Time to re-design customer service for the social networking age

Traditionally, customer service has predominantly been where you go to complain, or to get  a problem fixed.

The new breed of companies that are fully engaged with the Social Web have a different perspective. Some believe they have failed if you have to contact customer service at all. They pride themselves on elegant design, ease of use, fast service, clear  information and efficient fulfillment of orders. I am thinking of companies like Amazon, for example.  Why can’t more companies be like Amazon?!!

If you are not providing a good product or service, there is nothing stopping people from quickly spreading damaging information online through the networks of their friends and colleagues. It does not matter if you are a B2B or B2C company. We all share the same fundamental communications platform (ie. the internet), which  can be accessed through an increasing array of devices 24/7, and at increasing speeds.

The ability to easily and freely see what people are saying about you, and about your products and services is, I think, reassuring. It is a potential gold mine, as you can quickly see what you need to improve. The information is there for you. To ignore it would be foolish.

Some people ask about the ROI of social media. Research online is a fraction of the cost of traditional market research techniques, and is often more natural. It is not shaped by pre-defined questions, which makes it more authentic and meaningful.

The rise of the social customer is part of a rising cultural trend where people want companies to be more honest and open with them, and also to show more integrity. The technology is simply accelerating that process.

And social customers are not passive. They are creating and sharing information. They are in a strong position to produce and share knowledge. The next generation of customer service will be less focused on solving customer problems and be more about working in partnership with customers.

Enlightened and successful companies will collaborate with their customers to create, produce and share new products and services. Social media will become social production. Companies – as many are starting to do – will learn to tap into the intelligence embodied in the  networks of their customers, in order to gain fresh insights and make smarter and more successful decisions.  To isolate yourself from your online customer networks will be commercial suicide.

Customer service using the opportunities afforded by the social web has the potential to become the engine of innovation and growth for companies. By giving your customers a voice in the creation, marketing, distribution and production of products and services will give you  significant competitive advantages.

These themes are explored further in the report which we created and produced with First Direct on the Future of Customer Service. We launched the report through the Social Media Leadership Forum which is looking at how leading
organisations can innovate with social media both internally and externally for their future success.

You can read the report in full and hear podcasts about the themes raised by the report here. I would encourage you to do so, to help you prepare for your future success.

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