Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

We all know that social media plays a part in customer service.

As business becomes more fierce, margins shrink and barriers to entry are almost nonexistent in some areas, the competitive advantage that many companies can leverage exists in an often-overlooked but absolutely essential part of the marketing team: customer service.

And for every new company that springs up to supply solutions to problems we didn't know we had, there are many companies that already exist and are competing in a commoditized market. "There is nothing new under the sun," the quote goes. And for those organizations, one of the accepted methods of differentiation is customer service. This itself isn't (or shouldn't be) news. Brian Solis and Valeria Maltoni both wrote that customer service is the new marketing a while back.

Examples abound
Because this is not a new concept, there are countless instances of companies stepping up their customer service efforts, particularly in the social media space. Here are a few to note:
  • Comcast is the shining example of customer service on Twitter, led primarily through the efforts of the head of their digital team, Frank Eliason (aka @comcastcares on Twitter).
  • Recently, Best Buy ran national TV spots promoting their Twelpforce - a legion of their "blue shirts" available to help people who submit questions for Best Buy via Twitter.
  • And Zappos bills themselves as "a customer service company" as they train every single employee on customer service and even have Twitter baked into their corporate site.
  • Get Satisfaction has become a place where consumers and industry alike monitor and comment on, in an effort for more transparent dialog.

Customers now expect an immediate answer online - something I see every day through the @Ford and @FordCustService accounts on Twitter.

Speed isn't everything
But a recent survey written up by Dave Dougherty and Ajay Murthy in the Harvard Business Review called What Service Customers Really Want demonstrates that speed isn't necessarily the answer. According to the survey,

Evidence shows that customers will no longer tolerate the rushed and inconvenient service that has become all too common. Instead, they are looking for a satisfying experience. Companies that provide it will win their loyalty.

The question is no longer how quickly can you provide customer service, but how effectively?
When people are crunched for time (as nearly all of us are these days), the experience you give them on their first effort to reach you had better be the way you want them to remember you. Because, like the old cliche "you never get a second chance to make a first impression," their primary expectations are (1) that your front line representatives to have answers, and (2) that their needs are addressed on the first call. And as the article indicates, those two categories aren't even on the measurement dashboard for most customer service entities - they're still measuring time on hold and minutes per call.

If anything, your customer service operation needs to be aligned not only with your marketing and communications organizations, but more importantly, with your customers. For customer service areas that simply field complaints and don't impact customer loyalty really aren't doing your organization any favors.

Photo credit: libraryman on Flickr