Rockin' With Social Customer Service


Two years ago Becky Carroll, Customers Rock, invited me, along with 
Tony Hsien, Frank Eliason and Brian Solis, to participate on a BlogWorld Expo panel about a fairly new, innovative use of social media. Fast forward 24-months and "social service" is on its way to becoming the new darling of social media.

Becky thought it would be fun to do an encore of that panel: Act 2 of Creating Customer Loyalty with Social Media, A Look 2 Years Later I am at #bwe10, Las Vegas, with Becky Carroll, Frank Eliason and this time representing Zappos -- Melissa LaPointe.

As I told the packed room (thanks to everyone who attended!) in 2008 we were so innocent .. or perhaps a better word might be naive.  Although in 2008, we were seeing an up-swing in the use of social networks, today participation has escalated to include segments and "tribes" that were just tip toe-ing through the social web. Add to that more shiny toys to play with like FourSquare and apps and peer-to-peer on-line engagement is on a course that will take us who knows where!

In thinking about adding social service as an additional avenue to support customer care, consider a 2-sided model: internal (company) and external (customers). Balancing expectations for both sides of this see saw ride is not always simple. However, when it comes to digital social customer service it is critical to get right.

From the perspective of the company

It's very clear that my pal Shel Israel was spot on when he told me in 2005 that social media cannot be contained in one corporate silo. Conversations that impact the brand continue to evolve on social networks.

Don't be fooled by what might appear to be seemingly casual chats. These conversations can impact brand goodwill and every aspect of the enterprise, especially those that interface with our customers.

Even the first step of a social media strategy, listening, grows more complex. There are many decisions must be reached and questions answered. Who takes ownership of the listening and of the direct customer engagement? Will you be proactive or reactive? What do those terms mean to your company? Who will take ownership of what? How will internal communication be structured? Organizations are exploring involving multiple departments. What that looks like will differ for every organization.

From perspective of the customer

I was very curious to understand what this new channel of service meant to people. Were expectations different in new media versus tradtional call centers? I dropped a question in a few social networks and received some fascinating responses. People expect a human approach not a logo response.

Although a company (or a person from the brand) may respond directly to a customer, in what may appear to be a 1:1 conversation, the brand experience extends to whomever maybe watching the exhange. The digital brand/customer service experience is more reflective of the in-person "corner grocery store" exhange versus that of eMail or the call center. 

More on the Pulse of Social Service next week. In the mean time, think about what Dennis Dunlap, CEO American Marketing Association told me ..

Done well a social media customer service approach can augment strong phone, email and online support.  But it requires a commitment to managing heightened expectations of customers engaging in digital channels.

Customer service has sure come along way bebe from when, in another life time, I was a rep for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts!



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Do you think you need to also pair your customer service with an outstanding product? Or is the customer service enough, even with a mediocre product? Great writeup!

Posted by: Craig Carrigan on Oct 16, 2010 6:49:36 PM

If the service has not developed

Posted by: Pog on Oct 17, 2010 1:34:18 AM

Gary V says social media is misnamed and should really be called "customer service." I think you are right that everyone in an organization is now going to have to do "social service."

Posted by: TJ Walker on Oct 17, 2010 8:54:40 AM

Toby--as usual, your insights are always so keen. I remember back to hearing you speak in the good 'ol days. You really opened my eyes to this brave new world. Many thanks!

Posted by: Debby R on Oct 20, 2010 7:49:17 PM

Hi Toby! The social media world has grown so fast and sometimes you have to keep yourself abreast of the latest studies, researches, or technology, in order to keep up. But,indeed, it's refreshing to know that some things remain constant - the rules of engagement in customer retention is still very much the same - exceptional customer service.

Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Elmar Sandyck on Oct 20, 2010 8:37:28 PM

Helpful advises above. I have noticed that many people are using twitter for marketing. I would love to try this too for my business.

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