This is an interesting one: consumer electronics retailer Best Buy is encouraging hundreds of employees to handle online customer service and company promotions via Twitter, even airing commercials not mentioning their own website but merely the URL of the profile they created on the micro-sharing service (two spots embedded below). The new service, dubbed Twelpforce, was debuted over the weekend but so far hasn’t garnered a lot of online buzz, let alone followers on Twitter (currently at around 1350). I’m sure that will change soon enough.
Tweet the Twelpforce, they’re here to twelp
Leaving aside the brutal misuse of the ‘tw’ in Twitter for their own use of names and verbs, the concept is pretty well thought-out. Best Buy employees can use their company and Twitter ID to register for the service here, after which tweets from the lot of them will be displayed in a single stream on the same page.
Once registered, tweeting Best Buy employees from across all operations can send messages from the @Twelpforce account, and if they add the hash-tag #twelpforce, their messages will automatically show up under the twelpforce handle with a credit to their proper Twitter account. This is similar to how we handle the auto-posting of TechCrunch posts on our Twitter account.
I like that the ‘Tips & Expectations’ part targeted at interested Best Buy employees is made public (right here). An excerpt:
The promise we’re making starting in July is that you’ll know all that we know as fast as we know it. That’s an enormous promise. That means that customers will be able to ask us about the decisions they’re trying to make, the products they’re using, and look for the customer support that only we can give. And with Twitter, we can do that fast, with lots of opinions so they can make a decision after weighing all the input. It also lets others learn from it as they see our conversations unfold.
When you start, remember that the tone is important Above all, the tone of the conversation has to be authentic and honest. Be conversational. Be yourself. Show respect. Expect respect. The goal is to help. If you don’t know the answer tell them you’ll find out. Then find out and let them know.
Practical tips include identifying oneself as a Best Buy employee, not asking for personal customer information (even in direct messages), don’t be pushy in trying to convince someone to buy consumer electronics from Best Buy, apologize for any delays and misunderstandings, etc.
Having launched last Sunday, Twelpforce has reportedly been in test with more than 700 registered employees, with more of them signing up daily.
Fantastic or spamtastic?
Personally, I think this is a phenomenal way to engage with Twitter users and social media in general. I’m sure that a lot of people will find it intrusive if a Best Buy employee suddenly starts talking to them after they tweeted out something random like “I could use a new flat-screen TV for my condo”, but looking at the advice provided by the company I think they actually ‘get it’ and are not looking to be overly pushy in selling you stuff.
If the response is friendly, personal and not clearly coming from someone interested only in trying to make a sale rather than being proactive about giving knowledgeable advice, I wouldn’t mind to be contacted by Best Buy employees on Twitter at all. Judging by the public stream of tweets, I’d say that this is exactly what they are doing, so kudos to them and Best Buy for thinking differently about online customer service.
More of this, please.