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Twitter as customer service shortcut?

By Andrew Heining / March 23, 2009

Jake Turcotte/CSMonitor.com

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Tweet your troubles away.

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Everyone's least favorite microblogging site is a great place to find out what your friends are having for lunch, what's happening at that amazing tech conference you didn't attend, and how delayed your coworker's flight back from the Caribbean just happens to be. But turns out it's pretty good for getting customer service issues resolved, too.

You see, it's not just tech bloggers (follow us!), professional cyclists, and former presidential candidates who are using Twitter these days. Comcast has an account (@ComcastCares). So do Bank of America (@BofA_help), Dish Network (@dishnetwork), JetBlue (@JetBlue), and a host of others.

But even if you can't find your [least] favorite company on Twitter, tweeting about a less-than-stellar customer service experience could get you traction. As the service has taken off – now up to more than 8 million users – brands have begun to pay attention to the impact of negative buzz in the (oh gosh, I'm about to say it) ... twittersphere. In example after example, tweets are getting results.

This week, Salesforce.com announced that it was integrating Twitter search, monitoring, and response into Sales Cloud, an enterprise customer-service package. Companies' customer service reps can now interact directly with Twitter users from within their customer service software.

The transition of Twitter from quirky web oddity to mainstream player isn't new. It's much the same thing as what Jeff Jarvis caused in 2005 when he blogged about his dismal experience with Dell. His post got picked up all over the place, and all of a sudden the blogosphere could affect a company's bottom line. Bloggers, once a weird subspecies of Internet-dweller, now had the ear of major corporations.

Now it's Twitter's turn to be taken seriously.

A road to profitability?

Beneath the breathless praise from Twitter fanboys, there's always been an underlying drone – how will Twitter make money. It's tried ads in searches. Some have said they'd pay large sums to be included in the site's "suggested users," a list that pops up when someone signs up for the service.

Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang thinks managing buzz – brand analytics – could be Twitter's ticket to monetization. He writes:

Although they have not directly said it, I think Twitter can go further than this, they could be their own CRM system, by perhaps offering their own analytics system to brands, that will help them to track and manage the conversations within the 140 sphere. This has tremendous opportunities for Twitter should they create their own brand management system that they can resell to the world’s companies to monitor, alert, track, prioritize, triage, assign, followup, and report on the interactions with brands.

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