The power of Twitter for customer service and help desks.

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I am a major advocate of social media being used in business, especially twitter. Gone are the days where one used it simply to stalk one’s favourite celebrity. It can now be used in a much more intelligent way. I use it to connect to many people socially, but also to interact with a number of businesses.
Twitter is being used widely for marketing purposes, but customer service and trouble shooting is becoming a lot more prevalent. And it makes a lot of sense. When a client has an issue, it can often be quite frustrating for them and they can become quite emotional, sometimes leading to drawn out explanations, agitation and even insults (can you tell I’ve worked in help desks previously?). Even in the other end of the scale, pleasantries and general chit chat can take time too, which is important to have for building customer relations, but can take up valuable time especially for busy help desks. Twitter’s 140 character limit prevents any superfluous details or long explanations, you simply don’t have space. Only the important, relevant details get tweeted and this makes troubleshooting a whole lot faster.

When it comes to business use of twitter, there are a few rules that the company should follow to make the experience for the client much more pleasant.
These include:

  • Be prompt with replies. Within moments if possible, 24 hours maximum
  • Be ready for criticisms. Don’t just reply to the good stuff, respond to criticisms with poise and grace. Remember, it’s all out in the open
  • When it comes to requests for specific assistance, use Direct Message if required. However a benefit to twitter is that it is searchable – if a problem is solved for one client, other clients can search and benefit from this information, hence will have no need to contact you directly.
  • Be personable and have a sense of humour!
  • Share links, information and have conversations freely, and not just about your business specifically. It’s important to stay close to the subjects you’re known for, but there is a lot of freedom there.
  • So, who does this well? A number of local businesses and services are now using twitter extremely well. A couple to note are Queensland Rail (@QueenslandRail) and QLD Police Service (@QPSmedia). Both provide excellent, up to the minute, relevant information and do so in down to earth and sometimes amusing ways.
    Another is Brisbane City Council (@brisbanecityqld). There has been a lot of complaints about the council recently due to the upcoming elections, but one thing they have always excelled at is customer service. This has now extended to the use of twitter.
    Here is an example. One of my local parks had a broken swing seat in the playground. I took this photo (below) with my phone and sent it to them via twitter. The whole process took me less than a minute. Within 1/2 hour the message above was sent back. Now, next time I go to my park (next week) I’ll let you all know if it has been fixed by then.
    I was truly impressed by the swiftness of not only the response on twitter but also of the park officer.

    I guess this same response could have also been achieved by calling up the council via phone. This involves a whole lot more work: finding the number, calling, waiting on hold, explaining the situation and waiting on the phone to find out the response. Quite frankly I wasn’t that emotionally invested in this swing seat to go to all that trouble. I simply would have ignored it. This way it took me less than one minute of effort to achieve a good result.
    This, of course, is a very basic example of what can be achieved through social media, but it’s day to day problem solving that I can see becoming more widely utilized.
    If more businesses realise that in only 140 characters the client can only give you the important details, and not a whole lot of hot air like through use of email or over the phone, they may find a decrease in time spent troubleshooting, and an increase in customer satisfaction.

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    UPDATE! It’s fixed! BCC contacted me on twitter to say they fixed it and I checked it today. They also refurbed the other swing seat too!

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