courtroomAt UserConf NYC, our CEO made a statement that surprised a few people: “Twitter is the small claims court of customer support.”

You heard that right. Twitter isn’t the future of customer support, the shining beacon of greatness that we all say it is. Twitter is where people go to get a goddamn answer from you when they can’t get it elsewhere.

Let’s back up a pace. What comes before Twitter?

To continue the analogy, let’s pretend you’re a landlord. Your tenent comes over and knocks on your door to ask if you could please fix their leaking pipe. That’s regular support, via email or helpdesk or live chat or phone. An even more benign version of that would be your tenant giving you a call to simply to ask what days garbage is picked up.

Customer feedback or satisfaction scoring would be you dropping by your tenant to say hi, see how they are, and let them know you are around if they need you.

Community management might be baking your tenant cookies, or planning a block party.

signs saying But when your tenant leaves you a phone message every day and you don’t answer, or asks you to fix something and you don’t…then they get mad. Then they take you to small claims court to force you to give them what they’re deserved.

They don’t want to be there. And you don’t want to have to deal with the inconvenience or the bad publicity. But you have to deal with it, because it’s public and there are consequences.

That’s most support on Twitter.

Don’t believe me? In a recent Ask Your Target Market survey we conducted, only 1% of people said they preferred to get support via Twitter instead of traditional mediums.

Yep, 99% of people prefer to get support via traditional mediums like email, phone, etc.

I think it’s fantastic that this small claims court exists. Too many companies neglect their customers and it’s great that there’s a place that they can, generally, guilt companies into responding to them. I do it often with companies whose regular customer service is horrible.

You don’t want to be that company. You don’t want to be the landlord that goes to court.

Yes, monitor Twitter for folks in need of support and help them. But PLEASE, focus on making your traditional support channels great before you expend resources on Twitter. It’s not a magic bullet…it’s where people go when your other support sucks.

Supreme court photo courtesy of Phil Roeder

Courtroom photo courtesy of Douglas Palmer.
Owner don’t care photo courtesy of Bart Everson.