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Major companies using Twitter for customer service

Twitter customer serviceAs part of formulating LexBlog’s plan on the use of Twitter for client service, Stacey Merrick, our Client Services Director, discovered this article by BusinessWeek’s Rachael King about major corporate brands using Twitter for customer service.

Companies have figured out Twitter provides the opportunity to listen to what customers are saying about their brands, and to respond. Still, it’s not easy for a corporation to strike the right tone on Twitter. Some brands on Twitter seem too formal and stilted while others seem interested in using it only as a one-way PR channel. And then there’s the delicate issue of corporations following unsuspecting customers and responding to their complaints about brands. Even though the intentions are good, it might be a bit startling for customers to find out the folks from the brand are eavesdropping on their tweets.

Twitter allows anyone, including companies, to send brief text updates to groups of people who have signed up to “follow” their messages. In addition Twitter Search, just like Google’s Blog Search does for blogs, allows anyone to monitor keywords and key phrases, including your company name, to hear what people are ‘twittering’ about.

Looking at the number of people they’re following, the number following them, and the number of updates, King identified the companies using Twitter well.

  • Zappos (view CEO’s tweets) following 10,598, with 10,583 followers, and 945 updates is my personal favorite and a role model to observe. Look at the Twitter page on Zappo’s website labeled ‘What are Zappos employees doing right now?’ There are more than 400 Zappos workers on Twitter. Tony Hsieh, their CEO, tweets about nearly everything. I direct Tweeted Tony inquiring about his favorite customer service book and received a response in a couple hours with his favorite and a link to the whole Zappos Library. Tony’s encouraged employees to Twitter as a way to build a cohesive corporate culture.
  • Comcast (view tweets), with a team of 7, is following 3,116, has 3,071 followers, and has 11,753 updates. The company listens to what customers had to say and replies with private tweets to offer help.
  • Dell (view tweets) following 1,747, with 1,638 followers, and 2,936 updates has more than 20 Twitter channels catering to different audiences, including international ones.
  • General Motors (view tweets) following 411, with 683 followers, and 729 updates began Twittering at auto shows to publicize certain events, but then discovered it gained traction when it started engaging in conversations with customers.
  • H&R Block (view tweets) following 797, with 593 followers, and 253 updates originally thought of Twitter as a free and easy way to push messages out to people, but as time went on realized it made more sense to use Twitter to listen to people and respond (need not be a follower to respond). They now feel Twitter has been the most effective tool they have to form a relationship with customers.
  • JetBlue (view tweets) following 3,749, with 3,874 followers, and 237 updates began to monitor and use social media as a way to reach out to customers directly in the aftermath of its highly publicized February 2007 flight delays. They now use Twitter get a feel for the ‘JetBlue community,’ and to communicate with passengers about weather delays and field questions about things like why JetBlue charges $7 for pillows and blankets.
  • Kodak (view tweets) following 449, with 373 followers, and 484 updates began using Twitter as an entertainment and information tool to share personal experiences during the Olympics in China to put a personal face on the brand and build a one-on-one relationship with customers.
  • Southwest (view tweets) following 2,735, with 2,605 followers, and 848 updates shares the case of passenger, Christofer Hoff, whose flight was delayed two hours, and then his luggage went missing. While waiting around, he tweeted his displeasure. Southwest responded the next morning with the following Twitter message: “Sorry to hear about your flight –- weather was terrible in the NE. Hope you give us a 2nd chance to prove that Southwest = Awesomeness.” Southwest followed up to make sure his flight home was a better experience. Hoff recounted the experience in a blog post.
  • Whole Foods Market Southwest (view tweets) following 3,473, with 3,239 followers, and 481 updates even offers $25 gift cards for the tweet of the day, one of which was ‘Stepping into Whole Foods is stepping into a sociological case study.’

Companies, including law firms, need to understand that Twitter users are the ‘super amplifiers.’ Easy to say, ‘heck they only have 500 or 600 Twitter followers, we’ve got 2,500 subscribers to our pdf emails and we know who those recipients are.’ But those followers have 500 or 600 followers who also have 500 or 600 followers and so on and so on.

All day long people Tweet their displeasures and the small surprises in life.

Word spreads like wild fire on Twitter. First to followers, then onto followers of followers, then onto bloggers, then onto the person on the street, and then onto the main stream media.

Look for the LexBlog customer support Twitter feed coming to your neighborhood soon.

Related post:

  • http://pincushion.mobi/ Jonathan

    The fastest response from several companies I have ever gotten was when tweeting about the fact that their sales people didn’t seem to care to call me back. 10 days waiting was turned into 10 minutes on more than one occasion.
    Professionally, the thing that bugs me about the Twitter for business craze is that Twitter only has 3-4 million users. (Not a small #, but only 1-2% of the US consumer market.) I’ve been looking at other ways of bringing CRM into the 21st century and have come up with Pincushion (pincushion.mobi), which is about flexible mobile connection between businesses and all of their customers.

  • http://twitter.com/littlemissmatch LittleMissMatched

    Enjoyed the article. Some great takes, we are new to this tool and learning how the service can work for us.
    http://twitter.com/littlemissmatch

  • http://www.airbagindustries.com Greg

    Great list. Don’t forget smaller and very successful web-based companies like 37signals have been using Twitter to keep people up to date on server downtime or unexpected performance issues.

  • http://blog.networksolutions.com Connie Bensen

    Our social media team at Network Solutions are also using Twitter for Customer Service with @netsolcares
    That is part of the reason that we’re a finalist for the SNCR New Communications Award in the listening category. Twitter is powerful!