Turn to Twitter for support

This is an old post, and Charter no longer uses Twitter as a support method. Many other companies do still use Twitter however.

For those of you who are not aware, Twitter (http://twitter.com) is a site and service that lets you post messages or your thoughts up to 140 characters. This size was chosen because Twitter was originally updated primarily using text message, and that is their limit.

Twitter has evolved from just thoughts and messages, however. Twitter is used to provide news, weather, comedy (jokes), gossip (kinda news), and many other types of information that its founders say they never expected. Put simply, if it can be put into words, Twitter can be used to relay the information.

On Twitter you choose whom to follow rather than being forced to watch everyone’s updates. This makes it easy to pick just a few people or friends you like to keep up with, or follow everyone under the sun if you want to try to keep track of their updates. Many people choose to follow a few celebrities that they like, some local and international news feeds, and of course their friends.

One way that I have found very convenient to use Twitter is for customer service. I know it seems hard to believe, but several companies have service departments that do nothing but monitor social media (Twitter, Facebook, forums, etc.) for customers with problems, needs, and praise.

Personally I discovered that Charter Communications has a Twitter team by accident. I ranted about some problem I had at that time using @Charter, and got a surprising reply from Eric Ketzer who is now Charter Communications’ Social Media Communications Manager. (the @ symbol is a way of mentioning another user so that they are notified) Eric actually has a whole team of people who help monitor social media (SM) outlets and assist Charter customers as needed.

Recently, Eric agreed to answer some questions from me for this article, and here are the questions and answers.

1. Why/how did you get started using Twitter as a support avenue?

We started taking a serious interest in Social Media in mid 2008. We monitored traffic on various Forums, Consumer Advocate sites, Blogs, and Social Networking sites. When we decided to start proactively engaging in January of 2009, Twitter was our top priority. The site is pretty open and has a really good search engine which allows us to find and engage our customers in real-time. We have since moved into all the areas mentioned above, but Twitter still accounts for over 70% of our traffic.

2. What are some advantages/disadvantages to support via 140 chars?

There are definitely tone limitations when trying to operate within 140 characters, really when using any written communication, but Seesmic and TweetDeck have both incorporated TwitLonger functionality, so if we feel it would be best to not break-up the communication between multiple tweets we can do that. Still, for the most part, we stay to 140. If we can reduce the dialogue to 140 we are more efficient and can get more accomplished to help our customers.

3. How do you measure success of your interactions?

Like any business organization we have key metrics that we have put in place to determine how successful we are as a team. We are particularly focused on how we are perceived in the Social Media spaces, how efficient we are, and how much SM traffic we are actually able to work. But the real measure for us is the thanks we get from our customers after we have been able to help them.

4. Oddest request?

Ya know, I started my career as a Sales Agent on the phones over 11 years ago. While I have definitely seen much more creative language used from folks in the SM world, the oddest requests that I can think of have all come from customers on the phone. Our SM customers are pretty no-nonsense. They may have used the full creative potential of their 140 in their initial post about us, but they usually have really great questions or legitimate concerns, and we are happy to be able to take care of them.

5. Additional thoughts from you or your team?

The one piece of advice that I think will help organizations that are considering engaging in Social Media the most is it is about Customer Service not Social Media. I see a lot of companies jump in these spaces, and they seem to spend more time tweeting about the power of tweeting than actually taking care of their customers. The companies that are the most successful are focused on taking care of their customers not becoming the next Social Media Guru. If you jump in fully prepared to resolve customer concerns in real-time, you cannot fail.

As you can guess, Charter is not the only company with a team dedicated to social media, however my experiences with them have always been positive, and they are an active company in our community. Should you have need of Charter’s help on Twitter, use @Charter and they will respond – quickly from my experience.

If you need assistance from another company, it may be to your advantage to ‘@’ whatever their company’s Twitter account is using for an account name. Twitter is busy, but usually not as busy as a call center where many, many other people are calling in to address an issue. Generally, they will be more concise and direct since they only have 140 characters to use in communication.

Hopefully this has been informative for you, and if you would like to follow me on Twitter, I use the account ‘danvoyles’. Happy Tweeting!