I'm spending part of this week at the Genesys G-Force 2010 conference in Melbourne, which is where big companies get together to discuss how they can set up effective customer service strategies. Traditionally this event is all about call centres, but this year the big new theme is around social networking, and how that can be used to resolve problems in a way that's efficient (good for the customer) and cheap (good for the shareholders).
Twitter ranks pretty highly in these conversations. Genesys' own research amongst its customer base suggests that 38% of people want customer service via Twitter. I am absolutely one of those people, but my experiences of Twitter customer service have been varied, particularly when a company aims for proactive service.
Having someone manning a Twitter account to answer simple questions is definitely helpful. When I was shifting over to Next G earlier this year, Telstra's Twitter support channel offered relevant answers, which was a big improvement on its initial format. But that involved me asking a specific question. When someone is monitoring Twitter for company mentions, notices that there's a potential problem and tries to resolve it online, the process needs to be particularly well managed.
I've had both good and bad experiences with this involving security companies. Earlier this year, I was testing BitDefender, and found that its anti-phishing features caused massive stability problems with Firefox. I mentioned this on Twitter, and got a response. But it was more than a day later, and it wasn't much help:
@gusworldau Having problems? Drop us a line through [email protected] and we'll make sure you get the support you need.
If I'm on Twitter, being asked to switch to an entirely different channel is not helpful. As Genesys VP Eric Tamblyn put it today: "That's really not what the customer was expecting, and it's not great service for the customer." Quite.
But the real problem was that when I did send an email, the response just said "Yeah, that doesn't work properly, we don't work well with Firefox". Far from "getting me the support I needed", it confirmed the product wasn't up to scratch. BitDefender was removed from my machine not long afterwards.
I'd shifted to BitDefender after giving up on Norton 2010. While that product had even more severe problems, Symantec handled the whole process much better. I mentioned in a tweet a very odd message "Symantec Service Framework stopped working and was closed."
One of Symantec's Twitter accounts responded within minutes, asking me which product and OS I'd had problems with. It also copied in a second account to ensure the right person was addressing my questions.
That second user advised me that the error indicated "an unrecoverable issue", and that I'd need to blitz the software from my machine and reinstall it (complete with a link to how to do that). As I'd already had other issues with Norton 2010 (it doesn't get on with Handbrake for starters), I replied that I'd probably uninstall it altogether and try something else.
The Norton Twitter account made a brief attempt to persuade me otherwise, but didn't go overboard. When it was clear that I wasn't going to be sticking with the product, a gracious offer to refund the remainder of my subscription was made.
While the problem wasn't solved, I ended up feeling much more positively towards Symantec than I would have otherwise. Twitter had proved a useful customer service medium, which goes to show the technology can be used that way: the company using it just has to make sure its staff have a clue.
Has Twitter helped you get better customer service? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.