Twitter for Customer SupportDell, JetBlue, Bank of America, Comcast, Starbucks and quite a few other companies are increasingly using social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to handle user complaints, to gather customer feedback and even for generating sales.

If you (the customer) have a problem with something, you no longer have to write an email or make phone calls, just compose a tweet and one of their official representatives on Twitter will probably get back to you with the answer. In fact, @BankofAmerica is famous for answering “support calls” on Twitter within minutes so it’s almost like a real-time support system.

Customer Support on Twitter – Behind the Scenes

Social sites have millions of users and therefore the amount of support requests emanating from these channels alone can be overwhelming. Dell and Bank of America are using something called Service Cloud, a web-based application from Salesforce.com, that allows reps to answer Twitter based customer support requests in seconds.

Salesforce, a name you instantly associate with CRM and cloud computing, doesn’t have built-in support for Twitter but there are free apps that customers can plug into the Service Cloud application to manage social conversations. It’s like the iPhone and iTunes model. The phone has limited functionality but you can download apps from the iTunes store for additional features.

How Dell Handles Tech Support on Twitter

Step 1: Let’s say the customer has a problem with his Dell hardware so he writes a tweet describing the issue.

Customer Message for Dell

He took a picture of the product with his cameraphone and attached it to the tweet so that it becomes easy for the Dell representatives (and everyone else) on Twitter to identify the product. His tweets are location enabled so the reps will know where he is writing from.

Step 2: The Dell support team is actively monitoring Twitter conversations around Dell products through the Service Cloud application. They can setup custom Twitter searches inside Salesforce (like “dell laptops” or “dell monitor”) so even if the tweet is not directly addressed to Dell’s official account on Twitter, it will still show up in Service Cloud.

Twitter Conversations inside Salesforce

Step 3: It gets a little interesting here. A member of the Dell support team will now create a new case from the tweet with a click.

The Salesforce app will intelligently parse the tweet and all the visual information that may be embedded in the tweet (like product pictures and customer’s location) is also added to the case as seen in the following screenshot.

Twitter Message = Support Case

Step 4: The support rep. will now search for possible solutions in the company’s knowledgebase using the Service Cloud itself and, if there’s one, he will “attach” that document to the case.

Search Knowledgebase for Solutions

Step 5: Now the rep. will send a public tweet to the customer with an hyperlink to the knowledgebase article and all this is again done using the Service Cloud app itself. Salesforce for Twitter is also integrated with bit.ly so support teams can also track clicks in tweets.

Send Tweet to the Customer from Salesforce

Step 6: The customer will instantly see the response from Dell in his timeline and he can following the link in the tweet for a more detailed solution. Done!

Message to Customer from Dell

[*] The Twitter capabilities of Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud app were recently demoed at the Cloud Force conference during Marc Benioff’s keynote.