By the tweet, through the Windows: Microsoft offers help microblog style


Customer service, with an emphasis on service. That's the job of the support team for Windows 7, the latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s computer operating system.

"No matter what your comfort level is with technology, we'll have a way for you to interact with us," said Bill Dean, Microsoft's global director of business intelligence analytics for customer service.

One of the newest ways for customers to ask questions or make comments about Windows 7 is Twitter, where the software giant has received more than 800,000 messages having to do with the upgrade.

"Think of the Twitter handle as a concierge of sorts," he said.

The current Microsoft support Twitter handle is "@MicrosoftHelps." On last check, it had more than 3,000 followers.

The company used other Twitter handles during the public beta testing period, which included more than 8 million users -- the largest-ever test in the computer industry. Microsoft compiled all tweets related to the new operating system for developers and the support team to analyze.

Dean said when testing started, the company received between 2,000 and 3,000 tweets daily. That grew to 5,000, and topped out at more than 15,000 when the software went public.

"People are self-selecting into Twitter much the same way four or five years ago people wanted to find the (customer support) phone numbers," Dean said. "Then people wanted to talk to us via e-mail or chat. It's a natural evolution. Customers may have a simple question, and we're there to help them."

Dean said many requests that come in through the microblogging site, which limits messages to 140 characters, result in replies that point people to other online resources. These include the answers.microsoft.com site, which has support information for all of its products.

You can also find Windows 7 support on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/Microsoft.Windows.7). There you'll find customers interacting with Microsoft employees and other customers.

The queries on Twitter have run the gamut from basic questions to people offering mostly positive feedback. "Can I upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit?" is the type of simple question they're getting, Dean said.

"We may not lead them through a complete map of the answer," he said, "but we might lead them to answers.microsoft.com, where they can find an entire thread related to the question.

We take them to a specific page or to the right forum or thread that answers the question. If it doesn't exist, we create a new thread."

Dean said every question to its customer service channels gets a personal reply.

"There's been a complete transformation in the mentality of Microsoft," he said. "Customer insight is becoming a requirement."

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