Michael Arrington opens this discussion by sharing how Comcast responded faster to his complaints in Twitter than it did to his customer service department phone calls. If I said nothing more and pushed "publish," a business owner should at least raise an eyebrow and ask, "Where are my customers? Do I have listening posts and responders there?"
Customer service exists on phones because the majority of people in most countries use and have access to a phone. But do your customers use phones as a primary source of contact? Do they use e-mail? Where are they? What are they using to communicate quickly?
In the 1990s, I worked in customer service, and eventually became manager of the local telephone company's 411 offices (which handle directory assistance calls). I have about six or seven years of frontline and management customer service experience, so I understand about handling times, about the cost balance, and so on.
But are there low-cost, flexible, measurable ways you could be improving your customer service channels by investigating and understanding where your customers are spending time and energy online? Absolutely.
For everyone? Definitely not. But I could probably name about 1,000 businesses who'd do better by having someone monitoring blogs, Twitter, and Facebook than they would by reducing handling time at a call center.
We wrote about this in more detail in Trust Agents. Frank Eliason, the guy who started ...