End user support for virtual events has traditionally been provided via a small number of channels: email and telephone support (which is especially useful for users having issues entering the virtual event) and “in-show support”, which is typically provided in a “help booth” within the virtual event. With growing use of social media, however, attendees are leveraging their social network tools to request (and receive) user support.
From my observations, Twitter is the most widely used social network for virtual event support requests (today) – however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see increased “calls for help” via Facebook and LinkedIn. This posting provides tips and best practices on providing virtual event end user support via Twitter.
Create/Establish a Twitter Account
Users can’t find you on Twitter if you’re not there, which means that if you don’t already have a presence on Twitter, you’ll need to create one. I recommend a Twitter ID that incorporates your company name – or, the product, platform or service that you provide (if that’s different from your company name). In addition, be transparent about the contributors (employees) who tweet on behalf of your company and brand.
Create A Real-Time Dashboard (of tweets)
Configure your Twitter client (e.g. TweetDeck, Seesmic, etc.) with the relevant search terms and hash tags related to your virtual event. At minimum, you’ll want to monitor the following:
- @Replies sent to your Twitter account (in TweetDeck, the column is labeled “Mentions”)
- A search on the hash tag for your virtual event
- A search on your company name – or, the name of your platform, product or service
- A search on the virtual event’s name or title
If it helps you stay more focused, delete columns that are unrelated to the virtual event – the result will be a single app that consolidates all “chatter” related to your event. I recommend that you monitor for new tweets every 15 minutes while the event is live.
Allocate Proper Staffing & Get Started Early
In the same manner that you allocate support staff to booths, email inboxes and telephones, be sure to allocate staff to “Twitter support”. You want to get up and running early – I recommend monitoring Twitter at least one full hour before the official opening of your virtual event. Virtual event producers typically allow exhibitors into the environment prior to attendees – so during the “early period”, be on the look-out for tweets from exhibitors who may need assistance finding their way into their virtual booths.
Have at least one person who is “primary” for Twitter support throughout the event day. And, know that Twitter users expect quick turnaround to their tweets. Trend setters such as @comcastcares have provided highly responsive and immediate customer care on Twitter, which has raised the bar for everyone else. Users on Twitter have come to expect similar care and responsiveness.
If you do not respond within 15-20 minutes of users’ original tweet, they may issue a subsequent tweet, letting the “world” (e.g. their followers + users who are following the event’s hash tag) know that they’ve received no response from the event provider. So be sure to provide prompt service – if your customer care is prompt and effective, you’ll be rewarded. Users are just as quick to say “thanks” (on Twitter) and acknowledge the great service you provide.
Following Up With A User
I prefer to handle support issues via 1-on-1 care. Before you contact the user, review their Twitter profile – as background to your upcoming dialog, it’s good to know the user’s company, title and number of Twitter followers. I like to know if the user has an audience of 100 on Twitter – or, an audience of 100,000. In addition, read the user’s last 10-15 tweets, to get to know his/her interests, hot buttons, etc.
Now you’re ready to make contact. I prefer to connect directly – a direct message on Twitter (if the user is following you), a direct email (if you have his/her email address) or a private chat within the virtual event (if the user is logged in at the time). If none of these channels are available to you, send the user a public message on Twitter and provide your direct contact info (e.g. your email address).
It’s important to personalize your brand, letting users know that there are “real people” behind your corporate Twitter account – and, providing them with a direct means for getting in touch.
To prepare you for a “triage session” with your end user, I like the have the following information available via URLs that I can provide to the user:
- Technical requirements for accessing/attending the virtual event
- Automated system check that allows a user to test their system
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) related to the virtual event
- A “contact us” page related to end user support (e.g. providing an email address, phone number, etc.)
In addition, be sure to have higher level “support experts” available in case you need to delegate a sophisticated system issue. The experts should be available within the virtual event – or, be available “on call” to jump in as needed.
Once you’ve resolved a user’s issue, follow them on Twitter – this allows them to send you direct messages. And, it allows you to be quickly apprised of any subsequent issues they may come across. Later on in the day, check if the user is logged in to the virtual event – if so, send a private chat request and politely ask how the event is going. It’s always good for users to know that you’re actively supporting the event and genuinely interested in their satisfaction.
On Twitter, respond to each and every end user “tweet” – mention that the issue is resolved and invite the user to contact you back as needed. Be careful, however, not to include the event’s hash tag on all of these follow-up tweets. As the virtual event platform, you do not want to have a significant presence in the hash tag’s tweetstream. Rather, only include the hash tag if your tweet relates to system-wide updates (applicable to all or most users).
The occasional update (with the hash tag) shows users that you’re listening – and replying to every single tweet shows your followers that you are responsive to each issue that arises.
The Entire Team Contributes
If your virtual event support staff is comprised of active Twitter users, encourage them to tweet about the event – have them highlight interesting sessions, pass along comments from enthusiastic attendees or simply state that they’re having a great time. This helps promote the event itself – and, highlights the depth of the team behind the event support. Take it a step further and create a Twitter List of your staff – allowing interested users to follow your employees tweets via a list.
The world is going social, which means that user support and customer service need to be “socially listening” (and responding). Get ahead of the curve – be sure to support your next virtual event on Twitter.