I’ve been tweeting for a few weeks only now and following for the most part businesses that are tweeting (attempts at twittersquatting aside), particularly those tweeting from a customer service, help and support point of view.

I unashamedly admit that in my single-minded pursuit of trying to immerse myself in twitter and following corporate tweeters (‘c-tweets’ – I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a new word in there somewhere, what do you call it when you run two words together?) my following-to-followers ratio is pretty poor.  

I work for Carphone Warehouse and am responsible for the help and support pages on carphonewarehouse.com. As I’ve followed people tweeting about Carphone Warehouse and other mobile phone providers in general, it has become apparent that the majority of tweets fall roughly into two categories.

Firstly, those that bring to our attention a new application usually for iPhone or BlackBerry users. Secondly, a problem that you or one of your tweeps has had happen to them. The one that I am focussing on is the second one. 

Interestingly, not always, but in many instances the problem usually occurs when two companies are involved and either the information held in their respective systems differs or there has simply been a communication breakdown between the two and no one on either side  is prepared to spend a bit of time listening to the customer and trying to understand not only the problem, but sometimes more importantly their frustration. There’s a great example of this on Brendan Cooper’s blog. We’ve all got our own examples to add to the list.

Is it too much to ask for a company to spend 5-10 minutes listening? What is the cost of that? What are the real implications of it? What are the results of not listening?

What this problem highlights is simply the age old problem of companies continuing to work in silos. Each department a wall or barrier unto itself. Applications or concepts such as Twitter, whatever you may think of it, question, provoke, challenge and force companies to look at how they are structured, how they engage with their customers, how they engage with other companies. But moreso, Twitter and other social media give customers the potential to create their own models of customer service, their own expectations of how help and support might be provided. They will find gaps through which to force departments to talk to each other, erode lines between companies, and perhaps ultimately for companies unwilling to change they may bypass them altogether and look to each other for help through applications such as Twitter. Customers, if nothing else, will hold a mirror up.

For switched on companies, however, the opportunity to perhaps even co-create these new paradigms or ‘micro-interactions’ of customer service and help are there waiting to happen.

By the way, when you run two words together it’s called a ‘portmanteau word’, coined by Lewis Carroll in ‘Through the Looking Glass’. Do you know what word it was? Answer