It’s effective because it allows customers to communicate with the company in a channel that they prefer (no more IVR/Phone Tree for me, please); it makes the issue public so that the company is forced to respond and act (transparency = #winning!); and it allows the company to answer questions with a human style and build brand equity (bonus: and builds content for others to search and use for self-service.)
People are raising their hands, why not answer?
If someone walked into your office, would you tell them, “please don’t talk to me, I only respond to phone calls?” Of course not. But this is the attitude many large corporations display when they ask customers to contact them in only one way.
Truth = corporations need to scale, cannot answer every customer in the same way, and need a way to quantify what they do, which is most convenient in email/call centers/CRM systems. But people don’t really care what option you prefer them to use. They just want you to answer. So Twitter is a great option because from the customer’s perspective, they just ask – and you figure it out. (Clearly, from the company view, you need to gather and triage these requests just like any other, but there are lots of good ways to do this.)
Open Communication = Win
Would you rather do business with a company that communicated with you publicly or one that only responded irregularly and never stated its intentions? I’d rather deal with the company that published information to the web, answered questions, and generally made the parts of its business that could be public, well, public.
Acknowledged = that not every business can communicate this way, that there are secrets and private information that should not be shared on an open channel (e.g. medical, financial, or otherwise regulated details) but the initial contact can most definitely be made on an open channel in many cases.
Your Employees are People and Your Customers Are People – Why Not Let Your Brand Reflect That?
There are lots of brands that are doing an outstanding job of sounding like people, not like, well, committees. Virgin America, Zappos, and Ford are doing a great job in social media, and (surprise!) I also want to do business with them. Even better, when I communicate with these companies on closed, non-transparent channels, I feel like the same brand proposition and value still transmits in these other mediums. (Win!)
Finally, it’s good to note that trying to act in a public or transparent way, treating customers like human beings, and trying to answer their questions in a way that reinforces a friendly, helping brand will also build a large store of indexable, searchable content that might short-circuit many inbound questions, provide self-service options (and save your company money.) That’s a lot of benefits derived simply from thinking that Twitter is a good way to conduct customer service. A focus on the customer leads, overall, to a better Customer Experience.
Follow the discussion on Quora.