If your company or product doesn't have an active twitter account, chances are I'll avoid it. And I'm sure I'm not alone. It gives me great joy to know that almost all the products I'm using have active customer support that's quick, free, human and accessible from almost anywhere. It's called twitter, and unless you've been in a cave for the last ten years, you've probably heard of it.
Here's the thing: customer support sucks. You're given a premium number to call, wait on the line while you move down the queue from number 53, eventually connect to an agent who has no idea who you are, told you've been connected to the wrong department and eventually realise you've been on the phone for 30 minutes and only spoken 2 words to a real human - your name, which they needed to find out which account you're referring to.<!-- more -->
And it doesn't get much better in the world of email, either. Most of the time, you fill out a form with limited options that only gives you a small selection of 'topics' to choose from. What if I don't have a topic? What if I just have a small question? And when you are given the option to send an email directly, there's an auto responder just waiting to tell you you'll receive a response within 48 hours. 48 hours! It'd be quicker to get employed by the company in question and fix the problem yourself.
Now - I can almost guarantee that one of the issues faced by customer support systems is repetition. Certain corporations must get hundreds - nay - thousands of the same emails from customers suffering the same problem. They'd have to answer each one with exactly the same solution. Twitter is a perfect solution for this. If there's a recurring problem going on, simply tweet about it once - customers will see it, support agents can tweet back to people and let them know about the solution publicly. That can't be done with email. That'd be like sending an email to every one of your customers when only one has a problem - just in case. It's unreasonable, as oppose to twitter, which is just plain informative.
Twitter is also an always-on platform. Dedicated corporations will have people manning their twitter accounts 24/7 - this is particularly visible in support accounts such as that of Forrst. I don't think I've ever had to wait more than a couple of hours to hear back from a twitter account. In fact, I got an engineer from Virgin Media to come check out our broadband over twitter in 24 hours less time than someone on the phone.
When I made Brills, there was one thing I knew - Twitter was going to be the only customer support platform. There aren't even any email addresses registered for Brills. And it's worked really well. People are engaged, they check out things that have already been solved on the twitter account - and they don't dread contacting me. They know I'll get back to them very quickly, and that encourages them to make requests, which ultimately leads to a more awesome product. It's a win-win situation.
If Apple and HSBC had active twitter support accounts, I could safely go without ever making a long telephone call or ambiguous email again. Like I said, it's free, easy, personal support - so why aren't more companies doing it?