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Social Media Effect: Improve Customer Service Before It Hits Twitter


Customer service is the new marketing and you have to Engage and Respect your customers.

Joseph Rodgers, Filter 2 Evangelist, Joseph Rodgers’ Internet Marketing Blog

The above quote actually has two meanings in my mind. The first meaning is to find customers who are having problems with your product or service, and engage them out in social media. Smart companies are doing it more and more, with great examples from Louis Gray, Colin Walker and Sarah Perez.

The second meaning for me is this:

Social media puts more power in consumers’ hands than ever before, and companies need to recognize that the messages their customers post will in time become as valuable as TV commercials, online ads, and magazine and newspaper ads.

Customers should not have to make a complaint on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook or other social media. Rather, companies need to become more aware that the way they treat their customers is going to be broadcast, with positive or negative effects on their brands.

In my previous jobs, I know that customer service tended to be that backoffice operation.  Some guy somewhere worked on that. Not something into which many in the organization invested a lot of thought. The function is not considered strategic, and many companies figured they could outsources the work.  A 2006 article from Business 2.0 pointed out the problems with outsourced customer service.

A 2005 Gartner study predicts that 60 percent of organizations that outsource customer-facing processes will see significant numbers of frustrated customers switching to competitors.

And that was before the rise of social media. Now a customer that is dissatisfied isn’t just switching to a competitor. They’re going to tell their social networks about it.

What this means is that companies need to realize that their operational cost-center approach to customer service needs to change. A couple examples tell the tale.

Adobe Customer Service

Adobe makes some killer products. The Adobe PDF is everywhere. Photoshop continues to be quite popular. Adobe is keeping the photo processing at the leading edge. Adobe Air is the new technology for rich Internet applications. All good stuff, and clearly Adobe is maintaining its market leadership position.

Which makes it such a shame that its customer service is so weak. Here are the most recent six tweets on Summize.com for “adobe customer service“:

Now when you’re producing kick-ass products, perhaps you can get away with bad customer service. But if viable competitors gain traction and deliver comparable products, what people say about your company will make a difference. Who wants publicity like that above? And those 5 different users have 637 followers on Twitter.

Let’s look at a company that has more favorable than unfavorable publicity.

Amazon Customer Service

Amazon seems to have a particularly good (not perfect) focus on customer service. Here are the most recent six tweets from Summize.com for “amazon customer service“:

Amazon.com does this as a matter of course, and has seen the benefits. The New York Times’ Joe Nocera related his personal experience with Amazon’s customer service in January 2008. Money quote:

There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense. “Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” Mr. Kotha said.

Final Thoughts

Customer service has not traditionally been sexy. It reflects imperfections in the product, service or in the explanations for how to use it. Who wants to deal with that?

But as companies start to see their customers talking about them in various social media, it will become apparent that all customer touch points are chanves to burnish or tarnish their brands.

Customer service groups…please step into the spotlight.

*****

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

6 Responses to Social Media Effect: Improve Customer Service Before It Hits Twitter

  1. Joseph says:

    As social media develops, the line between Marketing, PR, HR, Customer Service will continue to blur. In an organization, employees will need cross training for different roles.
    Honest, authentic, relevant will win.

  2. Joseph – I agree. The visibility for how companies interact with customers, employees and suppliers is going to grow. That will demand a greater excellence and accountability for groups that have previously been isolated and out of the spotlight.

  3. Pingback: Aspect Contact Center: Unplugged Blog » Blog Archive » Social Media Shaping a New Contact Center Paradigm

  4. diggma says:

    thx for share… great post…

  5. Pingback: Social Media Shaping a New Contact Center Paradigm : Consumer 2.0

  6. Pingback: Social Media Shaping a New Contact Center Paradigm : Aspect Blogs

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