Comcast Cares (twitter – @comcastcares)

I noticed recently that Comcast set up a Twitter channel for soliciting customer input directly from the social web. JetBlue is another. I’m not sure if this type of Twitter support will scale as-is, but I’m sure a service could arise to enable it to scale in the same way as services and software exist for supporting customers via email & chat.

What is more interesting than these companies setting up channels on Twitter, is the potential use of Twitter for companies to (a) deliver a superior customer experience and (b) engage with customers to facilitate customer-driven innovation of their products & services.

With the growing volume of Twitter users, companies now have a direct channel to solicit, facilitate, and monitor feedback from a growing number of their customers. The topics can be rich, including:

  • feedback on positive or negative aspects of a company’s offerings by monitoring Twitter as users tweet among their Friends and Followers (use the Twitter “Track” feature)
  • customer support requests if a company is maintaining a Twitter account
  • new offering ideas or offering enhancement ideas from monitoring or direct tweets to the corporate Twitter account (would suggest both for enabling true customer-driven innovation)
  • referrals – many happen between Twitter Friends & Followers already, but active company involvement can both facilitate and amplify referrals which lead to sales

These are just some ideas, however, Twitter appears to me to be one of the richest and most opportunity rich areas for companies to truly engage with their customers to drive loyalty, sales, and new innovation. The big outstanding question is how much penetration in society will a service like Twitter get? How many people are eager to tell a group of people, some of which are truly “weak ties“, what they are doing?

I think the use of Twitter will indeed grow beyond its initial intention of ‘what are you doing?’. First, it already is. Second, if people know that they can be one mouse click or SMS message away from telling the company that just ticked them off what they think, I think adoption will grow. When my second Kenmore washer crashed recently within 20 days of getting it, I know I would have loved a better channel than the hours of phone time spent. In fact, I did Twitter the experience to my friends (i.e. became an active detractor). Third, if a customer can truly provide input that is valued and used by companies for new offering ideas, I think the service would also drive adoption. Don’t you have a lot of ideas for products and services that you use daily, but feel that no viable channel for providing your ideas to each company exists? I know I do.

I have always felt that the growth in Social Media services would lead to better overall customer experiences, and force marketers and companies to be more responsive to customer demands and more open to co-innovating with customers. I think Twitter presents one of the best Social Media services to help realize this outcome. I’ll be watching Comcast, JetBlue, and others as they embark in the Twitter universe.

UPDATE: Noticed that Sarah Perez wrote a nice post on ReadWriteWeb on this topic recently.