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There I wrote it. That's right... when you stop and think about it, Twitter really sucks for customer service.

And that's coming from a guy who has written in the past about how to use social media to recover from a customer service disaster. Or how companies have successfully used Twitter to deliver a better customer service experience. Yes I, like many of you, am a huge beliver in and user of Twitter as a customer service tool. I rarely call 1-800 numbers any more, instead I just find the company on Twitter and tweet them. It usually works. So why am I now writing this?

Yesterday Matt Ridings wrote this great post about how social media is changing business as we know it. And I quote:

            It's A Business Revolution

Yes, this is a revolution, but it's a business revolution not a social media revolution.  Social media has led us down the yellow brick road and opened the curtain to expose the weaknesses in our business structures.  It has helped us frame the proper questions, but now it's back in the hands of the wizard to find the answers.  We are now challenged with how to make our businesses flex and adapt to this new age much like the Wizard of Oz when he was exposed and forced to think of new ways to get Dorothy home .

And it struck me, he's absolutely right.

The need for better customer service has always been there and consumers' desire for great customer service isn't going anywhere. And that's one of the "revolutions" of which he speaks. (Matt, if I got it wrong, let me know in the comments.)

Consumers don't need, and I'd dare say want, Twitter as a Customer Service tool. They just want customer service, and right now, the place they're getting it is on Twitter...so they flock.

But honestly, I can think of at least 5 reasons why Twitter sucks as a customer service tool vs phone/email.

  1. It's 140 characters long. That's great for "dude, who moved my cheese" but for those of us that have slightly more intricate issues, the 140 character limit makes it harder, not easier, to lodge our complaint.
  2. You have to be on Twitter to get a response. There is no built in way to get notified of the response from the company... so Twitter Customer Service is actually more of a pull vs push system. Inherently more difficult.
  3. It's impossible for the company Customer Service Rep to hand me off to someone that can solve my problem without breaking the paper trail. As a customer, I'd always like to have a paper trail. Paper trails are easy with something like eMail. The representative just emails me that they are handing me off and cc's the new person. Presto -- the conversation continues and I have every contact in a single, neatly organized, time/date stamped place.
  4. It's public -- or at least the first tweet is public. So that means the customer risks looking like a whiner and the company is guaranteed at least one negative sentiment tweet that day. As a company, wouldn't you rather keep this kind of stuff behind the scenes vs public?
  5. Not everyone is on Twitter. In fact, I think I saw something yesterday that said it was like 7% of the US online population is active on Twitter. I don't have the exact stats of phone/email penetration in the US, but I'm guessing I'm safe in assuming it's pretty much higher than the Twitter penatration.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Customer Service is much better delivered via email or phone. Yet, we turn to Twitter because companies have done a poor job of making that email/phone channel work for us. But, if companies would devote attention and resources to making the "Help@Brand.com" a more real-time response tool or add more operators (preferably ones we can understand) to handle their customer service lines, ask yourself if you'd still prefer to tweet your problem/issue or just email/pick up the phone?

But that's just me... the opinionated social media consultant that likes a debate... what do you think?