One area in which social media is gaining traction is support services.When you combine partners in an interactive forum they become a self-help community.When you add customers to the mix, your partners become very competitive in demonstrating their expertise to the customer base.The result is very organic but very effective way of providing support services.

Lithium, a social networking CRM company, has carved out a niche among vendors supporting large developer communities. Lithium in particular has documented the ROI of community support and service. By leveraging the on-line expertise of the community, costs are offloaded from the enterprise support system and responses are typically much faster than traditional call centers. One respondent noted that a 5 minute service call costs $100. Since most customer inquiries can be answered in just a few minutes, support costs are dramatically reduced and customer satisfaction is dramatically increased through the rapid response of a community-based support model.

A few organizations advocated integrating Twitter into service and support operations.One organization reporting that they have a 5-minute response goal from the time a complaint is tweeted to when someone from the company responds with an offer of assistance.

Comcast has become a model case of how customer complaints can be proactively addressed through Twitter. Comcast Corporation is the largest cable television company and the second-largest Internet service provider. Its broadband Internet service reaches about 13 million subscribers.Comcast has been notorious for poor customer service, spawning anti-fan websites, and it won the dubious honor of being voted Worst Company in America by on-line subscribers of The Consumerist magazine. In mid 2008, Comcast began to use Twitter to monitor subscriber sentiment and to respond to customer complaints within minutes.Too soon to tell if they have rehabilitated their poor reputation overall, but it is clear that those individuals who receive a proactive and unsolicited offer of assistance were impressed. Comcast has received business press attention including the following article in BusinessWeek for their innovation.

Comcast’s Twitter Man