Is Twitter for Customer Service or Damage Control?

Comcast has gotten a lot of praise for their Twitter customer service team and I don’t doubt it’s been responsible for their sharply increased rating on the American Consumer Satisfation Index (ACSI). I’ve used their team myself to resolve problems that support doesn’t or get quick answers to service questions. While I think they’re doing a valuable job, their function has been misidentified as customer service.

In my mind, customer service starts the minute you initiate contact to resolve an issue. You have an expectation that when you call in, you’re going to walk away with some kind of resolution. When you get conflicting answers from a CSR or don’t get your problem resolved by tech support, you’re not getting good customer service. By the time you’re venting on your blog, on a forum, or on your Twitter account, the damage is done: you got poor service.

When the Twitter-based customer service ninjas swoop in to try and get the problem fixed, they’re in full-on damage control mode. This isn’t to say they aren’t doing a great job of cleaning up messes; they are. But the core problem, that the customer service team failed to deliver, still hasn’t been fixed. I often don’t bother calling in with problems because I know I’m going to spend half an hour rebooting everything to have them blame my router, demand escalation, sit on hold another 15 minutes, and then face getting disconnected. It’s a lot easier to either complain online or seek out the Twitter folks to get things done.

This lesson is an important one for other service providers as a lot of former Comcast customers I’ve spoken with have sworn off ever going back because of customer service issues. Many Mstar customers have been in the same boat. Even though XMission’s DSL service is slower than Comcast and sometimes a bit more expensive, customers are fiercely loyal because the service is, by all accounts, awesome. It’s not because they’re using Twitter, it’s because they don’t have to in order to resolve customer issues.

A New Direction for Broadband Bytes

Some of you have probably noticed that the Broadband Bytes feature hasn’t been appearing on the website since March 17. There’s two reasons for this: it takes a large chunk of my Saturday to put it together (thus why it was frequently published late) and I haven’t been getting paid for it. My personal financial situation now demands that more of my time be spent earning a living, so free time is at a premium. All the same, I run into stories worth sharing on a regular basis. So do Mike and Jonathan.

To that end, I setup a Twitter account, @FreeUTOPIA, to publish those articles as we find them. It’s going to be powered by Phil Windley’s code used by the most excellent @utahpolitics. If you’re not using Twitter, that’s okay; I’m going to setup the Twitter Tools plugin to publish those tweets on a daily basis. It should be ready to go by tomorrow.

If you have any questions, comments, or rude noises, sound off in the comments.

Coming Soon: The FreeUTOPIA Podcast

It’s time to take to the digital “airwaves” here at FreeUTOPIA. The other night, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run a regular podcast to highlight service providers, talk about UTOPIA and discuss the state of telecommunictions in general. I’m working on lining up a guest for February and have one lined up for March.

When looking around for the best way to do it, I found that, of all things, TeamSpeak is a pretty darn good platform. The software is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, it supports recording and moderation, plus there’s a text chat feature. Listeners can ask questions in text chat or even be given temporary speaking privileges to ask questions just like a caller to a radio show.

If you have a show or guest idea (or would like to be a guest yourself), send me an e-mail or use the #freeutopia tag on Twitter.