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5/22/2009
03:51 PM
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RightNow, Salesforce Offer Services To Track Customer Complaints On Twitter, YouTube

So you buy a new smartphone, and the touch pad stinks. You post on your Twitter or Facebook account, "Should've known better than to buy a phone from XYZ Corp. Their stuff is junk." You expect a few sympathetic replies from friends. Instead, you get this surprising, and maybe a bit creepy, message from XYZ Corp.: "Are you having a problem with your new phone? Please contact us--we'd like to help!" Welcome to the world of cloud monitoring services, brought to you by RightNow and Salesforce.com.

So you buy a new smartphone, and the touch pad stinks. You post on your Twitter or Facebook account, "Should've known better than to buy a phone from XYZ Corp. Their stuff is junk." You expect a few sympathetic replies from friends. Instead, you get this surprising, and maybe a bit creepy, message from XYZ Corp.: "Are you having a problem with your new phone? Please contact us--we'd like to help!" Welcome to the world of cloud monitoring services, brought to you by RightNow and Salesforce.com.That's the consumer view of what might happen with these new services. Let's look at the company view. Many people who've bought your new phone model hate it, and you don't even know it yet. That's because some customers are more likely to complain about it in chat rooms and social networking sites. Maybe those customers think any call to customer service would be hopeless--or a customer service call already was hopeless--so they're thinking the only way to get sympathy, or revenge, is to complain about the product to a wide audience. That's what these new services do: Help you find customers who've erected "XYZ Is Junk" billboards on the information superhighway, so you can solve their problems, and hopefully squash the desire to erect any more negative billboards about your company.

Next week, RightNow will offer general availability of Cloud Monitor, which will monitor Twitter and YouTube for customer issues, and pull them into a company's RightNow customer-relationship management system for action.

Here's how it works: You set RightNow Cloud Monitor to search for key words, in 33 languages, in Twitter and YouTube, such as, "XYZ Corp.," "phone," "junk," "crap," "mad," "angry," and the ever-popular "sucks." After retrieving the tweets or videos, an XYZ customer agent can respond to the individual or create an incident report and put it into the RightNow workflow (RightNow, by the way, is offered in the software-as-a-service model.) Then a statistically based natural-language processing system applies a scale for how positive or negative the emotion is in each incident, which lets XYZ rank the priority in which it deals with each incident.

RightNow is planning future support for Facebook and LinkedIn, and is looking at how it can apply the service even more broadly, such as chat rooms. RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte tells me that some customers have been using the product for nine months, and it's ready for use by the company's full customer base.

Meanwhile, Salesforce.com will offer a similar application for its CRM service this summer that monitors Twitter. Comcast, Cable, Dell, and European telecom company Orange are among the customers that have signed up for it.

From within Salesforce, customer-service agents can conduct searches for tweets on their products and companies, search a database for answers for customers, and monitor ideas and the "conversation level" on a certain topic or product being tweeted on Twitter. Salesforce says typical pricing is $995 a month for five agents and five business partners, and support for 250 customers.

So let's get back to the aforementioned creepy aspect of all this. If a company contacted me on Twitter following a post, I think, initially, I might be taken back a bit. But really, this is in no way a violation of privacy. When you tweet, you're tweeting to anyone and everyone. That's the nature of Twitter. There is no privacy there. Same with YouTube. You don't get to choose who responds to what you have to tell the world.

In sites such as Facebook, you can control the level of access to your postings. If you set your privacy settings to let anyone in a network you belong to read your posts, for example, then XYZ might read your post, if that network happens to be open to anyone to join. Security firm Sophos provides a great primer for protecting yourself on Facebook.

And do us consumers really need protection from the companies using these new monitoring services? After all, these companies are just trying to solve customers' problems-and in the process, provide customers with a satisfaction level that prevents them from telling the rest of the world that they're bad companies that make junky products. So in the end, everyone is happy. Hopefully.

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