Twitter is getting another big wave of adoption and many people are asking again what it’s for. How could short broadcasted text messages limited to 140 characters be useful? What utility could it possible have?
For tech support organizations I think it’s very useful, in two primary ways:
1. for “eavesdropping” on people who are talking about your company or product, and starting a conversation with them
2. as a signaling mechanism – a way to get a short, simple status message or announcements to an interested group.
For a tech support organization to actively go out into the world seeking customers with questions and problems may seem strange. Most support organizations work very hard just to respond promptly to the customers who are submitting their problems directly. But we all know that if you can identify a problem early, you can respond better and minimize both the work and, more importantly, the impact on customers.
Twitter is great for eavesdropping because of its format. The short comments in twitter make it a great vehicle for the quick response, or the snide comment. The re-tweet makes it easy for any idea to “go viral”, moving quickly through twitter to thousand of people and creating a wave of related commentary. A viral tweet is a good early warning for any emergent problem of course. But the responses may surprise you. Some of your customers may even come to your defense.
Good news is that Twitter allows you to be proactive in your support efforts as you can monitor/eavesdrop on different conversations and engage with these users, providing helpful suggestions and answering their questions.
This requires a lot of effort on a part of support team, as they need to actively reach out to the people tat mention you brand and find the right balance between helpful and annoying or even creepy (a lot of people don’t realize their Tweets are public and searchable).
Tech support teams should also use Twitter as their own signaling tool. Think about what sort of notices would be useful to your customers. If you are an electrical utility, like PG&E, some of your rural customers may want to subscribe to outage notices for their area. If you are an ISP or web-hosting provider, it may be security notices or maintenance schedules. if you are running a beta-test of a new version of your software product, it may be revision release announcements to your beta testers.
Various integration tools available allow Twitter to even be useful to people who don’t use Twitter. You can connect Twitter to you organization’s blog or support website so that anyone with a computer can see the Tweets. You can make your tweets an RSS feed that your customers can receive with the tool of their choice. I’ll write more about some of these tools in the coming days.
So I’m curious. How are you using twitter now? What are your plans? I’ll be writing more on how to use Twitter and other tools, so where should I start?