Twitter as Customer Support

helpcompressed.jpgI’ve blogged in the past about the good new web marketing, i.e. how many startups follow mentions of their companies on blogs, respond in those blogs and engage the bloggers. I really like the personal touch, even if I don’t care much for the application or don’t even use it.

Twitter has added a new dimension to this approach. Many Twitter junkies, like yours truly, run Adobe AIR Twitter clients to stay in touch with the Twitterverse. Not surprisingly, the makers of these clients and other Twitter-related services use Twitter as a support and feedback channel. For example, if you use Twhirl, make sure to follow @twhirl and tweet your compliments, complaints and feedback directly to them.

If you forget, don’t worry, they’ll find you if you tweet about twhirl. For example, after upgrading to the 0.7 release, I found all my settings were erased, a minor annoyance that I tweeted.

twhirl_tweet.png

Twhirl responded soon after my tweet pointing to a point release (0.7.1) that fixed the issues.

jkuramot_tweet.png

Very cool. From following tweets of other people, I have seen that the producers of other AIR clients also use Twitter for support. Other ancillary services, like Tweet Scan, which allows you to search tweets in real-time, or Tweetpeek, a Twitter aggregator, also do Twitter-support. Natch, right?

So, earlier this week, I’m trying out my brand-spanking-new socialthing invite; it’s another social app aggregator, a la FriendFeed. Anyway, I tweeted about it:

social_tweet.png

Imagine my surprise when I got a reply from @socialthing in my tweet stream. I wasn’t following @socialthing, but they’re using Twitter as a proactive support tool, an excellent way to build up good will for your application.

So now, I use Twitter for support, both directly with the producers of applications I use and to gather information from my network. It’s morphing into a very useful support and advice resource. It’s time to update my steps on the path of least resistance. The updated steps are:

  1. Ask the people nearby: over the cube wall, in the hallway, kitchen, rest room, break room, wherever.
  2. Ask Twitter.
  3. Ask the Interwebs, probably using Google.
  4. Ask the “official” support people, maybe IT, maybe Oracle support.
  5. Read the documentation.

I ask Twitter before Google because my network of tweeters are people I trust and whose opinion I respect. So maybe Twitter is the new social search tool?

Anyway, kudos to companies who use Twitter to provide support, and kudos to companies that comb the Interwebs looking for blogs about their product.

The lesson here for me is, people are listening, so be nice and be fair.

Thoughts?

 Update: Dan Norris blogged an example of step 2 above between tweeters back in January. Twitter has a very geeky population, so ad hoc support and how to questions are pretty quickly answered by its user population.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

14 comments

  1. Jake, thanks for this perspective. Twitter as a new search tool sounds cool and might very well change the way support is delivered. The most appealing factor is the element of trust. I can now relate Twitter as one of the elements of Self Support 2.0.

    I always thought of twitter as hybrid of a blog and an instant messenger. Now, because of this twitter would be most appealing to those causal bloggers or those who don’t blog at all.

    Twitter will no doubt play an important part in increasing Self Support 2.0 quotient of a product. Let me know what you think about this.

    I have defined Self Support 2.0 and Self Support 2.0 quotient in the two comments on David’s blog. They are available here – http://davidhaimes.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/why-product-development-should-blog-part-2/#comment-225

  2. Jake, thanks for this perspective. Twitter as a new search tool sounds cool and might very well change the way support is delivered. The most appealing factor is the element of trust. I can now relate Twitter as one of the elements of Self Support 2.0.

    I always thought of twitter as hybrid of a blog and an instant messenger. Now, because of this twitter would be most appealing to those causal bloggers or those who don’t blog at all.

    Twitter will no doubt play an important part in increasing Self Support 2.0 quotient of a product. Let me know what you think about this.

    I have defined Self Support 2.0 and Self Support 2.0 quotient in the two comments on David’s blog. They are available here – http://davidhaimes.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/why-product-development-should-blog-part-2/#comment-225

  3. @Venkataramanan S: Twitter has already changed the way support is delivered. However, since Twitter is only about a million users, its reach is pretty small. For beta apps whose target user is in the Twitter demographic, it’s a great support tool.

    If Twitter had a larger user population, you’d see more companies make the jump, mining tweets for mentions of their products.

    I like your definition of Self Support 2.0. Searching tweets for a product, then replying @ the product team would fit right into your model.

  4. @Venkataramanan S: Twitter has already changed the way support is delivered. However, since Twitter is only about a million users, its reach is pretty small. For beta apps whose target user is in the Twitter demographic, it’s a great support tool.

    If Twitter had a larger user population, you’d see more companies make the jump, mining tweets for mentions of their products.

    I like your definition of Self Support 2.0. Searching tweets for a product, then replying @ the product team would fit right into your model.

  5. Great post, Jake. Thanks also for inspiration and comments over at eduweb buzz about DIY (I didn’t know anyone read it!). I got interviewed by Oracle last week at Alliance in Las Vegas about Oracle & higher education: 2 great tastes . . .

    This post prompted a spirited discussion around my shop about how we support our systems and how to improve that support. Thanks for the inspiration — again.

    -T

  6. Great post, Jake. Thanks also for inspiration and comments over at eduweb buzz about DIY (I didn’t know anyone read it!). I got interviewed by Oracle last week at Alliance in Las Vegas about Oracle & higher education: 2 great tastes . . .

    This post prompted a spirited discussion around my shop about how we support our systems and how to improve that support. Thanks for the inspiration — again.

    -T

  7. @Ted: Sure, Twitter is a weird animal. I doubt its founders foresaw all the uses its been put to so far, and it’s still a small network. So, who knows what’s next?

    If you’re going to Collaborate 08, we should make sure to meet.

  8. @Ted: Sure, Twitter is a weird animal. I doubt its founders foresaw all the uses its been put to so far, and it’s still a small network. So, who knows what’s next?

    If you’re going to Collaborate 08, we should make sure to meet.

  9. Jake,
    Step 2. Ask twitter is really an extension of step 1.
    For the increasing number of remote workers, there is nobody else around so you have to jump right to stage 2. However I use Oratweet to yell out to my co-workers or I use IM to ping the person in the next office, rather than make the effort to stand up and walk around the office asking people and disturbing the peace. The key element here is people I trust, I ask my cube mates, lunch posse, tweeps or oratweeps because I know and trust them, the medium I use to shout out to them is less important.

  10. Yeah, lazyweb rules 🙂

    Funny, this post is older than OraTweet.

    Trust is the key component to make social anything valuable. We're starting to see that more frequently as adoption spikes.

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