Over at Zatz Not Funny, blogger (and frequent Technologizer commenter) Dave Zatz has blogged about Twelpforce, Best Buy’s interesting experiment in aggregating the knowledge of hundreds of its “blue shirt” staffers into one Twitterstream of advice for Best Buy customers. Dave points out that some of the blue shirts’ tweets (both on Twelpforce and their own Twitter accounts, which you might stumble across while reading) are a tad odd. He also says that the Twelpforce feed’s method of aggregation eliminates the “in reply to” links that make it a lot easier to read a Twitter conversation.
Perusing Twelpforce led me to a couple of other conclusions:
1) It’s increasingly clear that Twitter sees the use of its service as a customer service tool to be one of the keys to its long-term success. But Twelpforce is, among other things, a reminder that Twitter just isn’t a very good platform for customer service. Even if it did preserve “in reply to” links, it would be tough to reliably follow a discussion, in part because Twitter still doesn’t provide true threaded discussions. Twitter is generally pretty guarded about telling the world what it’s up to, but I’m wondering if it plans to roll out the features that would make it easier for companies to help their customers via Twitter. (The fact that folks such as Frank Eliason and the @comcastcares team do so much is a testament as much to their hard work as the power of Twitter in its current form.)
2) It’s fascinating to see Best Buy let the blue shirts do their thing in an open, largely uncensored venue. Oddly enough, the blue shirts in Best Buy commercials are consistently smart, courteous, and generally with it; the real blue shirts I’ve dealt with over the years have been a lot less consistent. (I recently had a question about a car-stereo component at my local Best Buy. The guy in that department shrugged and told me he couldn’t help, and directed me to go to the installation center for assistance. Which was across the store, behind a locked door When I got there, another rep told me…to go back to the car stereo section and ask guy #1 for help.)
Up until now, customer service with Best Buy or any other retail chain has been an essentially private affair. (Unless you like to go to electronics stores and eavesdrop on other shoppers’ experiences…which, I admit, I like to do as a source of story ideas.) With Twitter, it’s all out in the open. A blue shirt who knows his or her stuff can become a star; one who’s clueless will embarrass him or herself in public. I’d like to think that over the long haul that might help improve the quality of customer service, period…