Friday, October 3, 2008

problems with twitter? welcome to the twilight zone

You may have heard that Twitter is revolutionizing customer service, providing the platform whereby companies riddled with terrible reputations for customer service are now redeeming their good names. Comcast, Home Depot, Dell and others have set up Twitter accounts and assigned employees to lurk online, browsing Twitter Search for disgruntled consumers having trouble with their service, enabling the company to swoop in to solve a complaint instantly or put the complainer in touch with someone who can help.

You'd think that Twitter, ultimately responsible for changing the customer service paradigm, would be at the forefront of customer service themselves. You would be wrong.

A week ago, my twitter account began to have problems. At first, things went well. Help on Twitter's dashboard launched me into a website with the promising name of Get Satisfaction. But, it turned out to be a dispiriting place-- a repository for complaints about not just Twitter but "thousands of companies" where questions go unanswered for weeks, even even though the site claims "Twitter is here! 21 people are listening and participating!" A complaint similar to mine posted 2 months ago is followed by a happy face inviting me "to be the first to reply!" A sidebar asks the dispiriting question: "Know any helpful people? Email this question to them!"

It takes some time to post my complaint because, as is par for Twitter, parameters must be strictly adhered to. The first is: Give your problem a great title. Really? Seems just when your service is pissing me off, Twitter, is not the right moment to ask me to be creative. But. Whatever. I fill in a description of the problem, ("one or two paragraphs work best!"), come up with tags (couldn't Twitter make a bot do this?) then comes the most annoying parameter of all. "One last thing before you post…how does this problem make you feel?" My choices are four emoticons (I hate emoticons) : smiley, sad, serious, tongue sticking out. After choosing one (you can guess) I must "describe my feelings in words" to "increase the likelihood of my problem getting noticed." Really? Questions aren't answered in queue, Twitter decides which to answer depending on how people articulate their feelings?

Luckily, I must have chosen the right words, because my problem is addressed within the hour. Unfortunately, the answer is: we can't answer this, you have to post this problem on the twitter help site. But I thought this was the twitter help site? I log onto the new URL provided and go through the "fill in the boxes" thing again.

Days go by. (Days in twitter-time are equivalent to centuries.) I log back into Get Satisfaction (which must be the world's most ironically named website) to ask when I might be hearing from Twitter. It takes several more days for them to respond. Vaguely: "Unfortunately, it really does take some time before we see a response from Twitter Support because they're dealing with a backlog."

Twitter has no customer service phone number (naturally) but they do post a snail mail address. So I sit down and write an old-fashioned letter. Wouldn't it be ironic if it turns out that snail-mail is what it takes to get Twitter's attention? It's been 7 days and still no word from them. C'mon, Twitter. If you care about users (and some say that you don't) why not put some of that $15 million of venture into dealing with the customers you already have?

Twitter's @crystal (who kindly replied in a comment) worked doggedly to fix the problem and solved it w/in 24 hours. Thanks, Crystal! The lesson? If you've got a problem with twitter, forget their help desk. Post your problem to @crystal to Get Satisfaction.


Anonymous said...

So right! On all complaints! That 'get satisfaction' site is the worst. You're a saint of patience to go through all that. I found a site that's been more helpful -- something about Twitter Handbook -- and if you tweet your question, some smarties occasionally answer. I went looking for @adbroad when I first started using twitter, and it didn't seem to have you...

crystal said...

Hi there, I work at Twitter and just want to apologize for the troubles you've had. Feel free to send me an @reply so I know your user name, and I'll check it out for you. I believe your problem is due to a follow bug, but I'll have to research a bit more to make sure. I replied to your Satisfaction thread as well,but since I don't have your user name I can't look up your account info. Send me a message on Twitter, @crystal, and I'll look into it.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@girlpie Thanks for the solidarity. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Twitter Handbook? I'll have to look for that. Yes, something is def. weird about my account. I can never find myself in search either.

@crystal Thanks for your reply. I'll see you on twitter.

HighJive said...

um, you get what you pay for...?

Anonymous said...

I love that the I've-got-a-freakin-problem form invites you to come up with a "great title." Perfect example of a cutesy brand voice taking one step too far into the unicorn fields.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@highjive yeah, but. If Twitter is to monetize as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, have done, seems they have to figure out a viable CS component.

@crock Couldn't agree more. ; )

Yellow Monk said...

What "not" to do at

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Well, I suppose there is always *that* solution. But you'd be missing out, I think.