About 10 months ago, I wrote a post regarding the use of Twitter for customer service “Why do people think Twitter is a good Customer Service Platform“.

We have matured since then, ok just a little, but I do not think we completely get it, yet. When compared with the rate of change in Social Media, 10 months is a long time, but not quite long enough. Then today, BusinessWeek published an article: “Delta Monitors Twitter to Remedy Customer Complaints“. The article highlights the bright spots – Delta received a positive mention in a respected magazine. However, it seems fair to address this issue once again, maybe with the lens of, well, 10 more months of thinking about it.

I said it then, and I believe it is still true, but I might need to temper it, just a little: “Twitter is not Social CRM. Twitter is immediate gratification meets CRM” I also stated “If your customers are trying to get your attention on Twitter to solve a specific ‘me only’ problem, your processes are broken, horribly inefficient or you have product issues”. While I do believe I need to modify that statement a little bit (in a moment), I am bothered by the very first part of the BusinessWeek article:

Mike Brice skipped the queue at the Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) ticket counter and dashed off a post on Twitter Inc. when he missed his Atlanta connection en route home to Utah from South Carolina.

Within minutes, the 40-year-old communications consultant had been rebooked for the following morning by an agent on the Delta team that uses Twitter to remedy passengers’ real-time complaints—changing flights, finding lost luggage, or sharing details on weather delays.

Specifically, the bolded section above. This is the key point of of my previous post, skipping the queue, cutting in line, screaming to get atention. But, I am willing to learn, as we all are in this fast moving space. A comment on my previous post by Parature, helps to shed some light on the topic.

Regardless of whether or not it is a good customer service platform, customers are taking their issues social and they can’t be ignored, so have your support teams send them a link to a knowledgebase article or self-service portal where they can do their own search, submit a ticket or chat with a service rep. It doesn’t have to be an “all or none” channel, just an extra channel. If I tweet and someone replies with a brief answer, or a link to get an answer to my question that transaction can begin the customer service experience.

Is it a good idea, is Delta a good example?

This is a bit of trickier issue than some technology company posting links to support forums, FAQs or just saying “hey, I hear ya”. This is actually brings in a real, time sensitive issue and Twitter may not be so bad. Sure, the PR is not so bad either. To bring some real parity, however, what if Delta had a registration program where the Delta Elite members could register their Twitter handle and then be given the same level of high(er) priority service on social channels as they enjoy on the phone? Thanks to Prem Kumar for the chat on thinking through this one (disclaimer, we both have status on Delta, thus this is a bit self-serving).

I used my own support community to solicit some comments from the crowd. Where? Twitter of course, with a couple of quick Skype chats as well. Some valid points, like “It is good at PR, not sure it is right for customer support”. Or another, “Is it scalable?” That is the real question, isn’t it? If you go to the grocery store and you are 5th in line, you are late to pick up your daughter from Gymnastics practice (yeah, this is the real me) and the store sees the lines, does the smart thing (it happens every so often, really) and opens up a new register, what do you do?

Do you let the 4 people ahead of you into the new lane, or scout the progress and get ready to leap? Come on, tell the truth which is it? OK, not quite the same as Delta, but close. Revisiting my earlier quote, of myself, as Esteban Kolsky, of ThinkJar has reminded us all many times; If your customers are there, then you need to be there too (paraphrasing of course).

What are your other thoughts on this topic? Can Twitter be leveraged properly to do Customer Service?