I have said previously that I just do not “get” Twitter yet. However, I have read two articles recently that provide a corporate-centric argument for paying attention to Twitter. The first article was from TechCrunch regarding Michael Arrington’s problems with Comcast. So, to summarize his story, his internet was down and an automated message from customer service stated service should resume within 30 minutes. As a typical net-addict, he found friends, cafes and any other way to get online for 36 hours. Then he ranted on Twitter.

And this brings me to the point of this post. Within 20 minutes of my first Twitter message I got a call from a Comcast executive in Philadelphia who wanted to know how he could help. He said he monitors Twitter and blogs to get an understanding of what people are saying about Comcast, and so he saw the discussion break out around my messages.

Obviously, Arrington’s situation changed in a hurry. I found this extremely interesting given Comcast’s history as a slow responding company. This brings me to the second article I read on ChurchOfTheCustomer.com. Jackie had posted a tweet about one of Salesforce.com’s products, and was surprised when someone responded so quickly. The person responding had set up a Yahoo Pipe to track online mentions of Salesforce.com. Now for the cool part:

Kingsley’s pipe tracks online mentions of Salesforce and other company products across social media sites like Flickr, Technorati, Bloglines, Digg, Techmeme, YouTube, Friendfeed and Quotably Tweetscan (for Twitter.)

Kingsley is kind; he coded a generic pipe for CotC readers to track mentions about your company. Here’s the pipe.

The article describes the process of using the pipe. Given these situations, I can see reasons for following Twitter. The corporate support perspective is much more interesting. How would people respond if Dell started monitoring online comments and emailed bloggers and tweeters (or is it twitterers) when they mentioned problems? This type of proactive customer service could be a major industry movement. Salesforce has always been at the top of their game. Comcast used to be, but fell into issues probably due to their extreme growth. But if Comcast can adopt online monitoring as a basis for their customer service, it completely changes the company as well as people’s perceptions of the company. Arrington could have been a major thorn in Comcast’s side, but almost became an advertisement for them.

Is online mention monitoring the future of customer service? Given these two stories, I think the future looks bright.

UPDATE: ReadWriteWeb has a fantastic followup article to all of this. They also include a bunch of twitter users that can help you when you have problems with their company.