Taking Customer Support Into Social Era

We’ve entered the Social Era with the advent and popularity of technologies like Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, FourSquare etc.  Supporting a product or service can take customer satisfaction to the next level by making use of these technologies.

To be clear, I’m of the opinion that customer support has the ability and responsibility for improving customer experience with a product or service.  My opinion is that customer support should be proactive with regard to supporting customers; customer support teams that don’t believe this need not read the rest :)  The best product or service can be meaningless if the customer support experience is subpar.

Most interaction with customer support teams means hunting down resources like web sites or phone numbers and either figuring out or deciphering the process involved in interacting with that particular customer support team.  For some people, this just isn’t worth their time.  They’re either too busy, or they’ve been through the process before and know how tedious it is and just don’t feel like subjecting themselves to it again, or doesn’t have enough return on investment (i.e. benefit to friction ratio).

Technologies like Twitter allow people to post their feelings, experiences, opinions, etc. on the Internet for the world to see.  Some of these postings could be viewed simply as complaining or badmouthing a product or service.  That’s one way of view it; but I think viewing these postings as an opportunity—and opportunity to reach out to the product’s community in another way to improve their experience or continue an existing great experience—can elevate a company in the minds of the community.

So, how can that be done?  Well, very easily as a matter of fact.  Technologies like Twitter make it easy to search for information.  You can add searches like “technology A” or “company B” to see what customers are saying and pick out comments that seem like customers having problems.  If they’re problems that can easily be fixed through some interaction with the customer and providing clarified or extra information then the team an simply open a conversation with the customer online and guide them through the problem.  If the issue is really a bug, then the team and open a conversation online to get details about the bug, pass information about patches to the customer, and evaluation on fixes that can quickly as possible make there way into the product.  Of course, simply “re-tweeting” allows the organization (and other users) to broadcast good PR about the company and the product.

Why is this good? This is good on multiple levels.  One of course is the good PR.  The company is viewed as doing good for customers and turning a potential negative into a positive.  The next is proactively finding and fixing problems.  If the comment is the result of a bug in the product or service then using the comments as a way of finding and fixing the bug means other customers may never experience the bug.  Finally, of course, is making customers happy.  There’s many stories of companies responding to people on Twitter to help with problems and these people blogging or commenting on the wonderful “over and above” service they’ve received.