After reading Tyler Kearn's great post about the dangers of "by default" corporate twittering, I stumbled across* a really interesting interview with Guy Stephens, online help manager at The Carphone Warehouse (CPW), about how the mobile phone retailer uses micro-blogging for customer service.
The whole interview is a must-read for anyone using social media to interact with customers, but here are some highlights.
- Choose the channels your customers are choosing. Because it's a technology retailer -- and because it has a decent slug of young, tech-savvy patrons -- CPW knows it can hear from and reach its customers using services like Twitter.
- You can't hide on Twitter. Email and phone calls are one-on-one, so the resolution of problems is private. Twitter is public. That means customers problems are there for all to see -- but so are your resolutions. Many solutions also come from "bystanders", people watching your conversations. As a company, then, you have to embrace both openness and collaboration. (Stephens adds that you need to be prepared to work across your own company's functional boundaries, too...)
- You can have more than one identity. CPW has a more formal Twitter account for formal corporate announcements. Its customer service Twitter accounts are personalised and less starchy.
- Be clear about you how you want to use Twitter -- but don't be shy. Stephens says it's the sort of thing that you need to dive into to find out how it might work in the long run. But even short-term, it's worth having some specific goals in mind.
I'd add a really obvious one: even if you don't transmit via Twitter, you absolutely must be listening on it. There's bound to be someone in your organisation who has an application like Tweetdeck or Seesmic open on their desktop all day. Well, instead of admonishing them for wasting time, make them an offer.
They can keep an eye on their Twitter feed, so long as they set up searches for your company's name and those of your key brands (or, perhaps, competitors). Presto! You've just established a real-time customer feedback system for zero outlay. Congratulations!
* And when I say "stumbled across", I mean that the writer (an old colleague, as it happens) tweeted that he'd secured the interview...