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The Good. The Bad. The Twitter: An Open Letter

Blog post by on December 12, 2011 No Comments

The content of this blog post is an email I sent to Twitter. I wrote the email in response to a poor customer experience I had with them a couple of months ago. Because my experience occurred through their support channel, I emailed their partner@twitter.com address, instead of support@twitter.com. I sent the email on Nov 30 and hoped to include their response as part of this post. As of today, I have not received their response.

I know that I don’t pay a penny for using Twitter but if they are going to use customers (our eyes and clicks) as part of their plan for world domination, they can be nice about it, at least from a user experience perspective.

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To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you about a poor experience I recently had with Twitter Support. I am going to blog about it. To be fair, before I post my blog, I want to give Twitter the opportunity to respond to my complaint. I am not even sure if this email is the right email (I found it on your site). If it is not (and I suspect it is not the correct email), please forward this to the powers that be. Thank you in advance for your time.

I am a fan of Twitter. During a recent business event in Seattle, I mentioned the value of Twitter to a few people who were starting their own small business. I rarely recommend companies so this is a pretty big deal. I want you to succeed. That is why I need to tell you about a bad customer experience I recently had with you. I would like to get a response from you regarding my feedback.

My Good Twitter Experience

I have been a Twitter member (@bobehayes) since Feb, 2009. I only really started using Twitter on a regular basis since May 2011. Since then, I use it daily, primarily for work purposes, broadcasting my blog posts about customer experience management and finding related articles/posts from the people I follow. I use third-party applications (e.g., @HootSuite and @twidroid) to help manage my Twitter streams. I access Twitter through my PC and mobile device.

The benefits I receive by using Twitter include both measurable and immeasurable outcomes. The number of unique visitors to my blog is up 52%. Using the people I follow as my social media filters, I spend less time having to sift through the social media noise to find useful content. Twitter has even become an integral part of my writing process, from learning about specific topics to sharing what I know about them. I value Twitter.

My Bad Twitter Experience

Then I had a bad support experience. I have included my correspondence about this incident (e.g. emails, support tickets) below so I will summarize my experience here. On October 7, I couldn’t log into my Twitter account through HootSuite. When I logged into Twitter directly, I was told my site was suspended and that I could start a support ticket to contest the suspension.

Problem One: Don’t Be Redundant/Make it Easy

I did. After I submitted my initial support ticket on your site, I received an automated email telling me I needed to reply to the email stating that I didn’t know why my Account was suspended. By responding to this email, you said, “we’ll take another look at your case.” If I already logged a support ticket indicating, “My twitter account just became suspended. Why?”, why do I have to tell you again through email to ask you why my account was suspended? That makes no sense to me. Why are there two steps in this process? Educate me, please.

Problem Two: Set Expectations/Communicate

So, I replied to the automated email indicating I followed the rules and didn’t know why my account was suspended. I did not hear from you until October 13, 6 days later. During that time, I contacted you about this ticket four times, asking if you could give me an estimate about how long it would take to reinstate my account. I heard nothing.

When you don’t communicate with your customers, you make them feel ignored. You sent out an unnecessary automated support ticket email (see Problem One), yet you don’t send out an automated email telling me what I should expect during this process. I would have liked to know when my ticket was going to be resolved. Perhaps you could look at some operational metrics to get a sense of how long these problems take to get resolved and share that with me. Even if your data tell you it will take one week to resolve the problem, just tell me. I like knowing. Not knowing what is happening or when it is supposed to happen is very frustrating. You need to set expectations.

Problem Three: Don’t Blame the Customer/Show some Empathy

You finally emailed me on October 13, explaining to me that my Twitter account was hacked, that you un-suspended my account, and steps I could take to ensure my account would not be suspended. You signed off with a final warning that repeat violations will result in permanent suspensions.

Seriously? Here is your support letter in its entirety (boldface added by me for emphasis).

Twitter Support, Oct-13 05:43 pm (PDT)

Hello,

Your account was suspended for violations of the Twitter Rules:

http://twitter.com/rules

It appears you might have signed up for some third-party services which are posting affiliate links through your account. The Automation Rules & Best Practices page has more information about our policies surrounding affiliate advertising:

http://support.twitter.com/entries/76915

I have un-suspended your account now. Please take the following actions to revoke access to any third-parties that may be causing your account to violate the Twitter Rules:

Repeat violations may result in permanent suspension. Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.

Thanks,

TheMajor

I don’t know who this Major guy is and I’m not really complaining about him at all. I’m directing my complaint at senior management who set up these systems (or do not set up these systems) to deliver a good customer experience. TheMajor is just a cog in a system you set up. The tone of the letter was accusatory. You start off by stating that my account was suspended for violating the rules. Then you immediately state that it appears that I might have signed up for third party applications who are posting affiliate links. It appears that I might have done something? You surely have some evidence as to why you think this? Why don’t you speak in more certain terms?

You really don’t know who hacked my account, yet you are telling me that I have to revoke the access privileges of any third party applications that are posting violating updates to your accounts. If you do not know who is doing it, how should I know? Granted, I am a social scientist (psychology) and not a computer scientist, but don’t you have the capability to monitor activity on your servers? Can’t you use some ninja tracking software to identify the culprit? C’mon. You’re Twitter. Impress me.

This entire experience makes me question your technological skills as a company. Is my private data on your servers safe? Would you know if a third party application was accessing it? From this current experience, I would have to answer, “No.” Why should I trust you with my personal information?

Put yourself in my shoes and think about how you would feel if you were suddenly cut off from a service you truly value, didn’t know why and then received a letter like the one I received from you. This treatment typically inspires customer defection. Lucky for you, you are the only game in town. I will continue to use Twitter. You provide great value.

Summary

I would like you to address the following questions (as well as the ones above).

  1. Can you explain why I had to submit a ticket twice for the same problem?
  2. Can you use your own operational data and communicate some information to customers about their support tickets?
  3. Can you rewrite your email response when you reinstate somebody’s account? You are not really sure what happened so don’t tell the customer what he or she needs to do to correct it. How can we correct something that you don’t even know?

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,

Bob E. Hayes, PhD

The ticket details appear below.

bobehayes, Oct-07 11:22 am (PDT):

Regarding: Suspended account
Subject: Why was my account suspended
Description of problem: My twitter account just became suspended. Why?
Full name: Bob E. Hayes
Twitter username: @bobehayes
Email address: hidden
Phone number(optional): n/a

I received an immediate autoreply from Twitter support, stating (boldface emphasis is mine):

Twitter Support, Oct-07 11:22 am (PDT)

Hello bobehayes!

We understand that you’re contesting an account suspension. Please be sure to read this entire email; you will need to take further action in order to reopen your ticket and trigger a review of your account.

Twitter suspends accounts for a variety of reasons:

• If your account was suspended for aggressive following behavior, you should have received an email notification to the address associated with your Twitter account. You’ll need to confirm that you’ve removed all prohibited following automation from your account, and will stop any manual aggressive following behavior. To expedite your appeal process, please review our Best Practices page if you haven’t already, and then reply to this ticket with a confirmation that you understand our policies and will not engage in any prohibited following behavior.

• If you didn’t receive an email indicating why your account was suspended, please take a minute to review the Twitter Rules. If you suspect you’ve been suspended for another reason, please reply to this email with a short explanation.

• If you received an email from admin@twitter.com saying ‘you’re being suspended’ or that we’re going delete your account, you’re safe; the email is fake. More information here https://support.twitter.com/ articles/204820-safety-fake- twitter-emails

• While we strive to avoid mistakes, it’s also possible that your account was suspended in error. If after reviewing the Rules, you have no idea why your account was suspended, just reply to this email indicating as much, and we’ll take another look at your case. Our apologies if the error turns out to be ours.

Thanks,
Twitter Trust & Safety

As their support email requested, I replied with the following email minutes later:

bobehayes, Oct-7, 11:28 am (PDT)

Subject: Why was my account suspended

To whom it may concern,

What is going on? I am a valid twitter user who abides by the rules. Perhaps my account was hacked? Please reinstate my account as I use it for my work!

Bob

One day passed. Another day passed. I received no word from Twitter about the status of my suspension. On the third day, I emailed Twitter support again to voice my complaint.
bobehayes, Oct-10 9:52 am (PDT)
Subject: Why was my account suspended
How long is the reinstatement of my account supposed to take? I am very disappointed in your communication of this process. You need to improve this process.
Another day passed. And another. Still no word from Twitter. On the next day, I followed up on my open ticket on their support site, an email and another follow-up on my open ticket.
bobehayes, Oct-13 01:36 pm (PDT):
So… Really. How long does this process last? What are you guys doing to resolve this case? I really don’t know what to do except twiddle my thumbs. Ha. Maybe that could be a new company name for people who wait in the Twitter support queue: Twiddler
Hi. I am a twitter user and my account was suspended last week. I went through your reinstatement process (got your email, submitted a service ticket – Ticket ID = 4115751 and have waited patiently to hear from you.
It has been six days since I submitted the ticket and I have not heard anything. Can you please tell me what you are doing on your end so I know somebody is working on this ticket? I would greatly appreciate it.
OK. So, I have been reading some stuff I found on the Web. I read that the use of third-party tools could be responsible. I do use Hootsuite on my PC and Ubertwitter on my android device. Could my use of these applications be violating your terms of service? If so, I will stop using them.

Bob

Here is the response I got later that day.

Twitter Support, Oct-13 05:43 pm (PDT)

Hello,
Your account was suspended for violations of the Twitter Rules:

http://twitter.com/rules

It appears you might have signed up for some third-party services which are posting affiliate links through your account. The Automation Rules & Best Practices page has more information about our policies surrounding affiliate advertising:

http://support.twitter.com/entries/76915

I have un-suspended your account now. Please take the following actions to revoke access to any third-parties that may be causing your account to violate the Twitter Rules:

Repeat violations may result in permanent suspension. Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.
Thanks,

TheMajor

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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