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Top Ten Benefits of Using Twitter for Service and Support

Customers will increasingly look for companies to provide support on non-traditional social channels. While delivering service and support via Twitter is clearly not a substitute for traditional customer service, it does have a potential role and a long list of benefits for companies who want to make sure that they address all populations of users, on all the channels where they live and play. Presenting's Top Ten List: The Benefits of Using Twitter to Provide Service and Support

1. Respond to support requests in real time

There's nothing like immediate resolution to satisfy our culture of instant gratification. Customer expectations are higher for quick responses, and the definition of "now" is defined in nanoseconds. Twitter is lightning fast and nimble.

2. Monitor  and intervene quickly to protect reputation and improve customer experience during urgent or crisis situations

Unexpected down time and service outages are frustrating for everyone. Use Twitter to show empathy, keep your base informed, and accept blame. You'll do your brand proud. Customers crave and value transparency and authenticity and these crises are the times to display your true colors. Twitter is also useful as the “canary in the mine”—a listening post and early-warning system that is very good at spotting areas where you need to correct course or clarify messaging.

People are going to talk about you no matter what. Case in point: Johnathan Saar was in the middle of a lecture and had an Aha Moment when he did a random search on the keywords "property management." Here's what appeared:

The point was made. When you know what's being said, you can step in. You have to step in, really.

3. Gather actionable data by listening to customers

Customer service statistics are golden. This is how Proctor & Gamble knew there was a market for an all-temperature detergent. Customers told them that the new fabrics of the era were causing them to have to do more washloads at varying temperatures. The most popular detergent of the day was the result, so remember— revenues are lying like hidden jewels inside customers' heads. Okay, I could have come up with a better metaphor for that. Why don't you Tweet me a better one!

4. Gain exposure for your brand

Obvious, but true. The more publicity, the more exposure, the better. Twitter can help the brand shine.

5. Track and monitor the entire conversation about your brand and segment

What is being said about your company in the Twittersphere? Know the terrain, know your competition's Twitter universe, have a good feel of what's trending. You'll learn a lot about what your customers are interested in. Use this information elsewhere in the company (blog posts, talking points, corporate communications).

6. Nurture online community

Every person who reads your stream or interacts with you as a result is another member of your community—and community is one of the best ways to move along the customer relationship. Don't worry if this seems to go slowly. Just think of it as a slowly building wave

7. Release product updates and other informative updates to reduce support costs

A Tweet in time saves nine . . . Needlepoint this onto your wall. Automate updates so that they post several times for best coverage . These and other informative updates can act as a kind of proactive self-service, heading off support requests. Added bonus: when you do see issues, you can correct messaging wherever it's causing confusion.

8. Provide valuable and interesting content to attract new business and earn the trust of existing customers

This is the art of the Tweet. It's arrived at by a combination of your personality, your company's culture and goals, and your information-gathering skills. When you know your segment through Twitter, you can gather the wheat and let the chaff free. Hone in on what matters to your followers, and give them more of it. Be generous and re-Tweet your followers' interesting links. Let your personality show a bit; be a real person. The most successful companies using Twitter— like Dunkin' Donuts, with Dunkin' Dave as their Tweet guy—understand that you build a relationship person to person.

9. Interact with and understand populations who use Twitter only—to the exclusion of other contact with your organization

Some customers may relate to your company only through Twitter. You'll find out who they are over time. These people are getting all the information about your brand through Twitter, so they are of particular interest. With awareness, you can better build community with them through this channel.

10. Respond quickly before moving to more robust channels

If a resolution can be communicated in 140 characters, all to the good, but you may also want to move people to private or more suitable channels for full support (e.g., "send us a DM with your email or phone #"). The world sees that you are responsive. The customer gets a more complete answer. The situation is resolved in a more private setting.

Providing service and support via Twitter is a hot topic these days. The debate goes on about whether Twitter can scale and whether automation will play a role in that scalability. In addition, challenges existcompliance is an issue of concern to industries like banking, mutual funds, and insurance.

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