Customer service is a very popular topic. As it should be. A quick search on Google will reveal thousands of articles on the subject and a twitter search will display tons of updates, hashtags and Twitter chats.

And today, I’d like to discuss my personal insights and beliefs about what customer service really means.


When I was 20 years old, I got my first retail sales job. I worked for a local sporting goods store selling camping equipment and athletic shoes. And one of the first sales lessons I was taught was S.W.A.T (Sell What’s Available Today). The premise was simple. If a customer was looking for specific product and the store didn’t sell it or have it in stock, then the salesperson tried to sell the customer a different or similar product that was in stock.

So becoming a successful salesperson meant learning how to identify a customer’s pain, their price threshold to remove it, and what product was in-stock, right now, at a price they would be willing to pay — even if it meant the product didn’t meet all of their needs. And because I was working on commission, I learned very fast, and got very good, at doing just that. I had to. Otherwise, I didn’t get paid.

Fast forward a few decades later.

Coconut Macaroons

One of my favorite “cookies” is coconut macaroons. I just love them and my daughter had never had one before. So there I was, in a local grocery store, trying to hunt down a package of coconut macaroons. But I couldn’t find them anywhere so I asked a store clerk to help me.

He walked me around the store, up and down aisles, looking for the macaroons. And when he can’t find them, he tells me they either must not carry them, they’re not in stock, or they only sell them during the holiday season. And, of course, the next thing he does is offer me a package of coconut cookies.

All I can do is sigh and shake my head because over the years, I’ve learned that customer service — real customer service — isn’t tied into trying to make a sale right now. Real customer service is about helping customers solve their problem even if it means losing a sale by sending them to a competitor.

I truly believe that.

In Search of Charms

A few weeks later my daughter wanted to give her mom a new charm for her Pandora bracelet. And after my daughter spent a lot of time searching through the Pandora website for the perfect charm, she found one. It was now in my hands to go to the jewelry store to buy it. That was the easy part.

When I got to the jewelry store, I told the sales person exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, that specific charm happened to be one of the few that were sold out. The salesperson told me they could order one but they wouldn’t have it in stock until after my wife’s birthday.

What the salesperson did next surprised me.

Understanding how important it was to my daughter to give my wife that specific charm, instead of jumping into S.W.A.T mode, he actually recommended I try a store up the street. The salesperson told me that although the shop was mostly geared to selling purses and other fashion items, they also sold Pandora charms.

I was speechless.

I couldn’t believe I finally found a salesperson who understood what it meant to actually help their customers.

I rushed off to the other store and was extremely happy to find that, even with a limited selection of charms, they had the exact charm my daughter wanted to give her mom. I was so grateful for that salesperson helping me, I made an extra trip back to the store to thank him and the store manager.

What Happened To The Search Results?

A big segue, I know, but there’s a point to my story.

For those of you who weren’t aware, our streaming, real-time search results stopped working last week. And even though TweetReports is still in a testing “Beta” phase, it caught me completely off guard.

To make matters worse, the e-mails sent to users notifying them of the issue were apparently never received. Of course, we posted updates to our Twitter account but that doesn’t always ensure followers will actually see it.

As you can imagine, I’ve been inundated with e-mails, support tickets, phone calls, direct messages, and public tweets from users who are unable to get real-time search results, reports, and transcripts for their Twitter chats. Most feedback has been quite pointed while others have been very patient and supportive.

Even though I completely understand their frustration (I depend on TweetReports for my own personal clients), it doesn’t solve their problem. What does solve their problem is the ability to get real-time search results, analytics, and Twitter chat transcripts. But until we can resolve our real-time streaming issue, the solution is to provide REAL customer service.

That not only means providing our users with updates as they’re available, but to truly backup my beliefs with action. So, as the saying goes, it’s time to walk the walk.

Twitter Tools

As you may know, every Twitter search tool provides a completely different feature sets and user interface. Because every user has different needs, one Twitter tool may work great for some people, but not for others. So here are my suggestions to help you with your Twitter search and reporting needs.

For real-time search results, you can always use Twitter’s free search. Other apps you can try are; Twazzup, or Topsy.

For trending topics, try; Tweetmeme and Twitt(url)ly.

For Twitter chat transcripts try; Hashtracking and curateDE.

For analytics, you can try; PostRank, Twitalyzer, Row Feeder, and Radian6.

And although Buffer doesn’t fall under any of the above app categories, they have a great tool backed with great people.

I know many businesses may think it’s completely crazy to send customers to a competitor. That, by doing so, they’ll actually lose business. But I firmly believe the opposite is true.

Granted, the American Jewelry Company I went to lost a $50 sale that day. But what they gained in return is much, much bigger. They gained a dedicated customer that will keep coming back to their store because I trust them to have my best interests at heart — even if it means losing a sale. And that’s something they couldn’t have bought for ten times that amount!

What’s Next?

As most people know, TweetReports is a bootstrap business. And although I know how to code, that’s not my field of expertise. That said, when the real-time search results stopped streaming my first response was to jump in and see if I could resolve the issue myself. It soon became clear it would take more than my skills to fix the connection issue. Which is exactly why I hired 5 Elementsa truly amazing company with even more amazing developers (@mcatlett). Unlike other programmers I’ve had the misfortune to work with, 5 Elements doesn’t just blindly do what you tell them, they provide incredible insight and suggestions to make things better and save money on development time. And that’s what you need from a great developer.

The problem is that 5 Elements is so good at what they do, they don’t have time to work on the connection issue until Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday. You can only imagine the pain in my stomach when I heard that. But if you want the best, sometimes you have to stand in line. And even though it means more downtime, I know the end result will be a solid solution that’s best for our app and for our loyal users.

In the meantime, I’d like to apologize to all users for any inconvenience this issue has possibly created and I have already started issuing refunds to subscribers for the down time. Granted, even though our terms of service explicitly state a no-refunds policy, I think it’s the right thing to do. After all, no matter what you sell, all any business really has to offer their customers, is service.

Thank you,
Michael Kristof

UPDATE: The streaming search results issue has been resolved.