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• Monday, November 02nd, 2009

stick a pen in my eyeTo borrow a phrase from Lisa Barone; I’d rather stick a pen in my eye than read another story about some company doing a good job of customer service on Twitter.  Ever since Comcast went viral with “Frank’s” ability to solve problems the people on the phones couldn’t, it seems every company under the sun has been getting their support teams on Twitter and attempting to solve problems that way.  A Google search for “customer service twitter” returns only about 150 million results.

I’d say that horse is dead, can we stop beating it now?  Customer support reps are SUPPOSED to provide great service…it’s like, their job, right?

Who should we be talking about?  The people who earn their living doing something else, but still step up and try to help when they sense frustration directed at or about the company they work for.  I recently had such an experience (Guess you figured that was coming)

Last week I was trying to get an answer to what I thought should be a fairly simple licensing question.  You see, my company uses ColdFusion on its public facing web servers, I wanted to know if we could legally use the license on more than one machine at the same time.

Side note: I have been a fan of ColdFusion since its early days when it was created by two brothers in their Minnesota garage. I can’t fault the brothers for selling off the company, but as ColdFusion has moved from Allaire, to Macromedia and now to Adobe, the support has gotten just horrible.

Traffic has grown on the company sites to the point that we want to implement fail-over servers.  ColdFusion is not cheap (that’s one of its few downfalls).  I wanted to find out if we could share the license on both the public-facing and fail-over servers if only one of them had public traffic at a time.  Simple question, right?  Wrong.

Over the course of two days I was bounced from sales, to pre-sales, to tech support to customer support, to volume licenses and back again.  I think I may have even talked to a janitor at one point.  Most people didn’t understand what I was asking (at least it seemed that way to me), others understood, but said it was not their area.

I was thrilled when, at last, one of the customer support reps told me she had found a document that provided the answers I needed.  I was dumb-founded when she told me the document was for “internal use only” and she could not forward it to me or give me an official answer based on it.  Imagine my joy when she transferred me to technical support.

Throughout all of this I sent FOUR, tweets out to the world mentioning Adobe and my growing frustration.

Jeffrey TranberryEnter our Hero,  Jeffrey Tranberry.  Jeff does not (officially) do customer support.  Jeff is not involved with the ColdFusion product line.  Jeff is on the Photoshop development team.  However, unlike the people that passed me from one department to another, Jeff is one of those rare employees that enjoys his job and his company.  He wants to help whenever, however he can.  He reached out to me with a simple message “Let me know if you don’t get your issue resolved.”

After a very brief exchange, I emailed him my question and he forwarded it on to someone he thought could help.  Within a few hours I had an answer – in print – from an actual support person.  Hooray!

Let’s quit congratulating companies for adding Twitter to the list of tools they use for customer support.  In my opinion, if an issue gets to Twitter, it’s because some other method has already failed.  Let’s stop congratulating people who are supposed to be doing customer support anyway and just happen to be on twitter.

Let’s start celebrating those rare employees who reach out when they aren’t required to, who step out of their comfort zones to help a customer when they have no real obligation to do so.  Let’s all tell Jeff and the others like him, we appreciate them and what they do.

Have you been helped by a non-support person on Twitter?

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6 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed this post. 100% agree – people within organizations that step up to make customers’ lives better deserve serious recognition.

    I like your observation about support issues reaching twitter AFTER they have failed in other channels. I think this is true in a lot of cases. And the people that are listening, as Adobe did, can really help change the course of a customer experience (your story is case in point)

    I also see a lot of customer service issues going to twitter that might have never made it to traditional channels. We’re all busy and traditional channels are often time consuming and frustrating. Typing 140 characters is infinitely easier. With such a lower barrier, I see a lot of people tweet issues that in the past would have never taken the time to pursue a traditional channel.

  2. 2
    Jack Leblond  //

    Good point about people starting to turn to Twitter first. I think we have all been trained to expect the worst from traditional methods and to expect the best from the non-traditional ones.

  3. 3
    ian  //

    I think Jeff is the shape of things to come. He helped me out by simply referring me to the right person at Adobe.

    He’s proving that Twitter will eventually become the first line of support, not the last.

    And Jeff, thanks! Adobe needs to give you a bonus.

  4. As someone who uses twitter to stay in touch with issues and topics relevant to my industry, more often than not, it’s also my first place to air grievances and gripes and I’m not alone. Twitter and other social media tools allow companies to talk WITH their audience to create a conversation and community and my experience with Jeff is proof of that.

    Because of Jeff, my overall brand experience has resulted in a win for Adobe. Dealing with call centre issues and paid vs. non-paid support can cause major damage to customer loyalty and brand perception. Why would I continue to buy legitimate software from Adobe if this is the type of post-purchase follow-up support that is to be expected. I’d rather spend the few hours downloading a cracked version, rather than be incensed by call centre operators unwilling to understand MY issue and venture outside the script.

    Jeff stepped in just as my issue was resolved. It doesn’t really matter that he himself didn’t actually fix my problem. The fact that he stepped up and asked if I needed any help was really all that was required to change my opinion. Here was someone who could help me and be my advocate from within a faceless corporation. He actually cared and that makes a customer feel like money was spent wisely.

    I have no doubt that more corporations, those of which that can afford to, will allocate the resources to actively participate in the social media realm. Not because its a new shiny toy, but because they can capitalize on the opportunities it affords them – specifically, a chance to create a positive brand experience and conversation with their customers.

    Jeff, thanks again for your help. You are an asset.

  5. Jack:
    Oh my gosh – so Jeff has been helping everyone! Did you find my blog post because of Twitter?

    Yes, Jeff is indeed the lovely guy who actually reached out to me on Twitter to offer to help. And it is him who saved my sanity.

    I sent him a DM with my post yesterday and I guess he was passing it up the chain at Adobe.

    The only reason I didn’t personally name him in my post is I didn’t want everyone with an Adobe problem to run to him right away but when I came to your post I thought maybe I should have done it differently!

    I had two techs even apologize to me that the reason they didn’t understand me is because English is not their first language. While I don’t berate companies who chose to outsource overseas (though I would prefer they not) I do wish they would hire agents who have a clear grasp and understanding of the English language.

    Cheers, again, to my new buddy Jeff!

    And Jack – who are you on Twitter?

  6. 6
    Jack Leblond  //

    Michelle – I did find your site via Twitter, you can find me there at @JackLeblond

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