Using Twitter For Customer Support Is A Waste Of Time And Money

I’m a customer of a certain cable company that invests heavily in using Twitter as a customer support vehicle. You’ve probably heard them cited by a social media expert or heard one of them speak at a conference. And when you listen to their reasoning behind investing millions of dollars into this state-of-the-art customer support channel, it makes a ton of sense.

If you tweet about problems with [this cable company], someone responds. Quickly. And they stick with you. It’s not just because you’re special though, or even just because they are. The [cable company] customer service team uses the latest and greatest social media CRM (customer relationship management) software, behind the scenes.

Smart. People are complaining about your service online so figure out a way to track and address those people. Better yet, make it a world-class service that is beyond reproach.

Except it doesn’t make sense.

Twitter for customer service is garbage. You can’t send more than 140 characters. There is no secure way to communicate without having to follow one another. Any sort of screen shot is going to become public record.

Not to mention that it takes away vital resources that could be focused on something a lot less sexy than social media customer support: actual, solid, customer support and operational excellence that results in fewer complaints being aired in the first place.

I hate complaining on Twitter. It is, very literally, the last resort. So when my home internet started flaking out on me, the first thing I did wasn’t to go to social media. In fact, my first tweet to this large cable company came after a dozen online chats with their support team and multiple opened (then cancelled by them) appointments. The enthusiasm to punt me to the next service rep, for me to monitor the situation (repeatedly), and do everything to not fully resolve my issue was absurd.

This company literally forced me to the world wide web to call out for help. I still don’t know if it is resolved but I have a slightly better understanding thanks to a Twitter customer service rep. How he had more information about what was going on with my account (and in my neighborhood) than the 12 other people in the same organization that helped me is a true mystery.

I can’t imagine what it is like to have a problem with this company without social media. It’s probably pretty crappy.

You know who hasn’t invested a ton of money into Twitter as a customer support vehicle? Amazon and Apple. As a regular joe customer, I am usually in and out in one phone call or e-mail. That’s not to say they mess up that often (they don’t) or that most of the time, I’m contacting because I messed up (I am). They still resolve it.

Oh, they aren’t a service company? Then why can every other utility company out there, even the ones that operate as a virtual monopoly, manage to resolve everything in one call or e-mail? I’m sure someone has had an issue with a utility provider but I’ve had four utility providers in the last four years and only one cable company. Can you guess which one I need to call more than once when an issue pops up?

And let’s not forget that none of them are wasting money on Twitter either.

Having a working customer service department and being operationally excellent would reduce Twitter customer service issues to questions about how to get in touch, complaints in the interim of an issue getting fixed and people with true, outlier issues. The instruction to call or e-mail for support would be an actual solution because it would actually result in a solution.

Crazy, I know.

This isn’t going to last for long. At some point (maybe? hopefully?), companies will stop throwing good money after this bad idea and they will start investing in good customer service functions that result in limited social media moaning.


  1. Absolutely! I’ve had a similar experience with [Large Computer Company]. Call real customer service, spend hours on the phone, issue unresolved. After four hours of painful phone calls and no resolution, I complained on Twitter and had an in-person house visit (for free) scheduled in minutes.

    After I had a similar experience with them twice, I stopped using their phone support altogether. It just wasn’t worth the time or effort.

    If you’re a company, what would you prefer: People call your customer support line or they publicly blast you on Twitter? I know I’d prefer the former.

    But if your traditional support channels suck and your social support channels are far better, you’re promoting public complaints about your products and services, plain and simple.

    • Lance Haun

      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      But if your traditional support channels suck and your social support channels are far better, you’re promoting public complaints about your products and services, plain and simple.

      Bingo. You nailed it.

  2. Damn those working, transparent and effective methods of customer service, such wastes of money….

    • Lance Haun

      July 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Working? Only in comparison to the substandard customer service through normal channels.

      Transparent? Yes, to the detriment of fixing the situation because you don’t want to air everything that has gone wrong in a public forum.

      Effective? Only if you consider sending a string of 20 tweets to explain a complicated situation effective.

      Again, I don’t know how anyone can argue that investing money in making sure their existing customer service infrastructure actually, you know, works is a bad thing. If your goal is to serve your customers best, you would start with that, right?

      • I’m not arguing with the point of making traditional methods better but saying that effectively servicing customers in any way is a waste of money.
        I do consider 20 tweets more effective that a phone call in some situations, not always, but the total amount of time of that interaction could be less than the phone calls and holds that a phone method requires, and its time that I am not bound to the phone waiting.

        I’m not arguing against fixing the current but I won’t call a new method that is working a waste of cash, if your goal is serving your customers best you go wherever your customer is and wherever they are willing to communicate.

  3. So @Findlay, you really think having your most annoyed customers post angry tweets about you is an effective way to handle customer service? Imagine if the first stop – the phone, or perhaps even your website – actually solved someone’s problem. Imagine if they didn’t get so aggravated with how bad your regular customer service is that they didn’t go tell the whole world about it.

    I’m all for social support in the form of reaching out when people are having challenges, but that should be in ADDITION to stellar phone and email support so that people don’t have to resort to that…

    • I do, because honestly with the ease of use for twitter or FB the complaints are going to surface anyway so why not have workers trained into that being the system. If it stopped with an angry tweet than it is a failure but if you are doing a good job of CS online then it isn’t. The same people reading that angry tweet will also get to see the discussion build, and solutions suggested and if all goes well an issue fixed.

      Why would a closed door method be a solution? if you put customer service on stage and make them accountable you will see better service for the customer and promote good will. If they do a poor job then you also see that and it lets you as a consumer know maybe that is not a company you don’t want to do business with.

      • An angry tweet represents a failure. It means you’re doing damage control instead of providing real service.

        I’m with Lance. I’m not saying don’t be out there, because let’s be honest, people will still tweet frustrations.

        But it shouldn’t be to the detriment of REAL customer service. And if a quality of service existed in the first place, maybe less people would be posting their frustrations on the web.

  4. I don’t see the difference between and angry tweet or an angry phone call.
    I would use twitter as my primary method of communication if given the option and would see them as the same level of customer service, neither is more “REAL” than the other to me.

    I’m not saying good quality of service or product is forgiven because they are on twitter, in a perfect world no one would complain because they wouldn’t have to. That being said I won’t defame one method of CS over another when it is working.

    • The difference is pretty straightforward. With an angry phone call, the customer and the business are the two people who know about it. With an angry tweet, the whole world does.

      If you’re a business, which would you rather have?

      • I would rather have neither, that being said if the customer is on twitter I will go to twitter. I may make the suggestion that they can call or email me but if the customer is talking on twitter I will be there as a business person because that is where my customer is.

        I want to make the distinction here I don’t go to twitter because the phones service was poor and I am arguing from a point of that is where the conversation of CS is going. Its damage control because I can not waiting for them to call me.

        Also in an age of transparency becoming more prevalent you can’t turn it off by having better phone service, customers are online now that isn’t going away because someone makes phone service better.

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