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Twitter: The New Customer Service

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Elisa Peimer writes:

A few months ago I wrote about Twitter as a means of business-to-customer communication. I had been intrigued by reading about what happened to a guy who had been stranded at the airport after his JetBlue flight was delayed. I found it really interesting that the whole customer service process – JetBlue trying to figure out what the problem was, Southwest stepping in and trying to get the guy on one of their flights – represented a fundamentally new way of business-to-customer communication. All instantaneous, all public. It broadened the perception that Twitter was about more than just letting people know what you were doing at any given moment.

One of my favorite bloggers, Dooce.com, recently posted her own highly entertaining story of a customer service issue resolved via Twitter with Maytag. After a long bout of poor customer service regarding a broken washing machine, she tweeted her frustration in no uncertain terms. The result? A call from a manager at Whirlpool, Maytag's parent company; quick service; and even an offer of a free machine from another manufacturer.

I recently had one of my own customer relations issue resolved via Twitter. It happened after a certain amount of frustration. I’m currently working with a wonderful Indian singer named Chandrika Tandon and I was in the process of getting her new album up on popular online music distributor CD Baby. Due to a misunderstanding at the printer, I needed a UPC number from CD Baby, stat. I emailed. No response. I called. No one picked up the phone. I continued to email and call for days, to no avail. Meanwhile, the printer was waiting on the project until a UPC number could be procured. In desperation, I posted a tweet to CD Baby’s Twitter page – Hello? Is anybody out there? Why aren’t you responding to emails or picking up your phone?

Apparently, someone at the company watches their Twitter feed – within 5 minutes I got a response. “Sorry you’ve been having trouble getting through – what’s up?” After going back and forth on Twitter a few times, my UPC code problem was resolved within hours. I was glad I was able to get my client what she needed, but I couldn’t help but be annoyed that I had had to resort to a public calling out of bad customer service before I could get a response. At the same time, thank goodness for Twitter – if I hadn’t had the option of using that method to get in touch with the company, who knows when I would have been able to get the help I needed?

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About Oren Hope

  • I agree, this is an interesting way to get the attention of non-responsive customer service departments at various companies. Now, if only it worked with Twitter itself! I can’t find anything on their own site except user forums, FAQs and a start-up video that provides little more than the obvious. How does one actually reach behind the scenes at Twitter? I have no idea…

  • One trick I’ve learned for companies like Twitter who don’t have an actual customer service email or phone number (which they absolutely should) is contact their PR email. Sometimes that works.

  • Marilyn Sonnenberg

    CD Baby has had a temporary issue they are working 24/7 to resolve. they have been absolutely (until recently) unable to work through the backlog of concerns related to it. Basically they did a relaunch of the site to make the site safer (i.e. redundant, so that all the client materials–your materials–were safe and sound) but they did it prematurely, and they have been very apologetic as they work through the issues the premature re-launch created. Being *real people* more than anything else, when they see or hear anything they jump on it, is my experience, and I am sure they will be mortified when they see this post. thank you for sharing–Marilyn

  • It makes a certain amount of sense to me (in a backwards sort of way) that you should get such immediate and good service via Twitter. Phone and email are inherently private, and as such any customer concerns remain between the customer and the company. Twitter has changed the game by making all of these communications front page news and therefore a potential PR nightmare for misbehaving companies.

    By the very nature of the medium, they have no choice but to monitor and respond, in real time, to any and all forms of public instant communications. That includes Twitter, Facebook and even our very own beloved BlogCritics. Case in point: Marilyn’s comment above, which certainly reads like someone from the CD Baby’s PR department is keeping an eye on these things.

    (Sorry, Marilyn if you aren’t from CD Baby, and thanks for the tip either way:))

    Nice article, Oren

  • Nomin

    CD baby will not pay us. It has been two weeks since we’ve requested payment and no acknowledgement. Be happy they haven’t chosen your material yet.

  • I find it ironic that so many companies are jumping on the “use Twitter for customer contact” bandwagon when Twitter’s own user support is utterly appalling.

    I’ve collected a considerable number of user complaints, all directed at Twitter’s lack of Tweep care. Accounts suspended without warning or reason are the main topic.

    My own Twitter account was suspended out of the blue tonight at about 20.30h, and I wish I knew why. As at 23.41h I’m still trying to obtain a response from the apparently mis-named @Support centre in wide-awake California. At any other company that I’ve dealt with, this type of issue would have been resolved within an hour.

    When it comes to caring for their own users, paying customers among them, I have to award Twitter an “A”…

    … for ABYSMAL!

    People looking to establish good customer relations are probably better off sticking to using their own websites or using FaceBook.