Twitter: The future of customer care?

Lynnette LunaIt looks like Twitter is quickly becoming the future of customer care.

According to the Technology Review, which is published by MIT, AT&T has embarked on an experimental project that leverages complaints about the company on Twitter and automatically pinpoints where and when customers are having problems with their mobile connection.

AT&T researchers have developed software to find complaints about network problems on Twitter and then extract the approximate time the tweet was posted and the location of the person who posted it. AT&T was the poster boy for quality problems in 2009 thanks to the influx of smart phone data traffic.

Of course, companies scouring Twitter for complaints about themselves is nothing new, but AT&T is using two levels of filtering to find tweets made by angry subscribers. One level involves tapping into the programming interface tools that are free on Twitter. The programming interface generates a general set of queries that pulls every tweet related to AT&T's mobile service. Then a more stringent set of rules filters out tweets relating to service quality. AT&T researchers said they found this method to be about 90 percent accurate at identifying real complaints.

Using the data, AT&T can then time stamp and find the location associated with the tweets. The information can be mapped and compared with system logs and customer service calls. Again, researchers at AT&T said the practice discovered issues that would never have been reported. Moreover, it detected problems about 20 minutes before a customer service call came in.

Talk about pro-active customer care. Never before has the mobile operator community had this detailed insight into customer problems before the customer complains directly to the company. For a cut-throat industry like the mobile-phone industry, it's vital that operators are able to head off negative experiences of their customers and reach out to them before they leave the company. There just never was a real viable way of doing it. At the same time, there is something empowering for customers when it comes to airing their complaints on Twitter for the whole world to see. And of course, if a company works to correct the problem, the whole world hears about it too.--Lynnette