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Author: Srinivasa Rao |08/30/10

Can you really provide Technical Support through Social Media?

When Jeff Jarvis posted a public complaint about Dell’s service in his blog BuzzMachine, Dell probably had no idea what it was going to turn into. It became a viral firestorm that compelled Dell to get involved in Social Media (SM). Dell started reading blogs and responding to customer complaints in various social media channels.

Subsequently, many product companies started formulating their ‘Social Media Strategy’ to engage their customers in Social Media Channels. But this is still a nebulous concept and Social Media appears to mean different things to different companies.

For few it is one way to sense the kind of problems their customers are facing and proactively add content to their online Knowledge bases. For many others, Social Media is a marketing initiative. (After all, if there is a conversation going on in SM and many of your customers are talking, good or bad, about your company, you simply can’t afford not to meet your customers there). For a very few brave ones, SM is yet another official channel for providing support, besides phone, email and chat.

There are too many questions around how best a company can leverage Social Media for technical support. This means there is a lot of scope for service innovation in this area.

If there is a legitimate complaint from a customer posted in an SM channel, you want to address that expeditiously, before it turns into a PR nightmare for your CEO. While the mistakes made in SM are public and can potentially create firestorms, a customer’s genuine grievance addressed in SM (also in public) will also create huge amount of goodwill for your company. But, doesn’t this sound more like customer service rather than technical support?

Assuming that you start providing full-fledged technical support through SM when your customers start using this channel hundreds of thousands in numbers, do you have the required resources to address all of them? If not, how do you prioritize them and how do you respond to other customers? Is this going to be a proactive and positive initiative towards improving the overall support experience for your customers or is it going to degenerate into a damage prevention / control exercise?

In a way, Social Media has not been new to technical support. Moderated user groups and forums have existed for years before blogging and tweeting appeared on the horizon. What makes the new SM channels different is that the discussions are totally controlled by customers and it is very difficult for a product company to make sure their technical support through SM is consistent with other channels.

What are your thoughts?

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