Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge advocate of social media customer service. I can see it’s value, I’ve experienced it first hand. I can see how a company can really enhance the way it engages with its customers if it’s willing to participate. But I’m also a realist. So here’s some of my thoughts about Twitter.

Twitter isn’t the answer. It’s a momentary fix that pacifies your customers at that moment in time. If you aren’t going to fix the root cause of the problem, your customers will keep coming back to shout at you, they’ll just use Twitter to do it. Customer service is a daily reminder of where you’re going wrong.

Twitter is great for identifying problems that may escalate and for picking up complaints. As Frank Eliason said, it’s a great ‘early warning’ system. But to resolve a problem, you’ll probably still need to transfer to email or a phone call. So don’t treat Twitter in isolation. Understand its strengths, but also understand its weaknesses.

If you’re looking for ROI in Twitter, make sure what it is you are really trying to measure. Twitter is great for identifying problems, it’s not necessarily the channel you will resolve the problem in. So, don’t try to apportion the entire measure to Twitter, only measure and judge it on what it does.

The avalanche of complaints won’t happen just because you’re on Twitter. People don’t suddenly switch one channel off and turn to another one. All they do is add that channel into the mix. It’s another option they’ve got.

Twitter is just a channel. Just like email or the phone. Understand it, understand what you want to do with it. Understand how your customers use it (or perhaps they don’t).

Customer service is an attitude, it’s an approach towards your customers. Twitter is just a means to express that. Zappos will be successful no matter what channel they use, because they are truly switched on in wanting to ‘wow’ their customers. ‘Wow’ for them is not about channel, it’s a mindset.

If using Twitter as a customer service channel doesn’t work for you, perhaps that’s more a comment about how you’re using Twitter. Remember Twitter is nothing more than a platform, a means to an end. Don’t blame the technology for shortcomings in your thinking or gaps in your processes.

Twitter is about people, people sharing ideas, observations, rants and raves, people helping people, people sharing the moment. If you can’t share, don’t.