“Hey Comcast, is it just me, or is cable service down in my area?” Those words set me on the path of becoming a true believer in the power of social media for customer service issues. When my cable TV stopped working for certain channels, my first reaction was to call Comcast to find out what was going on. I soon decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle of going through the various IVR menus until I finally reached a customer service representative to answer my question. I quickly remembered that Comcast has a presence on Twitter and monitors it to see when Comcast is mentioned. I posted my tweet, and quickly got a response from ComcastBonnie (“The Official Comcast Person”) who asked for my zip code so she could look into the problem. She quickly tweeted back that there were no outages in my area, and asked for more information on my issue. After a couple tweets back and forth, we were able to figure out the problem and how to solve it. This all happened in less time than it would have taken had I called Comcast and waited for an agent to help me. I recently learned that besides ComcastBonnie, Comcast has 9 other people monitoring Twitter and are part of the company’s Digital Care Department.

 

Since then I’ve been gathering other stories about how social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. have been helping companies provide better customer service. Companies like Ford, Alaska Air, DirecTV, Southwest Air, Dell, and many others have been at the forefront of using social media tools, including but not limited to Twitter, to help the companies better interact with customers and to help solve customer issues.

 

Using social media tools helps companies be not just reactive, but proactive. If someone tweets, “Is anyone having problem with CNN reception on DirecTV?” for example, DirecTV can reach out to the individual and find out what the problem is, before that person even has a chance to complain. This is what customer service is all about.

 

And it’s not just Twitter – companies are also using Facebook for customer service issues. Microsoft, for example, has a Facebook page called Microsoft Customer Service and Support. It provides information such as important links, and a way to connect with people at Microsoft to get needed information. Panasonic Australia launched support services for several products through Twitter and Facebook so that customers can contact Panasonic support reps and receive replies with further information and fixes or links to product how-to videos on YouTube. Salesforce.com provides customers with a Facebook application and a Twitter plug-in, enabling them to both ask questions and provide answers on the social networking sites. The company is also hosting a “crowdsourced” database of questions and best practice tips, enabling customers to access information on the database and email their users with links to the articles.

 

Expect to see more and more companies using social media not just for customer service provided by the company itself, but in a collaborative environment where peers and other customers can help provide solutions to problems. Caution: this takes customer service out of the control of the company, which can be dangerous. While social media sites can be great for providing another source of customer contact, they have to be closely monitored to ensure that the information being provided – from both internal and external sources – are credible and accurate. This will require new tools and new ways of ensuring that customers are getting accurate and useful information.

 

 

While social media and networking sites are a great way to enhance your brand and customer service efforts, it’s important to maintain control over the quality of the support. Or else your customers will have more issues to tweet about.