Twelpforce

Yesterday Best Buy launched a new service called Twelpforce that is aimed at using store and GeekSquad staff to answer product and technology questions via Twitter. According to Bloomberg, they will even be doing some TV commercials on the topic. So I decided to see how this works.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the Tweets were of the "hello out there" variety, but that may just be because the service is so new. It looked like there were tweets from both store associates as well as GeekSquad technicians. There's no rhyme or reason to the account names. Some clearly represent stores (e.g. BBY1094), GeekSquad technicians (e.g. Agent 13700), specialties (e.g. CameraJenn), and individuals (Ingandela). BestBuy doesn't seem to be limiting their creativity.

So let's see if I can get an answer. Below is my first conversation:

twelpforce1.JPG

I kind of figured that the real-time nature of Twitter would have gotten me a faster response than an hour. Nonetheless, the response was accurate and helpful. In fact both responses were good, but I wonder if there are in controls in place for limiting the number of responses. I could see getting deluged by multiple responses, and in this case both gave the same information.

So then I asked a follow-on question, but there's no good way to associate the related threads.

twelpforce2.JPG

After two hours there was still no response.

For me at least, the Best Buy forum is actually better because I can have a conversation that's captured in threads. Plus when necessary, I can send a private message that contains more specific purchase information when necessary.

The premise here is that a person has a problem and knows to send his/her question to Twelpforce. In that case, I would guess the customer is probably already a BestBuy customer. But what about the customer that just needs help. Isn't that a great opportunity for BestBuy to find and capture the customer? My next experiment:

twelpforce3.JPG

It seems to me that software could comb Twitter for opportunities to help people with their electronics. This would be a great way to establish a relationship with a potential customer. BestBuy even recommends their staff do this, but my question went unanswered. I have to assume either Twelpforce is not searching on "plasma TV" or can't distinguish from all the spam out there.

I really like their goal:

"Supporting the brand promises with the knowledge of 150,000 * Know all that we know * Deliver and experience that inspires you * Make a difference * Blow you away with the latest and greatest * Never leave you hanging."
It will just take some time for them to get it right. I'll have to check back in a few weeks.

Comments:

I've had similar response with audio/video related questions put to task with Twelpforce. Nothing. PC/Mac computing, and mobile questions I see (through searching) getting answered every day, but the classic knowledgeable (for their level of product) Home Theater sales associates simply aren't punching the clock on Twitter under Twelpforce.

Posted by Monster MC on July 20, 2009 at 10:20 AM CDT #

I just watch their commercial on youtube http://bit.ly/33pPWM
Though the reality is the other way around, the number of people looking for answers is definitely going to be lot more.

However, I believe a system like Aardvark (http://vark.com/) is a better sustainable model.

If not for the volume of people on the network, friendfeed would be an awesome place for such real time threaded qna.

Posted by Kiran Patchigolla on July 20, 2009 at 03:58 PM CDT #

I think patience is a wise course as well. Twitter is still relatively new and people are really just starting to get the hang of it.

I subscribe to a search feed on Oracle but the volume of tweets makes it impossible to go through them all. Your tweets may have simple been missed (especially if not done as a direct question using @twelpforce).

I think it's a great idea for BestBuy and hopefully they can turn it into another way to successfully interact with current and future customers.

Posted by chet on July 21, 2009 at 12:56 AM CDT #

Kiran, thanks for pointing out the commercial. I actually like it. I'll have to experiment with Aardvark -- looks interesting.

I hope they are mining some sort of metrics in order to get a sense of the quality of answers, and especially see if there are particular departments that are under-served.

They are just starting, so there's lots of room for improvement. But its still a good start.

Posted by David on July 21, 2009 at 01:10 AM CDT #

BTW, my second question was eventually answered by Agent10565 and Agent14709. Thanks guys!

Posted by David on July 21, 2009 at 01:14 AM CDT #

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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