Customer service done right in Twitter, #wa style
Like many people, over the past few months I have become quite the Twitter-wonk. I find myself spending an increasing amount of time monitoring the #wa channel in Twitter, even if my individual contribution has a tendency to ebb and flow. And while I watch the Twits ramble on, one thing I have developed is an appreciation for the work that Ben Gaines is doing on behalf of Omniture.
Who is Ben Gaines? Ben is the guy who monitors all of Twitter for things like “reported 25 hour latency in omniture conversion reporting. good thing we’re not ecommerce” and “really productive omniture call – happiness is helpful reporting tools!!” More importantly, Ben is the guy who is paid by Omniture to take the time to reach out to anyone and everyone who has a problem in an attempt to engage them in a positive conversation.
Yep, Ben Gaines is @OmnitureCare.
Given the challenges that every web analytics vendor faces, combined with the naked conversations happening in Twitter, the fact that the management team at Omniture has dedicated an even-keel like Ben it is a testament to the company’s awareness of the marketplace around them. And while other vendors have slowly started to dedicate similar resources, Ben has established himself (at least in my mind) as the standard against which all other analytics vendor’s representatives in Twitter will be judged.
Even though I’m heading to Salt Lake City in a few days and will have the opportunity to meet Ben face-to-face, I reached out to the team at Omniture and asked to interview him for my blog. My questions and Ben’s responses follow.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself … who is “Ben Gaines” and how did you get into web analytics?
A: I never quite know what to say in introducing myself, so I’m going to give you 10 words/phrases to describe me: Husband. Father. Boston expatriate (and, yes, Red Sox fan). Computer geek. Wannabe athlete. Omniture-ite. Web analytics student. MBA candidate. Writer. That’s me in a nutshell, I suppose. And it’s slightly embarrassing how hard it was for me to come up with that list.
Would it be cliché for me to say that I first got into web analytics in seventh grade when I put a hit counter on my first web site? My first serious foray into web analytics was at my last company, where I helped to run what was then Utah’s official travel web site. Analytics wasn’t part of my primary responsibilities, but I remember being fascinated by the technology involved and the business logic that defined how we used the data. When the opportunity to move to Omniture came along, I jumped at the chance.
Q: When did you start at Omniture and how did you get appointed to the role of “Twitter Support Rep?”
A: I started here in April 2006 in our ClientCare support group (then called “Live Support”), and moved into a role as a support engineer, with more of a programming emphasis, about a year later. Both of these positions helped me to become personally invested in our clients’ success, and I have tried applied that sense of responsibility to everything I’ve done at Omniture.
I don’t believe that I have been given the opportunity to represent ClientCare on Twitter because I am singularly capable of doing so; my colleagues are similarly accomplished and insightful. What I believe I do offer is a strong understanding of the “under the hood” aspects of Omniture tools and implementation, a decent amount of experience working with these products as well as with our clients, and a strong desire to be out there helping people get the best value out of their Omniture experience.
Q: Do you do something else at Omniture other than monitor Twitter?
A: I currently help to manage our online documentation efforts (with particular emphasis on our Knowledge Base), and am involved with support issues in certain cases. I also dabble in building internal tools and scripts to help us serve our clients better and/or faster. While I do monitor Twitter very closely, I’ve always got something else going on my other monitor. There is more than enough to keep me busy.
Q: Describe the tools you use to monitor Twitter for Omniture?
A: I’ve tried probably a dozen Twitter apps. My favorite is currently TweetDeck, primarily because it allows me to monitor mentions of Omniture, SiteCatalyst, etc. perpetually in a separate column. That is really the most critical feature of any tool I’d consider using to interact with Twitter for customer service purposes. Most support requests via Twitter aren’t in replies to me directly; they’re found because someone—often someone not even following me—mentioned Omniture in their tweet. That’s when I step in, if I believe I can help in any way.
Q: Tell us a little about how you help customers using Twitter?
A: There are a few ways that I try to help customers using Twitter. One is to disseminate information quickly to a large group of people. During my time at Omniture, I’ve really tried to learn the “ins and outs” of SiteCatalyst and our other products, and I love sharing those hidden gems whenever possible. When there is an issue that everyone needs to know about, or a tip that I learned in a conversation with a colleague that I believe would benefit our users generally, I’ll throw it out there. I’ve gotten really good feedback on that practice.
Another way is as a resource for quick questions—things that may not warrant calling in to our ClientCare team and that I can handle on the spot or with just a minute or two of research—which clients are welcome to throw at me. These are actually my favorite in the context of Twitter because they often allow others to learn and contribute along with whoever is asking the question. What’s really cool about this is seeing other clients jump in and nail the answers to these questions before I do.
We’ve seen that our efforts on Twitter can sometimes even reduce the amount of support calls. Many of these questions/issues are actually fairly straightforward, and can be resolved in one or two tweets.
Finally, of course, I watch for mentions of Omniture or our products that may be support or feature requests and do what I can with them. We’ve gotten some really excellent feature requests via Twitter, and our Product Management team very much appreciates it.
Q: Tell us a little about how you deal with non-customers / complaints about Omniture?
A: I suppose this depends on the nature of the tweet. There are certain complaints (as well as non-customer questions) which are completely legitimate, and I do my best either to address them or to point the individual in the direction of someone who can. We’ve seen that our efforts on Twitter can sometimes even reduce the amount of support calls. I am not sure I can help people who are negative for the sake of negativity in 140 characters.
Q: What is the funniest Tweet you’ve seen/received about the company?
A: The funniest tweet about the company was one that said, “wondering when omniture will be able to provide users with a brain plug-in as part of the suite.” We’re working on it. I think it’s in beta.
Q: Who do you follow in Twitter?
A: The people I follow typically fall into two categories. Of course, I follow our customers. Finding our customers on Twitter can be tricky, so I often have to wait until one of them tweets about Omniture before I can follow them. Then I also follow industry thought leaders—yourself, Avinash, and others—from whom I am learning a ton about web analytics in general.
When someone begins to follow me without having tweeted about Omniture, I usually check his or her profile to see whether or not the person is likely to be a customer or to tweet about web analytics or Internet marketing (SEO, SEM, etc.). If so, I’ll follow. If not, I won’t.
The thing about using Twitter (or other social media) for customer support is that by following dozens or hundreds of people, I end up with a lot of updates regarding what so-and-so is eating for lunch, while I’m there mostly for professional, rather than personal, purposes. Maybe I’m a good candidate to represent ClientCare on Twitter because I don’t mind the personal updates at all. Frequently I find myself getting jealous of what our clients are eating for lunch, though.
Q: How important do you think Twitter is to customer relationship management?
First of all, I think it’s important to note that Twitter is only a part of our overall social media efforts. I will be starting to post on blogs.omniture.com shortly, and we’ve already got a ton of great content out there from 15 different experts. We want to hear from our customers about the issues they are facing and share information that will help them do their jobs better. The most important thing is staying on top of the latest trends in this area; today, a lot of our customers are on Twitter, but in six months it might be some other tool. Whatever it turns out to be, we’ll be there.
Regarding Twitter and customer relationship management, I know it’s been hugely important for us—ClientCare, and really for Omniture as a whole. I love the idea that we can listen to our customers so easily. When there are support issues, we can deal with them quicker than ever before. When there are feature requests, it’s easy to gauge whether there is a groundswell of support for the idea. When there are complaints, we can deal with them immediately and, in many cases, put customers’ minds at ease.
We’ve received a lot of very positive feedback regarding our efforts on Twitter. I think it’s important for customers to know that we are listening. It empowers them to interact with us in a new and powerful way. And that’s not just rhetoric—we really are listening.
The other way that Twitter is important is that it feeds into the two other main thrusts of ClientCare’s efforts—support and documentation—while those elements also feed into Twitter, allowing us to solve issues and answer questions more completely than ever before. When someone asks a question via Twitter, it often feeds into the Knowledge Base. Conversely, as I am working on our documentation I frequently find information that I believe would be useful to many of our clients, and will post it on Twitter. Support issues feed into the Knowledge Base and Twitter as well; when there are general questions asked of our ClientCare team, those will often find their way into both our documentation and onto Twitter. And tweets often result in support tickets being opened, and subsequently in additions to our documentation, when questions and issues go beyond what I can handle in 140 characters.
Q: What are your measures of success as a Twitter Support Rep?
A: I think I’m still trying to feel out what the correct metrics are. Certainly time to response and time to resolution are KPIs, but that goes without saying in customer support and relationship management. At this point, I suppose my goal is to leave 100% of clients who interact with me feeling more confident in their Omniture abilities. It’s always a success when I’m able to disseminate knowledge and help our customers get better value out of our tools.
Thanks to Ben and his managers for allowing me to conduct this interview. If you know of someone else in the web analytics arena doing excellent work in Twitter I’d love to hear about it.