iStockphoto Uses Twitter for Customer Service

by Joanna Pineda Posted on March 17, 2009
Twitter search for iStockphotoClick on the image to see a larger version of a screen shot of the Twitter search I used to get info about the iStockphoto site being down.

I get nearly all of the photos for my blog from iStockphoto, an online photo service. There’s a good selection and pricing is great. A couple of weeks ago, I was dismayed to find that the iStockphoto Web site was completely down; all I got was a Service Unavailable message.

So what did I do?  I tweeted about the iStockphoto site being down, of course. Then I had a brainwave.  Surely other people were tweeting about the site being down; what were they experiencing and what did they know?

So I went to the Twitter search, which is a real-time search of all tweets, not just the people you follow.  I typed “istockphoto” and got a stream of tweets about the site being down.  Okay, so I knew I wasn’t alone and it wasn’t me.  But then I started seeing tweets from @istock.  Aha, perhaps I could get some answers there.  Sure enough, @istock reported that their site was under attack and they were down as a result.  I direct tweeted and got a reply back, apologizing for the downtime.

A few hours later, the iStockphoto site was back up.  I was still monitoring the tweets on the Twitter search and someone recommended changing your iStockphoto password.  I tweeted @istock and got a personal response back, agreeing that I should change my password.

Instead of customers being in the dark and a total PR nightmate, iStockphoto managed the questions and provided updates directly through Twitter. And because their posts were public, others could follow the threads and get information.  Wow.  After getting such a quick response, I wasn’t even mad that the site was down and I’m still a loyal customer.

In a related story, Katherine from Matrix Group had a suck-y customer service experience at Home Depot.  What did she do?  She blogged and tweeted about it, of course!  Well guess what, she was contacted by Home Depot directly via Twitter.  Someone from corporate then followed up by phone, apologized and offered her a $50 gift card.

Both iStockphoto and Home Depot evidently have a listening strategy related to Twitter. Chances are, they are using the Twitter search and have set up an RSS feed to alert them when their companies are mentioned in tweets.  And they are earnestly following up.

How about you?  Does your company have a listening strategy? Do you know what’s being said about you on Twitter and the blogosphere?

One reply on “iStockphoto Uses Twitter for Customer Service”

Joanna, great post on how social networking sites/tools can be a viable customer service delivery channel. I can see opportunities where organizations could use SN sites as a way of communicating with their business partners as well as customers as part of their organization’s disaster recovery efforts. Communication during a disaster is one of the most challenging and important part of business resumption…especially when the customers depend on your services for critical things like the delivery of healthcare and pension payments.

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