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Social Media is Powered by Service

Posted on : 23-07-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media

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Forrester’s Dr. Natalie Petouhoff has a great post over at Forrester called Who Should Lead the Customer Social Media Interaction?.  This is a question I have thought about often.  All of us contemplate our future and what we want to be when we grow up.  I am the same way.  I always wondered which direction I should follow, social media or Customer Service.  As everyone knows my passion is Customer Service but social media brings a whole new realm into my career path decisions.  So I want to thank Natalie for helping shed some light on this for me.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Natalie that Customer Service should lead the Customer social media interaction, but this does not mean I think that Customer Service should lead all interactions in social media.   Judging by some tweets, I think some took it that way.  It is my opinion that PR has a specific role regarding corporate messaging and policy, which may be on a corporate blog or on blogs throughout the internet.  Similar to discussions they may have with the press.  I do not run the corporate blog at Comcast, that is done by a great person, Scott McNulty.  He is part of the communications team.  Marketing has their own role in social media, specifically tying together marketing messaging through other channels to the ones used on the web.  They should also create unique messages for the web that relate to the spaces in which implemented.

But after all that, the social web is really about a conversations and relationships.  The best place for these conversations with Customers are the people that do it best, Customer Service.  They know how to help people in need and they also are trained in listening.  So in this world where companies are looking for leadership in the social media world, try first looking in the area that has been helping Customers for a long time.  They will know what to do.

The challenge is Customer Service departments everywhere are stretched thin and do not have the resources or the will to take on additional tasks.  This is something I think companies need to work on, because as we know the social web will hold companies accountable for poor service.  It is now time to really look upon good service as the right marketing for a company.  It can do so much more than ads.

It is funny, but as I was writing this, Pete Blackshaw sent me a link to an article he wrote for Ad Age about Zappos.  The article, titled “Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos,” fits so well into this post.  It is a look at the cult like following of Zappos, and specifically Tony Hsieh.  The reason for this is their slightly (okay a lot more than slightly) wacky culture, but more importantly their belief in the Customer experience.  That is what it is all about.

I do not expect companies to change overnight to create a culture like Zappos, although it would really be cool if they did.  I also do not expect Customer Service departments to gain the budgets they need to create these great experiences or build out new contact channels as the social web.  But I do have an easy way they can start.  Customer Service departments everywhere should consider removing some of the “web sense” blocks on social media websites.  Teach your employees how to use them.  Encourage them to assist Customers if they come across someone in need.  Provide the agents tools that allow them to forward social media links to other areas when they are unable to assist.  This could be a simple email address.  What will be fascinating is the employees will love it, they will help Customer (that is what service people like to do), and it will help start the social media efforts.  Zappos is the perfect example of that.  They teach and encourage all their employees to participate.  Look at the near billion dollar brand they created just by being powered by service.