The Social Web as a Customer Support Channel

September 16, 2011
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I just had an experience that to me, typifies what I expect out of companies these days for product support. I returned to my desk and noticed that my Evernote app on my Mac Mini had not synced (had an error, actually).

I just had an experience that to me, typifies what I expect out of companies these days for product support. I returned to my desk and noticed that my Evernote app on my Mac Mini had not synced (had an error, actually). I had taken some notes earlier on my MacBook Air and wanted to review them on the other computer, one of the best advantages to using Evernote for all note taking (actually staying in sync across Mac Mini, MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad). Manual sync didn’t work, my network connection was active so I tried my iPhone, which also wasn’t syncing. Thinking that there might be a status posted online I tried the Evernote homepage, which wouldn’t load. My next step was to run a Twitter search on “Evernote”. Immediately in the results I saw the following tweet from @EvernoteStatus:  

The link takes you to a Tumblr site, status.evernote.com, which provides a feed of system status messages. My point, though, isn’t really how Evernote is keeping user up to date, but that they are keeping users up to date using a combination of social channels. In the SaaS vendor world, it’s not unusual for vendors to publish status somewhere online. Salesforce.com, for example, has long maintained trust.salesforce.com, where it publishes a very detailed status page with multiple RSS feeds that a customer can use to turn the pull model of a web page into more of a push model. I’ve seen many ways that SaaS vendors update status ranging from web pages to blogs to social media sites. What I appreciated about the Evernote experience was this combination of pull, the status page, with push, the Twitter feed. 

SaaS vendors have a high service level with their customers, of course, so having some public way to update status and maintenance downtimes, is essential. Using social channels for support isn’t just limited to software vendors though. The concept of opening up social communication channels to reach customers “when, where and how” they choose, applies across a broad range of industries, BtoC and BtoB. I talked about the changing expectations of customers and the use of social for customer support here, so I won’t go back through all of the details. What this incident reinforces to me though, is how powerful simple changes to your support strategy can be.

When it comes to social customer service there are really two basic techniques that you can add. The first is building and operating customer support communities. The second is opening up social channels in addition to your “normal” channels like voice, email, web form, chat, etc. Channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tunblr, when added to your existing channels really increase your opportunity to delight customers in ways that the customers finds comfortable. Often the biggest win from a support standpoint is simply keeping customers up to date in a very transparent way to problems and how you are working to resolve them. Openness and transparency go a long way toward building and maintaining trust…and remember trust is hard to build but very easy to lose. Have you seen other ways that companies are using the social web for customer service?