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The growth of customer service via social channels is still in its infancy. That said, it has made incredible strides over the last few years. From a scarcely noticed category of social engagement managed by non-customer service teams, to the emerging model we see today. Slowly but surely, social customer service is being fitted into the discipline and infrastructure of multi-channel customer service.

As with many new competencies, market uptake has been spotty. As a rule of thumb, those markets right in the eye of the digital disruption storm are most advanced. Extensive customer migration to digital, social and mobile has catalysed their learning curve ahead of others. Retail and Travel are two obvious examples.

In these cases, the use of dedicated social customer service teams and some form of specialist workflow are most likely to have appeared. Most will now be a few years into their game plan. No doubt they will have learnt the importance of getting the recruitment profile right, winning the argument that Marketing and PR social technologies are not fit for purpose and got to grips with SLA expectations and the growing issue of how to scale social engagement.

Meanwhile other markets are still blinking in the sunlight, unable to focus on anything beyond a sense of unease that they are up and running on Twitter and Facebook without any great confidence that they know what they are doing.

Social interaction opens a new chapter

While it’s true that social is just another set of channels. It is also true that the culture of social customer service is a line in the sand in terms of brand impact. While customer service has always impacted customer experience, it has been largely invisible to organisations. Thus out of sight, out of mind. That this is no longer the case is yet to be universally appreciated.  But social customer service is now a spectator sport.  The evidence is all around us.

  • A growing number of social monitoring brands provide their own benchmarks on service quality and use these ‘freemium’ reports for self-promotion.
  • Mainstream and digital media provide ongoing commentary on brand ‘whoopsies’ caused over social. They make great headlines.
  • The ‘best and the worst’ line of stories is further amplified by service ‘experts’ who will analyse the full story of a customer service failure or triumph in order to distribute their views across their own social networks.
  • Finally you and I stumble across new customer opinions as we interact socially with the brands that are part of our daily lives.

Customer Service is the new Marketing. So says the slogan. It now has an impact because it is visible, searchable and a public commodity that can be amplified at will. This dynamic is what makes social engagement so interesting. The consequences of getting customer service journeys right and wrong are now stacked. The goodwill barometer is in constant motion as brand equity is added and subtracted in real time.

The rise of visible consequences cannot be over estimated. Traditional (aka private) customer service has been a thirty year story of taking the flak on behalf of the organisation and often being shot as the messenger.

But now social networks provide a living archive which social monitoring tools can mine for insight. Moreover the cost of investing in customer analytics is no longer a legitimate consideration. Every organisation can find one that suits their pockets.

So everyone can see the impact of their organisation’s behaviour on customers. It is now much harder to ignore. In fact it becomes pretty obvious when things need fixing. If not, yet more customers and would be customers start to notice what’s broken.

Add all this together and that line in the sand mentioned earlier actually marks a new chapter for Customer Services.

Watch Martin's recent webinar, 'The outlook for social customer service'.

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