Twitter may be best known as a consumer social network, but it can be a useful tool to business as well. In fact the San Francisco-based social media firm has been developing new services for businesses including Customer Feedback and Direct Message that Salesforce.com says it's eager to integrate with its Customer Relationship Management platform.
Customer Feedback lets users privately share their opinions with businesses after service interactions such as a customer support call. Direct Message has long been a way for Twitter users to respond directly to a Tweet.
This latest version gives consumers an easier way to send private messages directly to companies they do business with. Salesforce plans to integrate both Twitter services with its CRM platform.
Salesforce has its own Twitter-like service called Chatter, but that's used primarily by Salesforce users internally for business collaboration.
"Twitter is rapidly becoming a preferred channel for customer service. With today's announcement, Twitter and Salesforce will provide powerful new tools for customers to engage directly with brands and resolve customer service issues faster and more efficiently," Mike Milburn, senior vice president and general manager of the Salesforce Service Cloud Group, wrote in a blog on his company's Website. "Companies using Salesforce can harness information from these interactions to connect with their customers in new ways."
The Salesforce integration with Twitter Customer Feedback is designed to let companies incorporate feedback into the overall customer experience. For example, when an airline sees a service complaint on Twitter, it can send the customer a quick survey directly in that customer's Twitter feed, asking them for quick feedback on their experience.
Once it receives that feedback it's automatically routed into Salesforce, where it can be analyzed and acted on by service and marketing teams. The standard Twitter 140 character limit on posts remains in force, so feedback needs to be fairly concise.
Maribel Lopez, principal analyst of Lopez Research, noted that consumers have been using Twitter to give companies mostly critical feedback for years, but it was generally random. "The new service makes it more trackable. Before, let's say you solved a customer's complaint—there was no flow to the company's backend systems," Lopez told eWEEK.
"From the Salesforce perspective, everyone is trying to serve people in the channel they want to be served in so this integration with Twitter makes sense," she added.
The news also comes at a time when Twitter's stock has been plummeting and questions have been raised about its future growth prospects as an advertising platform. "If Twitter can become known as a real time customer service platform with quick, zippy response times, that's going to give them an opportunity to scale to more users and help fuel their ad platform business," said Lopez.
Lopez said the popularity of online customer service "shows how broken traditional customer service is today. No one wants to use the phone. They'd rather use Twitter or Facebook to get help."
While consumers can already send Direct Messages to businesses, they have to follow the business directly on Twitter first. With the new integration, Salesforce says a sales agent will be able to start a private conversation with a customer—even if that customer is not following the business on Twitter—with a simple prompt like "Send a private message."
Then from within Salesforce, the service agent or social media manager can directly send private message prompts and, hopefully, identify and resolve customer service issues faster and more efficiently.
Salesforce says the new Twitter features will be available to Service Cloud customers already using Social Customer Service at no additional cost. Customer Feedback is expected to be supported in Salesforce in the next few months while the Public to Private Direct Message capability won't be available until the late-summer-to-early-fall timeframe, according to Salesforce.
Customer service on Twitter has grown 2.5 times over the past two years, according to Salesforce. "This social revolution has created a new expectation for businesses to provide instant, always available customer service," Milburn stated in his blog.