— blending the mix

Customer Service should be everybody’s goal

One of the reason i’ve not posted quite so often is that we’ve been lucky enough to be working on major social media strategies two clients these past few weeks and I can’t get the idea of customer service as the new marketing out of my head. If social media does anything, it is to put representatives on social channels right in front of where customers are. This has led me to ponder:

Is good customer service the ONLY objective when engaging with social media?


When we develop a strategy, having digested the brief or once we have defined it, one of the things we allow ourselves to do it spend a bit of mad time to get the silliness and excitement out of the way.

As is typically the case, we end up going around the houses, considering the mad, wrong and downright ridiculous, talking tactically rather than strategically – “we could do this”, “what would be brilliant is if we could do that”. “How would we use Facebook, what would a Twitter account look like, how could we “…and breathe…you get the idea. You probably do it yourself 😉

BUT, once we have the daft stuff out of the way, we bring it right back down to earth and always end up asking ourselves this one question :

How will this activity add value to the person being exposed to it?

The easy route is very much to say we will have a blog, but what value would the blog bring to a customer? What would we say in it that adds value to a customer? Do we talk about the issues that they are talking about and respond accordingly, do we talk about our product development in a way our website cannot, do we share the experiences and problems other customers are having?

If we are going to consider Twitter, do we use it to stem a flow if dissatisfaction before it becomes a flood, or do we jump into conversations that we feel we can help someone out?

What about Facebook – the great “fish where the fish are” social network. Do we invite feedback on our products, give exclusive previews to customers because they have joined our Page – or do we send targeted messages through an application simply because we have access to that person’s profile information.

In almost every case, there is a strong element to customer service in this, disguised as a social technology. Problem solving, receiving and providing feedback, offering help, providing information of interest etc.

Which takes me back to my original point. If social media is anything, surely it is about customer service.

Considering our clients, one (Client A) has legendary customer service as a major selling point, the other (Client B) has innovation in technology as a major selling point.

Now, for Client A, it is obvious that social media allows an extension to their existing customer service strategy. Social technologies would allow us to be there as soon as problems arise, provide channels to convey important and timely messages to customers, provide support, guidance and advice around technical issues when we have understood that this is what they are talking about.

A very smart colleague calls this “customer service amplification” using social technologies to provide exactly the type of customer service the customer expects, but in a far wider reaching way.

But what of the company that prides itself on technical innovation? Surely the best way they can use social media is to tell people of its genius? Why wouldn’t they use social technologies from a customer services perspective to help people understand why their technology is different/better?

To consider why customer service should be everybody’s social media goal, wikipedia (no surprise), has an interesting summary:

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after purchasing a product

Now, let’s consider how social media can achieve all these goals:

BEFORE: Pre-sales
Brands could provide multiple touch points to help customers understand what the product is, does, why it is different – help them make the choice where they want to look for it instead of making them come to you.

Why not include many more shareable product videos and images than the standard catalogue shots – if you have nothing to be ashamed of, let people see more of the product and let them share it with others to ask for their peer’s opinions. Integrate user-reviews at your multiple touch points to help potential buyers understand what it looks/sounds and feels like, where is it stored from existing customer’s points of view. Use brand advocates as trusted, honest and neutral advice providers.

DURING: Active product use
Again, brands need to provide multiple ways to help existing customers reach them. Has the brand provided a way for that customer to derive maximum utility from the product? Why not publish recipe ideas for your new blender and invite people to add their own recipes, show people how best to use the vacuum cleaner on hard floors…facilitating collaboration and involvement and making the content portable allows customers to show others, it also means that you are not taking people away from their “places of play” to help them.

AFTER: buying is only the beginning

Are we there when things go wrong? Do we have multiple, customer-convenient ways for the customer to contact us and report problems? Are we there to help continue a customer’s pleasure from our product? Do we have multiple means that would allow the customer a way to tell us how they would like us to improve or change the product, what did we do well, poorly…social media channels at this stage are all about feedback, being seen to be listening and ensuring that the purchase of the product is only the start of our relationship.

So, albeit briefly, we have considered a few way that social technologies can be used in wikipedia’s definition of customer service, but, irrelevant of definitions, tactics and tools…when it comes to customer service, owe should focus on 3 things:

1. How can our social channels help us better inform the potential customer in the most convenient way for them?
2. How can our social channels help customers use our products to their full potential?
3. How can our social channels continue to provide benefit for our customers once the purchase has been made?

Buying a product is the best excuse in the world to have a conversation with customers, so make sure you ask yourself this one question about anything you decide to do:

How will this activity add value to the person being exposed to it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is customer service the only real way to describe what social technologies are about?


9 comments
  1. Simon Roskrow says: December 14, 200910:51 pm

    Hi Paul

    Customer service is one of my big things – and I think the basic principles apply in both the social media world and the day-to-day practical world.

    I’ve written a fair bit on customer service recently (it’s one of the subjects we train on), and you can see the most recent ones here:

    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/T-Mobile-customer-service.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/People-are-your-corporate-image.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/Customer_Service_2.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/Customer_Service_1.php

    Great stuff, as usual – thanks!

    Simon.

  2. Simon Roskrow says: December 14, 20095:51 pm

    Hi Paul

    Customer service is one of my big things – and I think the basic principles apply in both the social media world and the day-to-day practical world.

    I’ve written a fair bit on customer service recently (it’s one of the subjects we train on), and you can see the most recent ones here:

    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/T-Mobile-customer-service.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/People-are-your-corporate-image.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/Customer_Service_2.php
    http://www.trainingreality.co.uk/blog/Customer_Service_1.php

    Great stuff, as usual – thanks!

    Simon.

  3. […] Customer Service should be everybody’s goal | blending the mix blendingthemix.com/2009/12/14/customer-service-should-be-everybodys-goal – view page – cached One of the reason i’ve not posted quite so often is that we’ve been lucky enough to be working on major social media strategies two clients these past few weeks […]

  4. katie moffat says: December 15, 20097:27 am

    Tony Hsieh, Zappos, talks about this a lot. In fact he said at LeWeb last week that businesses shouldn’t have a customer services department but that customer services should *be* the business. He links everything back to happiness, making staff and customers happy = successful business. And let’s face it he should know!
    http://www.slideshare.net/zappos/delivering-happiness-le-web-121009

  5. katie moffat says: December 15, 20092:27 am

    Tony Hsieh, Zappos, talks about this a lot. In fact he said at LeWeb last week that businesses shouldn’t have a customer services department but that customer services should *be* the business. He links everything back to happiness, making staff and customers happy = successful business. And let’s face it he should know!
    http://www.slideshare.net/zappos/delivering-happiness-le-web-121009

  6. Alex says: December 15, 200910:38 am

    I totally agree that social media tools are a gift to customer service, but the ultimate goal is the creation of trust.

    On the internet one of the hardest things to establish is trust, and a customer’s first interaction with your brand/website is unlikely to be a sale. Social media tools enable you to not only establish credibility but to provide service and be *seen* to provide service in a way that private exchanges don’t.

  7. Alex says: December 15, 20095:38 am

    I totally agree that social media tools are a gift to customer service, but the ultimate goal is the creation of trust.

    On the internet one of the hardest things to establish is trust, and a customer’s first interaction with your brand/website is unlikely to be a sale. Social media tools enable you to not only establish credibility but to provide service and be *seen* to provide service in a way that private exchanges don’t.

  8. Gemma says: December 15, 200912:53 pm

    I recently emailed a train company about the poor customer service I received and they took eleven days to send me a letter. During which time I got more angry that they hadn’t bothered to reply. Surely they could have sent an email that same day, to avoid further antagonising, and save them the cost of a stamp!

  9. Gemma says: December 15, 20097:53 am

    I recently emailed a train company about the poor customer service I received and they took eleven days to send me a letter. During which time I got more angry that they hadn’t bothered to reply. Surely they could have sent an email that same day, to avoid further antagonising, and save them the cost of a stamp!

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