Earlier this week I wrote a post about how social software can help executives learn more about their companies' customers. I mentioned both using internal collaboration software to tap into employees' customer-related insights and using channels like Twitter and Facebook for a more direct view of customer conversations. Though companies have focused mostly on using social channels for marketing and brand building, an increasing number of companies also use them for customer support. A few weeks ago I wrote about T-Mobile's social support, sharing BizIntelligenceTV host Bruno Aziza's video interview with Dan Anderson, T-Mobile's emerging media manager.
Twitter appears to be especially popular for customer support. It's the primary focus of the Aziza/Anderson discussion. It's no wonder, given the statistic from a Burson-Marsteller survey shared in a recent Information Management article, that 19 percent of Twitter users seek customer support each month.
While that number alone is significant, consider that 42 percent want to learn about products and services, 41 percent provide opinions about products and services and 31 percent ask others for opinions about products and services. (You obviously want people raving about your company, not complaining about it, on Twitter.)
I think Twitter probably works best for providing quick answers to relatively simple questions, perhaps by directing folks to the specific spot where they can find more detailed information online, a practice mentioned by the manager of Zappos' customer loyalty team when IT Business Edge's Susan Hall interviewed him for her story on Twitter. That saves time-starved customers from endless clicking on websites or navigating through lengthy IVR menus. (It can also offer an early indicator that sites or menus need a redesign. If you get lots of Twitter inquiries about return policies, for example, you'll probably want to make that information easier to find.) Customers with more complicated problems will probably end up needing to have it resolved elsewhere, though.
Considering nearly 200 million people use Twitter and given the results of the Burson-Marsteller survey, companies will need to at least consider a Twitter strategy for customer support.
The Information Management article, written by Zendesk Community Manager Tiffany Maleshefski, includes what I think is solid advice for getting a Twitter customer support program off the ground. Among her suggestions:
Maleshefski wraps with advice on how to respond to customer inquiries and handle complaints. She also offers a list of suggested data to monitor that should offer insight into how your customers use Twitter.