with our marketing team, we have enhanced our focus on social. While we do bring the vast majority of questions offline to our customer service and technical support teams, we have already recognized great value in responding on Twitter and directing customers to the appropriate contact. Over time, who knows, we could end having a new medium in five years that leaves Twitter in the rearview mirror, but for now, expanding your service lens to include social media is not an option – it’s a must.