Customer service a tweet away

Tired of listening to cheesy hold music for hours? With more people using Twitter, customer service departments have started following suit.

In my previous blog post, I discussed how building an online community around your brand also has customer service benefits, but what if your only goal is to provide customer service via Twitter?

Providing customer service via Twitter is a complicated task, but it centers around your responsiveness to your customers.

Searching for and promoting your brand on twitter are essential. Your customers need to know you are on Twitter.

The second key is responsiveness. If people are tweeting frustration about your brand and these tweets go unanswered, the view of your brand will decrease.

Take a look at Seesmic’s Support, @askseesmic.

A Twitter user was frustrated at a change to the way the Seesmic application handles retweets and tweeted the following:

@BrookeLogan09: Seesmic i HATE u for messing w/ the RT system

Seesmic responded quickly with:

@askseesmic: @BrookeLogan09 which app is this for? Let me know here to listen and help! thanks! ^cw

About six tweets and 30 minutes later @BrookeLogan09 had her problem solved and gratefully tweeted:

@BrookeLogan09: Seesmic team is THE BEST!!!!! —-> @askseesmic

Seesmic not only found a tweet that wasn’t directed at them, but solved the problem in a public manner. Anyone can see this exchange and note that Seesmic is responsive to the needs of their customers.

The one downfall is if you fail to help a customer, you are likely to get called out on it.

Last week, Claire Celsi, a PR professional from Des Moines, Iowa, called Dell out on the numerous problems she had with various products.

Her first tweet on this issue expressed her total frustration at the situation she was in.

@clairecelsi: Computer repair guy just called. 6 month old, lightly used Dell laptop blew a hard drive, under warranty. Dell sucks. DELL SUCKS

Over the next few days Celsi continued to tweet about her situation, even mentioning @dell. Without success she directed tweets at @dell and @teamblackhawk, Dell’s sales team for home users.

Eventually, @schippers mentioned that @lionelatdell may be able to help and Lionel reached out to her.

Celsi’s experience transitioned to e-mail and you can follow how her story turned out in her blog post here.

While Celsi’s experience may not be typical, it highlights the need to actively monitor your brand on Twitter because if you don’t the results will linger in cyberspace forever.

Here are some of the other companies I found providing customer service via Twitter: AT&T, Comcast, Constant Contact, CoTweet (who also supplies an application to help companies manage their Twitter accounts) and HootSuite (another maker of a Twitter application for businesses).

Do you have stories about getting help via Twitter? Comment and let me know.