Friday, April 3, 2009

CEO's Embrace Twitter

Several companies have earned notoriety for their use of Twitter. Here are a few:

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh




Tony is a big fan of Twitter - for personal use. (As in, not to make money.) You can tell because:
* he created the "Beginner's Quick Start Guide and Tutorial to Using Twitter."

* He writes, "...but I promise you if you can talk your friends into joining it and you all use it for 2 weeks, it will change your life. You will wonder how you ever lived without it."

Here are a couple of his posts:

Got into hotel late in Orlando so ordered room service. First time I've ever seen any place automatically add 21% for gratuity.

Seriously bizarre moment: Gardener knocks on my door this morning and asks for shots of tequila. I hope my trees don't grow sideways.

At doctor's office. Just had 4 vials of blood drawn for my physical. I don't remember a needle hurting this much, but it sure woke me up! :)


* The Zappos website has an entire page dedicated just to Twitter - it lists all of Tony's posts, as well as the posts of 454 Zappos employees.

source: Zappos + Twitter = Innovative Success!, by Sage Lewis, Search Engine Watch, Oct 23, 2008


JetBlue

JetBlue opened a Twitter account to monitor comments made about JetBlue. In response to what they found, they started offering real time deals. For example, when the Twitter community started talking about difficulties finding flights to/from South by Southwest (SXSW), JetBlue offered more flights.

JetBlue also responds in real time to individual consumers' needs. For example, a Twitter user needed a wheelchair for her grandmother’s JetBlue flight. She decided to post a quick message to Twitter before calling customer service, saying: JetBlue, I need a Wheelchair!. Before the customer could reach the JetBlue customer service desk, a representative handling JetBlue’s Twitter account had responded to the customer, offering to put the customer directly in touch with someone who could help.




ComcastCares

Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care, oversees a unit within Comast called ComcastCares. Based in Philadelphina, the team of seven employees uses Twitter to resolve Comcast customers' concerns coming from across the USA.

Another way to find out if you’re being bashed or praised on the Internet? Blogs. The Comcast Care team reads more than 1500 over the course of a week. “When I started about a year ago in the customer service area, people kept bringing me blogs showing people talking about Comcast.” He goes on to say, “It was clear there was public discussion about us, and once we started to reach out to these bloggers, it’s just perpetuated itself.” Shortly after, one of his team told him about Twitter and the tweeting began.

Here, Frank provides advice to other businesses who want to use Twitter for customer service purposes:



Also check out these Twitter Tips for businesses:

Do Your Homework
Twitter might not be for everyone, so before you start in and post one single “tweet”, do a little homework. Tweetscan and Twitter Search are two ways to see if your customers are even talking about you. If they are, see what they have to say, but say nothing just yet. Search for your competition, too. If either of you are being discussed, good or bad, it’s probably a strong indication you need to be there. Another way to find out if you’re being bashed or praised on the Internet? Blogs. The Comcast Care team reads more than 1500 over the course of a week. “When I started about a year ago in the customer service area, people kept bringing me blogs showing people talking about Comcast.” He goes on to say, “It was clear there was public discussion about us, and once we started to reach out to these bloggers, it’s just perpetuated itself.” Shortly after, one of his team told him about Twitter and the tweeting began. Their first tweet was to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, read his story here.

Pay Attention First
Go ahead and set up your profile, but Frank points out that a common mistake for some businesses is to jump right on Twitter and start talking or even following customers who are talking about them. Customers can get turned off right away, so it’s important to just listen for awhile and understand the conversations before deciding to reply or comment. You’ll have a better idea of how the conversations are going, the general types of complaints or comments, so later, you’ll be better prepared to manage your replies and help. You never want to come off as a “stalker” or as my kid puts it, “a creeper.” Respect the consumers space and let them talk first and actively listen, you’ll learn much.

Personalize It
It’s true, when someone has an obscure or indistinguishable picture, I’m not sure what to make of it. When it’s a business and it’s just a logo, you really aren’t sure who you’re tweeting with. Frank recommends having a profile for each on your team and putting a picture of yourself and making your bio a little more personal, so it’s less “corporate”. Personalizing things doesn’t end with the profile, and needs to carry over to your messaging. “I came from a financial services background, so communications were always a little more stiff and formal. People on Twitter remarked that I should “loosen up” a bit, so I did, and I think it’s helped me reach people better.”That doesn’t mean you can start dropping f-bombs, it just means to write in a more casual way, adding a human element to your words.

Be Eager to Help
It seems like an obvious thing, but in customer service, you are there to help. Instead of viewing complaints as just that, look at instead as opportunity to fix something or change a way your company is handling something. “Don’t just say you’ll check things, actually offer a solution. If they’re mad, empathize and become their advocate and don’t get defensive.” Many times, Frank said customers would not even complain directly to Comcast about an issue with a program change or bad service, but would do so publicly. “This is a great opportunity to solve a problem maybe even more quickly than if they did call in.” His team has the ability to diagnose many things remotely, and some fixes are simple, but it’s an added touch of service the customer appreciates. “There’s a snowball effect when we help someone. They usually blog or post about it and others read about it, they share the story.” To date, they’ve helped more than 7,000 customers and he said they are typically overwhelmingly thrilled, while he could count on one hand those that weren’t. With numbers like this, it’s clear why Comcast is continuing to hire and develop this segment of their service area.

So how do they reach out? “We usually use Twitter Search and see if people are talking about us and see if there’s an opportunity to reach out.” He said a simple, “Let me help you” is a good place to start, and people are surprised, but willing to accept the help. “Wow, Comcast is on Twitter” is a pretty common reaction.

Make A Commitment
Sometimes curiosity is just not enough. If you put your toe in the water, be prepared to jump all the way in. Once you begin conversing and making a presence for your company, be committed to staying engaged. Frank comments, “You have to allow customers to be themselves and not allow negative people to drive you away from this. Stay focused on helping them and solving their problem, then they will become committed to you.” He adds that, “If you just post a couple messages then disappear, you won’t have credibility.” I would add that it’s just as bad to flood your posts with salesy pitches, similar to a circular in your local paper. People that come here are looking for two-way conversation, if they want you’re product or service, they’ll seek it out. Commit to helping others first.

So there you have it, five ways to put your own company on the Twitter path to great customer service. While Frank and his team say they use other social media tools like Facebook, MySpace, Plurk, LinkedIn, and Identica, they have their best results with Twitter, that’s where their customers seem to be right now. “The world of social media continues to grow and change, so we’re always keeping our eyes out for the next “Twitter” and I test stuff out all the time.” Good advice for the rest of us.


Source: Blowing the Lid Off Customer Service: How Comcast Cares Leverages Twitter, blog BizCoachDeb.com

For more information about this topic check out BusinessWeek's article "CEO's Take On Twitter."

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