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Just Fix Customer Service…

Posted on : 23-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Social Media


Sometimes people will challenge the thought of Customer Service in social media.  The belief is if Customer Service was excellent there would be no need for Customer Service involvement in social media.  I think these beliefs are shortsighted, but for a few different reasons.  Let me start off with stating that I believe Customer Service must improve for all companies, and a big cause is social media.  The Customer is gaining the upper hand, and I think that is great.  As a Customer Service person I love that this is becoming more of a focus for companies and their Customers.

Many argue that companies should take money being invested in social media and invest the same into traditional Customer Service functions.  I think this is a misconception since overall cost to listening in social media is negligible.  How much does it cost to do a Twitter search or Google blogsearch?  I have been doing similar searches for every company I have worked for over the past 15 years.  As a service person it provided me the pulse for the Customer thoughts on the companies I worked for.  This argument is made many times by social media “experts.”  Many of these experts have an understanding of social spaces, but not always of the Customer or Customer Service operations.  I wanted to take a moment to share thoughts on each of the spaces Customers may be in and how they may be used:

  • Blogs, You Tube, Live Journal, Facebook pages (not status updates) – These spaces, and others like it, are Customers stories of things that already happened. Great way to learn from Customer from the good to the bad and even the ugly.
  • Technical Forums (for Comcast these would include our help forums, Broadband Reports, AVS Forums, High Def Forums and many others) – These are spaces that can help enhance existing knowledge databases for Customer Service since they often discuss highly technical issues and find resolutions.  The resolution can then be used to be added to internal resources for Customer Service representatives to be used.  There are other issues that can only be fixed by the company but in many cases the Customer turned to the forum first.  We can then offer assistance where they already are, bypassing the need to call
  • Twitter, Facebook status updates (when made public) and other microblogs – These are great spaces to learn things before any other means of communication.  On Twitter people are answering “Whats Happening?  The answer may be I am calling XYZ company because…  So now you know reason for the call before they even connect to an agent.  This information in a centralized space can add tremendous value because as a business leader I can know more before things are identified through calls or other forms of contact.  This can save companies tremendous money and provide great cost savings leading to a better experience because sometime we can even use Twitter to find the answer and supply to agents before the call came in.

I can see tremendous value for all interactions by listening in every one of these spaces.  Using the crowd sourced information, such as what can be found in forums, will lead to cost benefits and a great way to engage your most passionate Customers.  In many businesses, such as the cable industry, so many variable impact performance and technical forums can help find solutions to the most difficult of problems.  So if someone is having trouble with XYZ router, the call center may not have the answer since it is impossible to know every router ever created, but the answer may be quickly found in a forum.  It is crowd sourcing at its best.  Now that can lead to huge cost benefits!

The other notion that is implied in many of these conversations is excellent service will lead to positive information in social media.  This is incorrect.  There are a number of companies that I follow because of how much I love the service they provide to their Customers.  These companies encounter many negative conversations, in fact I even did a blog post regarding one of them.  I still feel guilty, since the vast majority of my interactions with the company were perfect.

In the end, I think listening to your Customer anywhere will lead to improved Customer experience and cost benefits for the entire company.  Social media is not the holy grail in any way, but it is one piece of a listening strategy.  There are great tools that can help you listen to calls, or other communications with Customers.  I also recommend providing your Customer an easy way to share their feedback through other channels that may not be as public.  It is all part of a cohesive listening plan that, in my opinion, all companies should be looking at.

The key is remembering the Customer is part of the solution, and social media is a great way to involve them!