I debated when I started this series of posts whether I should use a specific service as the example or be more general. I chose to use Twitter because of the traction it has in the market and it's pretty easy to explain.
I've received some feedback here and on other blogs about how unlikely it would be to actually use Twitter for customer service. While I think that it is entirely possible to use Twitter (companies already are), especially if your audience is on the service, we need to look more broadly. Don't get hung up on Twitter.
A huge part of being a social media strategist and identifying what's next is breaking down new applications into their core pieces. So, let's break down Twitter. First off, Twitter is cleanly designed and the interaction is simple and intuitive. The most important point is that you can send data to it from the web, mobile, IM, email or desktop applications. Alternatively, you can receive data from it in the same manner. You publish how you want, when you want and you receive in the same manner.
There are a couple of ways that I can see Micromedia evolving to allow more companies to use a Twitter-like service for customer support.
- The re-branded Twitter: If you didn't catch the mid-January blog post, the underlying messaging service for Twitter is now available as an open source platform. It's codenamed Starling and companies can start developing now to create their customer service platform.
- The enterprise option: This could be based on the aforementioned Starling framework or something entirely new. The point here is that a company could host and integrate real time messaging into their support system. Customers could communicate how they want, when they want, where they want. The company would have their own SMS short code, email address and would need the staff to support it. Real time is scary, but it presents an opportunity to create strong, personal relationships with customers. Isn't that what it's all about?
- Something amazingly new: Twitter is limited to text. People have built applications on top of Twitter that use other types of media, but it ends in text. The next level of this type of service is to use video, audio and photos in addition to the text. Services like Utterz and Jaiku take strides toward this, but they lack the level of community that Twitter offers. Advances in mobile technology could allow real time video support anywhere, anytime.
The common theme is on-demand. The customer's demand. Right now too many customer experiences happen at the company's convenience, but the best service companies act when the customer needs them. I recognize that scaling up is an issue and programs like this should be rolled out in manageable waves, but the move is inevitable. If you don't offer it the next company will.