Customer Service through Twitter – Sustainable?

In recent (Twitter) discussions, I heard statements that “Twitter is the future primary medium for Customer Service” and descriptions of experiences like “I get faster and better response from companies when I express dissatisfaction in Twitter.”

But it is important for us to question it. Is Twitter really a medium that can support the full delivery of customer service to customers who choose it as the initial channel? Is the perception that Twitter allows for better/faster response realistic?

As of 2011, less than 2% of the people in the world uses Twitter (there are about 175M of registered accounts, with a significant number of inactive ones). Even if we discount the fact that the world isn’t an uniform place, penetration of Twitter among consumers and business decision makers in advanced economies is still in the low single digits.

Companies monitoring and using Twitter and social media are allocating resources to that task that are disproportionately large compared to that penetration. They are also empowering better-trained agents compared to other channels to act on behalf of the company. That is the main reason we, privileged early adopters of social media in a business context, can get faster and better response complaining in Twitter.

(Does anyone have data confirming or negating the previous paragraph?)

Don’t get me wrong. I believe adoption of Twitter and other Social Media tools in business is going to grow in the next years. The early adopters of Twitter are highly influential and there is a good business case to give them unfair attention. Companies should be investing in understanding and exploring the new medium. Twitter will have a very important role in customer service.

My point is that we are still in learning mode. We cannot assume that our initial experience as early adopters are sustainable in the long-term. Over time, we need to find the role of Twitter and other social media channels in customer service (and other corporate functions).

Personally, I believe engagement through social media can scale (see article) and Twitter has an important role in the detection and identification of issues, first contact, case triage, etc. Customer Service presence in Twitter also leverages the social character of the media (amplify voice of customer, offer solutions to many at once, promote peer-to-peer help, etc).

But I don’t necessarily think it is the medium for the delivery of the entire customer service resolution process.

As said, this is learning period, so what I believe is just what I believe. What do you?

2 thoughts on “Customer Service through Twitter – Sustainable?

  1. Marcio,
    We need to create a distinction between a brand (Twitter) and a medium (online communities). Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, etc are all brands. It’s clear that customer service needs to expand from the traditional media — in-person, phone, snail mail — to the newer, “social” media.

    1. Agreed, Alan. Where I wrote “Twitter” in the post above, it is really “Social Media, Online Communities”. I took that liberty primarily because the inspiration came from #custserv discussions where we were talking specifically about Twitter.

      The discussion in the chat was on weather it was “expand” (as you wrote) or “replace overtime”. I am with you that online communities add a new channel with its own utility, strengths and capabilities. But, my argument in the discussion, not necessarily a channel that can carry all the stages in the deliver of customer service.

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