BrainTrust Query: Twelpforce

Discussion
Jul 24, 2009
David Dorf

By David Dorf, Director of Technology Strategy,
Oracle Retail

Best
Buy recently launched a new service called Twelpforce that
is aimed at using store and GeekSquad staff to answer product and technology
questions via Twitter. According to Bloomberg,
they will even be doing some TV commercials on the topic. So I decided
to see how this works.

The
first thing I noticed was that most of the Tweets were of the “hello
out there” variety, but that may just be because the service is so
new. It looked like there were tweets from both store associates as
well as GeekSquad technicians. There’s no rhyme or reason to the account
names. Some clearly represent stores (e.g. BBY1094), GeekSquad technicians
(e.g. Agent 13700), specialties (e.g. CameraJenn), and individuals
(Ingandela). BestBuy doesn’t seem to be limiting their creativity.

So
let’s see if I can get an answer. Below is my first conversation:

I kind of figured that the real-time nature
of Twitter would have gotten me a faster response than an hour. Nonetheless,
the response was accurate and helpful. In fact both responses were good,
but I wonder if there are controls in place for limiting the number of
responses. I could see getting deluged by multiple responses, and in this
case both gave the same information.

So
then I asked a follow-on question, but there’s no good way to associate
the related threads.

After two hours there was still
no response.

For
me at least, the Best
Buy forum
is
actually better because I can have a conversation that’s captured in
threads. Plus, when necessary, I can send a private message that contains
more specific purchase information.

The
premise here is that a person has a problem and knows to send his/her
question to Twelpforce. In that case, I would guess the person is
probably already a Best Buy customer. But what about the customer that
just needs help? Isn’t that a great opportunity for BestBuy to find
and capture the customer? My next experiment:

It
seems to me that software could comb Twitter for opportunities to help
people with their electronics. This would be a great way to establish
a relationship with a potential customer. Best
Buy even recommends their staff do this
,
but my question went unanswered. I have to assume either Twelpforce
is not searching on “plasma TV” or can’t distinguish from all the spam
out there.

I
really like their goal:

“Supporting
the brand promises with the knowledge of 150,000.

  • Know all that we know
  • Deliver and experience that
    inspires you
  • Make a difference
  • Blow you away with the latest
    and greatest
  • Never leave you hanging.”

It
will just take some time for them to get it right. I’ll have to check
back in a few weeks.

Discussion
Question: What do you think of the potential of using Twitter to connect
Best Buy customers to its GeekSquad and store staff? What are the challenges
to making the Twelpforce service work?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Twelpforce"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 9 months ago

My question is, what happens next year or a few years from now when Twitter is no longer a popular fad? If we can assume that retailer’s resources for handling customers are limited, why put any into trend sensitive vehicles such as Twitter? Not everyone uses Twitter and I bet even fewer BB customers do. Focus on the walk ins or online shoppers. I’m not seeing the retail benefits in Twitter. Now, if you can get a couple die-hard tweeters to monitor it at minimal (like 0) expense, then I say go for it.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

A few hiccups down the road they’ll have this working much better. And good for them! So many of their core customers are tweeting away every minute of the day. We’re all looking to make our lives easier, so if I can get a response to my tech question easier, I’d be all for it.

My enthusiasm for this idea is ramped up because I spent 40 minutes on the phone the other day with a customer (dis)service call line and got completely frustrated by the waste of time.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 9 months ago
Here is why Best Buy is still here today, and Circuit City, CompUSA, etc, are not. Best Buy is willing to push the envelope and try new things, even if they are not perfected. The Twelpforce is a great idea, and a great way to connect with a specific segment of their customers. The fact that the service is not perfected is not an issue. In today’s fast moving market, companies don’t have the luxury of waiting until services are perfected; they need to roll out new initiatives on a regular basis to make certain they they remain relevant. Retailers who aren’t sure that Twitter fits into their strategy will be left behind. Do we know that Twitter will be here 10 years from now? No, we don’t. But the fact is, it is here today, and retailers need to figure out how to utilize the tool as another form of communication, and another way of engaging with their customers. Today! Kudos to Best Buy for looking at new ways in which they can become… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I applaud BestBuy for getting started with Twelpforce. they may not “nail it” in the first month but you can be assured that they will continue to test and learn and act like a leader. It is yet another tool in the arsenal they have to capture and retain loyal shoppers and build the brand.

I used Twitter recently while having an unhappy shopping experience at Meijer. The person who manages their @Meijer twitter account tweeted me directly within 20 minutes, at 8:30 pm, and then tweeted a link to a form that I completed that was sent to the store. It then resulted in e-mail and conversation with the store manager. Effective, and the manager now has some input on the problem and some potential solutions.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 9 months ago

Why would I want to go through Twitter when I can pick up the phone, call tech support and have my question answered in a couple of minutes? As cool as twitter might seem, sometimes just talking on the phone in real time can’t be beat.

Dan Raftery
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

One interesting point here is that BBY employees and BBY’s prime target consumer are from the same demographic, one where Twitter plays a daily role. They know that this network is not always real time, but pretty close. The 140 character limit can also be worked around by experienced Tweeters. And all they have to do is convert the Tweet into a phone call if they need more. Twelpforce will likely evolve as Twitter evolves, if BBY determines that it actually delivers a service and/or strengthens their consumer link.

Jesse Rooney
Guest
Jesse Rooney
11 years 9 months ago

Accurate, reliable, and free tech support in 140 characters or less? That’s just a bridge too far. It might work for 80% of the technical questions, true, but that’s going to just establish a expectation of service that cannot be feasibly met for the most complex issues. Cute idea, and it might be useful in a number of cases for simple problems that probably could have been solved by a read of the manual of the product in question, but I don’t think it’s got real legs for genuine problems.

You might say, “well, hey, we know it’s not for everything, but it’s great for this simple issue,” and you’d be right. However, the average consumer wouldn’t necessarily know when an issue is simple or when it is complex from the start and, I would expect a negative reaction when that consumer is told via twitter, after an hour of waiting, that they need to call live tech support.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
I love the Twelpforce premise and I think it is one of the best examples of leveraging Twitter in a way that truly benefits the customer vs. overloading everyone’s Twitter stream with thinly-veiled promotions. I see Twelpforce accomplishing several goals: 1. Engaging Best Buy employees outside of the store – Best Buy team members become more engaged as they tackle real-time customer problems and concerns. This builds customer and employee loyalty. 2. Reaching out vs. being “available” – It’s important to note that Best Buy isn’t just passively available for customer inquiries, they are actively scanning Twitter for any mention of Best Buy that might present an opportunity for engagement. Big difference that has Best Buy ushering in a new standard for customer service and engagement. 3. Grabbing customers where they are – Best Buy isn’t pretending to solve all Twitter-based issues on Twitter in 140 characters or less (that would be a gimmick vs. a true customer-centric strategy). With Twelpforce, they can snag the customer on Twitter (where the issue, question was raised) then… Read more »
Chuck Palmer
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Bravo Best Buy! They got it goin’ on. Will this be widely adopted? Perhaps, if the early adopters work out the kinks. This holds much potential to deepen the relationship with customers and the mythology around the brand.

Back in my department store days, we would say “Time enough to lean, time enough to clean.” Now it becomes “Time enough to lean, time enough to Tweet.” The power of 150,000 employees is compelling. The unsaid message is that their employees know what they are talking about and that authority is going unchallenged.

I’ve seen many stories on my Twitter feed (@cxChuck–follow me now) about Best Buy being responsive to customer service problems. This takes it to the next level by leveraging the collective consciousness of their expert staff.

We might not think this applies to fashion or consumables, but the intelligence and insights that can be gleaned from these tools hold great potential.

David Dorf
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Here’s an example of Best Buy using Twitter incorrectly –>

John Bajorek
Guest
John Bajorek
11 years 9 months ago

Twelpforce is another great example of how Best buy is tuned into the needs and desires of their customers. This is less about technology and more about choice, so if a customer wants help and prefers Twitter as a communication channel now they can. Dell and other technology companies have seen huge success in leveraging Twitter first for customer service and second for as an additional marketing venue. Keep up the good work, Best Buy.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
11 years 9 months ago

Why use Twitter? Best Buy should be using their own website to make the connection with consumers. It gives them the opportunity to promote more merchandise and services than Twitter which, is many cases, offers too small a space in which to answer questions. Besides, after the first tweet or two I don’t think the majority of people are that enamoured of Twitter. Their return rate is not that good and I don’t see it as a long-term solution.

Robert Edwards
Guest
Robert Edwards
11 years 9 months ago

Twitter is just another way to stay in touch. Why limit the avenues of communication? If your customer prefers it to the phone, why alienate that customer by refusing to serve their interests in a way that makes them comfortable? I use Twitter to promote my business. But there are so many possible uses for it.

I think Best Buy is making a smart move here. Many of their customers are young people who use the social networking sites already–they don’t have to convince anyone to use Twitter, they just need to let people know they are there. Businesses who dismiss this as a fad…well, so was online shopping ten years ago and lots of experienced business people didn’t think that would work.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 9 months ago

If they can execute in a complete and timely manner, then this is a no-lose proposition for BB. Still, the key to the Geek Squad is being able to help across all channels, from in-store walk-ins, phone calls, emails, tweets, etc.

Robert Heiblim
Guest
Robert Heiblim
11 years 9 months ago

The point is doing it. It does not matter if it is Twitter or if Twitter will be around years from now. These kinds of electronic interactions with consumers are here to stay. Better to start learning how to use and leverage them now and get ahead of the pack. It may not work well, even likely it will not at first but to get down the learning curve will pay benefits. Unless people give up their internet connections this phenomenon is only going to grow. Like it or not, get over it and go on with it. Social media is here, not the names or companies.

Bryan Larkin
Guest
Bryan Larkin
11 years 9 months ago

First, I think this is a great idea and, like many others here, applaud BB for doing this. Second, there will be many bumps in the road, but there will be more happy customers than unhappy, I expect. And more as time goes on.

Someone mentioned early in the comments here that they wondered if Twitter users were in the BB demographic while later on someone else noted that BB employees and the Twitter folks are from the same demographic. I think this is key. If the customers are using Twitter, this is a way to reach them. If the customers are not, then this is a way to pull in a new group of consumers who might be using other solutions–competing on-line stores, Wal-Mart or others. This type of service and showing a connection to how this group communicates (Twitter today, who knows what tomorrow) just strengthens BB’s role as a leader in consumer electronics and entertainment.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What’s the likelihood that social media tools such as Twitter will become a fairly common way for stores to solve problems for customers within the next few years?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...