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Twitter Jitters in Customer Service

by Michael Maoz  |  April 14, 2010  |  8 Comments

So far this week I have addressed, interacted with, or spoken with in person, about 250 people, all of whom have been managers in Customer Service organizations of various sizes.  Some say customer support, some customer care, some customer advocacy. Whatever. But of all of them I posed one question consistently, and that was:  Do you have a Twitter strategy for Customer Support? I was in for a surprise.

I expected that at least 30-40 percent of managers would have said they had at least the beginnings of a Twitter strategy. Everything from CIO magazines to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have written copiously about the wonders of the Tweet. It seems that they just need to produce content to feed the media beast, because in the end only 15% of Customer Service executives said that they have a strategy. Over 50% said that they don’t have so much as a Twitter account. Another 35% said they either were aware of pilots in the Marketing department, or that they themselves had a pilot going to ‘mess around’ with Twitter.

Maybe 15% with a basic strategy in place is a good percentage for April 2010.  Those folks tended to be in the business-to-business area, but there were also a couple of Retailers. What are the biggest inhibitors? I’m researching that now, and I’ll be publishing in the near future, but here is what might be happening: Twitter is open to public scrutiny. Twitter has already been grabbed by Marketing. The Customer Service folks are anxious about jumping in until the risk of creating redundant initiatives dampens down a bit. Over 50% of the folks were worried about compliance and regulation. Others were worried about consistency – capturing a Tweet and associating it with a customer record so that the next time the client calls or comes into the store or to the website, there was a chance to address their issue.

There are a ton of useful ideas on how to use a “Twitter-like” tool for Customer Service and Technical Support, and I am sure we will see that 15% grow as ‘lessons learned’ begin to disseminate. If you have great stories: tell them!

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Category: crm  customer-centric-web  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  twitter  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Twitter Jitters in Customer Service

  1. Louis Columbus says:


    Interesting post and thanks for anchoring your points in a percentage breakdown, it helps to get a sense of the adoption.

    The B2B audience you spoke with may have equally conservative customers who have not adopted Twitter. The flip side of your analysis, how many customers of these companies are on Twitter, would be interesting to know.

    Given how hard hit B2B companies have been by the recession you would expect they would embrace the opportunity to connect with customers more than traditional service channels allow.

    Possibly seeing Twitter not as a fad or legal risk but as a strategy of complete accountability for their company’s customer service, complete with an actual person owning the Twitter account, might make a difference. In the case studies mentioned in Groundswell the B2B companies who use social networks for customer service strategies decide to put skin in the game, they become accountable.

    It’s interesting to see how Comcast’s CEO talks about Twitter as a means to changing his company’s culture to be more customer-centric. Granted this is a B2C company yet what they did – putting skin in the game, being completely accountable to customers for their customer service performance – is working. Here is the clip from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts:

    The real value of social networks actually has little to do with technology; it has a lot to do with companies choosing to be more accountable and stand by their customer service performance, and listen more than before. In a sense social networks are forcing companies to own the customer experience more than ever before.

    Thank you,

  2. Adam Honig says:


    We are hearing about a lot of companies where not having a Twitter strategy results in customers ‘queue jumping’ and getting their issues resolved outside of the normal channels.

    As a CRM consultancy we don’t encourage this type of behavior, but when our 401K provider was giving us terrible service and then not providing us with an escalation path, I tweeted \@[Firm] we’re getting horrible service from [account manager], he won’t tell us his boss’ name, can you?\

    End result was I got a call from the VP responsible for the division and no response on Twitter. (Full story here: The issue was ultimately resolved, but not before we moved away from the vendor.


  3. Michael, very interesting post and i cant wait to read your research in its entirety. We have had a few of our customers actually come to us and ask us about Social Media strategy and how they see it fit within customer service. Its probably less that 10% for sure. Interestingly enough a majority o them were also interested in Facebook and how they could bring that mainstream as a conversation channel.

    I believe we will soon get a chance to talk to you about our new version nGen CIM 9.0 where we have introduced a social media channel that can integrate with channels such as Twitter. Just bringing that to the agent desktop and having the framework that contact center are so used to is important IMHO. Anyways, more later.


  4. Paul Hopkins says:

    Great post Michael.

    As someone who has set up a customer support channel via Twitter (@easyjetcare), compnaies still do not understand who Twitter works and therefore not willing to look at Twitter.

    Many organisations must realise that offering customer services is not about running call centers but engaging with customers in a way that is on the terms of the customer, ie via social media, web chat etc.

    Companies should only start using these channels if they are willing to make changes, it not worth developing Twitter strategies etc if they are not willing to change customer experience issues.


  5. […] this could be via Facebook, Twitter or even a customer forum. In a recent post on the Gartner blog; Twitter Jitters in Customer Service, Michael Maoz questioned 250 customer service executives, he found only 15% had a Twitter strategy […]

  6. […] this could be via Facebook, Twitter or even a customer forum. In a recent post on the Gartner blog; Twitter Jitters in Customer Service, Michael Maoz questioned 250 customer service executives; he found only 15% had a Twitter strategy […]

  7. Partha Dutta says:

    Using Twitter as part of the customer service strategy is really a move that enterprises should be looking forward to. The huge potential that Twitter has coupled with the fact that any decent phone now has a support for Twitter , gives any company the edge they are looking out for, if they can manage the stream of tweets.

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