Crowdsourcing Customer Service: Why I Take To Twitter For Support

January 14, 2011

How often do you see people ask for information or complain about a company publicly via Twitter or some other online outlet? I’ve done it myself. Many times. And while I can’t explain anyone else’s motivation for this public cry for help, I’ve been reflecting a bit on why I do this and what I hope will come of it.

When I take to Twitter to complain or seek some sort of customer service, it’s not an effort to call out or shame a company (OK, sometimes that’s exactly the purpose, but that’s rare). Rather, I take my quest for help public because I don’t for one minute expect the company in question to be the sole source of information — or the source of the best information, for that matter.

In many cases, a quick Google search will turn up the exact answer I need. Sometimes, the only way to resolve a matter — such as billing questions — is to go straight to the company, and in that case, starting with a public tweet actually just adds another step to the process. But sometimes, perhaps when an issue is complex or very specific, or when the answer is one the company doesn’t necessarily want to share, getting information from other people is the quickest and most useful way to get what I need.

Here’s a recent example:

I recently switched to Qwest for Internet service at home. On its website, Qwest doesn’t even mention a connection speed option lower than the seven megabits per second it describes as “essential,” but in our neighborhood, we only have a three megabit connection — and it doesn’t even quite reach that speed.

I started wondering about when my house would have the “essential” level of basic service it seemed other folks get as a starting point, but I didn’t expect Qwest would be quick to offer any meaningful details about the matter. So I took to Twitter, hoping some of my fellow East Metro residents would have some info to share about their experiences.

I received some interesting tidbits from friends, confirming that I wasn’t the only person with lackluster connection speeds and the like. And to be honest, I didn’t really expect much more than that. Then, to the company’s credit, someone from Qwest entered the conversation:

@mjkeliher Hello, Speeds very from 256k to 40M down and from 256k to 20m up. If you follow me, DM your account info, I can check 🙂

An offer to help and a smiley face! What service!

In the several subsequent messages between me and @TalkToQwest, some public and some private, I learned that some updates to the network were expected in the next half a year or so — in my neighborhood, affecting my home. It was great service, and it happened quickly and conveniently. I didn’t need to stop what I was doing and could just exchange Twitter messages every couple of minutes while continuing to work on whatever I was working on at the time.

In other cases, I’ve received great recommendations for products and services, technical support and troubleshooting help, creative ideas, and more from my friends on Twitter. When I take to Twitter to ask for help, it’s not because I have no faith in the companies whose products and services need the help. It’s because customer service has become a crowdsourced service.