Online help systems and social media customer service: choice and usability

Social media are said to be great for customer service purposes. And many companies do have a social media presence to service their customers. I guess you know the names of those that do it successfully on Twitter, for instance. 

Last week-end I noticed a tweet from someone asking for help from a well-known software company by tweeting that he needed support and stating why, using the @company.

I asked him – via Twitter – to tell me if the company would answer. Later he tweeted me that they didn’t but that they helped him elsewhere online. Today I read that the company did help him via Twitter. So, kudos to the software company.

However, this small story made me think. I know how frustrating it can be if you have a problem with the software you rely on everyday, and I can be extremely impatient to get help then myself. 

But we’re living in a day and age where we want immediate help everywhere and anytime. And we just can’t expect that. It’s impossible and it’s a bad evolution if you ask me.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be impatient but requiring immediate help 24/24 7/7 via all possible channels? Don’t think so.

What do I do when I need support? I call and mail once, within office hours of course. I also ask a timing. If that timing isn’t respected, I will call again, etc.

Although I am deep into social media marketing, I have never contacted a company to get customer service via Twitter. Now, I must admit I never needed to. But still, my first reaction would be to call and then mail.

In fact, I think I will never contact a company to get customer service via Twitter. 

What I also use and will continue to use though are online help services. I love companies that offer live chat on their websites. And I love companies that have these squared buttons from third-party web-based 2.0 service platforms on their web sites or blogs, where I can get feedback or help.

For me, that offers better value because I make contact with a real person and can explain my issues. I experience chat as more one-on-one and conversational than Twitter.

But what I love most of all are companies that offer Skype support or another way to get service via VoIP (I know, Skype is not really VoIP). 

I want to talk to people.

Choice, customer and context

To me, all these forms of online help systems and services are as much social media marketing and Web 2.0 customer service (or whatever you call it) as a customer service via Twitter.

It’s about giving your customers options, right? And I guess some people prefer Twitter to get customer service. I don’t.

Online help systems come in many forms: embedded, as a separate tool, you name it. 

However, what matters most to me is that they take into account the customers and the context in which customers seek help. 

It occurred to me, when thinking about all this, that when you develop online help systems as a business, regardless of the channel or application, it’s really about user scenarios, testing and being customer-centric.

In web terminology: it’s about usability. 

Today I stumbled upon a great white paper that’s exactly about that. I read it, it contains good tips for businesses that want to develop customer-centric online help systems and it inspired me for this post.

I’m not going to give away all the tips.

You can download the paper free yourself right here.

One word though: involvement.

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