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Customer Service Via Twitter

Birthrates rise when Twitter is down

Yes, Twitter really is worth all the fuss

A recent article in BusinessWeek covered the growing number of companies that are looking to Twitter and other forms of social media as a way to bolster customer service. Twitter gives companies the ability to listen to what is being said about their brands as the discussion is happening and even join in when appropriate. Considering the number of journalists and other highly influential folk that hang out on Twitter, this is a very good idea. Letting your customers know that your company IS listening to customer feedback – particularly from those who care enough to broadcast that feedback online – is an awesome way to build strong customer relationships and create lasting brand loyalty. It is not uncommon to convert people from vocal detractors to serious evangelists if handled properly. However, based on a recent number of exchanges I had with the GoDaddy customer service team, it occurred to me that if social media is the ONLY place a customer feels his voice can be heard, the long-term branding ramifications could be disastrous. In my case, there are three things I wish GoDaddy’s blog software would do that it currently does not. These are:
  • Provide the ability to add tags to individual blog posts
  • Provide a tool that enables users to easily flow copy around images (more accurately, restore the tool that was recently removed)
  • Remove the phrase “What are you doing?” from the new “Twitter Link” widget that allows you to add your Twitter feed to your blog
The first item on this list is extremely important to me because it is a critical component of search engine optimization. Frankly, I don’t see how or why GoDaddy would have omitted this functionality in version 1.0 of the software. Surely a company such as GoDaddy must realize the significance of SEO. It is one of the very biggest reasons for businesses to blog. The second item on this list actually did exist up until a few weeks ago. Its strange disappearance in the middle of the night is what prompted me to pick up the phone and call customer support. GoDaddy’s customer support process would be funny if it wasn’t so maddening. The people who answer the phone serve as both the sales team and the support team. These are not pure technologists. If you ask them a technical question that they cannot answer (which is usually the case), they put you on hold, call someone who actually does know the answer, ask them the question, then take you off hold to relay to you what they found out. If they get either your question or the tech. person’s answer wrong – and they do – you find yourself in a lengthy and infuriating version of the telephone game. What’s worse, company policy dictates that the customer cannot speak directly with technical staff. When I called customer support that fateful evening, the kid that answered the phone not only didn’t know what he was talking about, he was also an insufferable smart ass. Some people bitch incessantly when customer support calls go to India. I never do. I’d much rather speak to a polite person with a slight accent who actually knows the answer to my question than deal with someone who has no accent and no solution to my problem. I went berserk. While I did get an apology from the kid’s supervisor, the best he could do in terms of solving my problem was to tell me that GoDaddy intentionally designed its blogging software to be void of some important blogging functions so that it will be easy to use. He did suggest I send an e-mail to, which is exactly what I did. Not surprisingly, the receipt of that communication wasn’t even acknowledged. I should probably mention that the only reason I chose to go with GoDaddy’s blog software over WordPress was that I was under the impression that, should I run in to problems, GoDaddy customer support would be there to help out. To me this was worth the $10/month price of admission. So much for that theory. A few days later, I was on Twitter when I saw a message from  Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester Research (who is considered one of the foremost thought leaders in social computing). He was giving advice to a Twitter newcomer telling him to use tweets to do more than answer “What are you doing?”. Instead, he suggests they be used to share thoughts, ideas, links to interesting articles, etc. Using Twitter in this way is what makes it a useful communications tool. I weighed in (on Twitter) how cool it was that GoDaddy now lets people using its blog software to include a Twitter feed in their blogs through its “Twitter Link” tool,  but how uncool it is that “What are you doing?” is predominantly at the top of this tool AND URLs aren’t active – which pretty much makes the tool useless. godaddy_logoSoon after that tweet, I noticed I was being followed by @godaddyguy. The next day, GoDaddyGuy called and e-mailed. Suddenly, I got the feeling that SOMEONE at GoDaddy actually did give a damn! GoDaddyGuy and I have since exchanged e-mails and I genuinely believe that my suggestions about Twitter Link have been elevated to the development team and that an improvement is on the way. I also have acknowledgment that my two more serious issues with GoDaddy have been registered (thought I’m not holding my breath). This is pretty cool. By all accounts, GoDaddyGuy saved the day. Hooray for GoDaddyGuy! My hero! But there’s a downside too. Every time GoDaddyGuy (or DellGuy or ComcastGuy or JetBlueGal) solves a problem, they are also providing customers with positive reinforcement for posting something negative online. Short-term, companies are likely to get a lot of goodwill and recognition for even being able to respond to problems this way and this should more than balance out the negative. However, I’m not sure this will be the case in the long run. Surely, those companies that are lacking in traditional forms of customer service will be the first to find out. Update 12/30/08 – I got an e-mail from GoDaddyGuy yesterday. He pointed out a few important things:
  1. The undocumented image editing functionality I had been asking him about has been restored (now – provided you are in FireFox – you can right click on images and manipulate them without using HTML)
  2. The ability to add meta tags per post is added to the list of future features
  3. They are going to tweak the Twitter widget
He also reiterated that every suggestion relayed through does get reviewed, though not all are acknowledged. While I still think the overall point of this post is still valid, it is mighty impressive that GoDaddy is – at least in one form – actually paying attention to customer feedback AND acting on those suggestions. Thanks GoDaddyGuy. Update 2/21/09 – GoDaddy’s Blog software just isn’t adequate for what I’m doing. I’m going to go back to where I started. So long GoDaddy. Thanks for the memories. Update 2/27/09 – the same week I bailed on GoDaddy they actually began to offer users the ability to add meta tags to individual posts.  Humorous to say the least. I’m still glad I switched though.