Google Needs a Twelpforce

It’s pretty obvious that Google’s biggest strength is their technology. It seems like every month involves some new Google technology meant to strengthen the company’s position as the Internet’s information phone book. On the other hand, as the company releases more and more products, I’m starting to see a small, but growing, backlash against their weakness: customer service.

When Google’s product line consisted of “beta” products like Gmail or Google Maps, they could get away with providing very minimal customer service. Users with issues are often directed to an email address or forums for support. Now that Google is developing operating systems, like the Android platform on a growing number of smartphones such as their own Google-branded Nexus One, or the Chrome OS that they hope to have on netbooks, relying on email or forum support just isn’t going to cut it for potential buyers.

Google is absolutely going to have to invest in more traditional customer service options, such as call centers, as their product families grow. However, I also believe they’d also significantly benefit from looking at how Best Buy’s Twelpforce handles both customer service and technology questions.

As a Best Buy employee who has helped a number of people via Twelpforce, I know very well how the model allows a company to use the collective knowledge of its employees to provide help to the public on a wide range of topics related to a company’s products and services.

If there’s one thing Google is very strong in, it’s the technical knowledge of their employees. Imagine how many questions they could answer for the public by using a Twelpforce model to bring that knowledge straight to not only those asking the questions, but to anyone else who might have similar problems as well.

Google wouldn’t have to rely on only Twitter as a means to answer those incoming questions either. Best Buy has been developing a tool alongside Twelpforce, called BBYFeed, that allows for both questions and answers that won’t fit within Twitter’s 140 characters. This tool is being designed to open up future avenues for both incoming and outgoing interactions beyond Twitter.

If any company would be good at creating a way to collect those answers in a way that could be easily searched and available to answer future questions, it would be Google.

So Google, where’s your Twelpforce?

How About a Little Twelp From Your Friends?

Phil Wilson has a nice piece on the website in which he asks about the success of Best Buy’s Twitter-based @Twelpforce.

As a member of Twelpforce, my favorite line comes from our own Twelpforce lead, John Bernier, who explains that, “We’ve been able to meet our customers at the crossroads of need and time…Being there when and where they need us.”

That is, I think, really the best way to measure our progress on the project.

Dear Mom, I Enlisted in the Twelpforce

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="450" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="450" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

@TwelpforceThis week marked the official launch of Best Buy’s @Twelpforce, which allows customers to connect with regular employees for questions and support with products and services they are looking at, or have already bought.

TechCrunch has been very positive on the idea of connecting customers with employees, calling it, “a phenomenal way to engage with Twitter users and social media in general.”

I’ve had an opportunity to join in on the experience as a Geek Squad Agent, and it’s been eye-opening in just how powerful the idea is. I’ve seen hundreds of customer-employee interactions since the launch, and it’s wonderful to see how welcomed the responses are by the public.

I think the thing that makes this idea so unique is that it’s not just another contact point for a company public relations team. Instead, it’s made up of regular employees from around the world, 700+ at last count. The expectation for participation, according to the publicly-available website is that @Twelpforce members, “just have to be curious, proactive, and helpful- much of the same stuff you do everyday.”

I look forward to more @Twelpforce twittering in my future!