Social Customer Service: Talk Is Cheap, Action’s Much Tougher!

October 24, 2014

The growth in social customer service appears to have stalled. Now the early adopters are out and about, the expected next tranches are nowhere to be seen. New names remain scarce.

That said, it remains a popular blogging topic. The same old ‘5 tips’ formula continues to appear. Is this serving the ‘101’ needs of a new generation? Maybe. Against that, some industry grandees have rubbed out the language of ‘social’ and now only talk ‘digital’.

What’s actually going on? Answers on a postcard if anyone thinks they know.

Meanwhile in my own search for clues, I bring you a rare interview. The fruits of digging deeper into the successes of those who are actually making it work. It’s rare because it’s a different type of story. Here’s why.

While I celebrate the volume and breadth of customer-themed thinking that pours into my inbox every day, it often smacks of unrestrained enthusiasm: based on the way authors imagine it should be rather than the realpolitik of introducing new ideas into a corporate culture. Let’s face it, if repetition was all we needed, the revolution would be done and dusted many moons ago.

So what actually happens when something as different, new and challenging as social customer service is introduced onto the corporate agenda? The lack of broader adoption I referred to earlier suggests that the initial response is seldom ‘love at first sight’.

Meet Chris Geddes. An early adopter of social media who rose to the top of Nokia to run their global support business and then integrated it into Microsoft. I’ve followed his career with great interest. He gets social media. He also gets big business. So how did he get around the lack of ‘love at first sight’ and make it work? This is Chris personal story of how he took that initial rejection on the chin and got down to the serious business of selling in social customer service.

Martin: Chris thanks very much for your time today. I heard you talk recently to a room of social media advocates and you captured everyone’s attention when you started out by saying that as far as social media’s future is concerned, it’s time to conform!

Chris: It’s not a popular message to deliver to a room of social media evangelists. I knew this going in, having been a blue-blood, die-hard social media advocate all my professional life. But it’s a message I really wish someone had told me 10 years ago.

I’ve climbed the corporate ladder despite what I was trying to do in social media, not because of it. And it was only when I was promoted to run all of Customer Support at Nokia/Microsoft Mobile that I could raise my head above the clouds and see what I had been missing.

Having settled into my role running customer support for 1.3bn customers worldwide, I looked at what was expected of me and realized that the revolution I had been evangelizing – “Social Media Transforms Everything Businesses Do”, will never happen.

Martin: So what stopped you in your tracks? [...]

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Why America Needs To Get Serious About Social Customer Care

August 7, 2014

In the process of getting the word out that I’m bringing my Master Class to the U.S., I’ve been mugging up (more than usual) on the state of play. The headline brands that pushed the envelope during the first wave of social customer care are justifiably well known. Best Buy, Autodesk, Citi and Dell to name just a few.

More recently, they have been joined by forward-thinking brands in sectors ready-made for the ‘must help now’ responsiveness that excellent social customer service promises. Think air travel and online retail as examples of sectors closest to the eye of the digital storm now sweeping across global markets.

For a while, it remained a lottery which brands would actually deliver. Social Bakers pegs global averages at around 40% of service requests as still being ignored, with an average wait time of between 5-6 hours for those who do receive an answer.  This is a standard that makes the much maligned voice channel still look pretty nimble in comparison!

But these are global averages we are talking about. In the sectors I’ve just mentioned they have already moved on. Typically inspired by a standout brand who leads the way. For instance, KLM has been an outstanding choice for other airlines to learn from. As best practices seep out, standards around responsiveness and resolution become normalized across the sector.

Even so, every sector has its laggards. For a while they can remain ‘unconsciously incompetent’.  But eventually customer feedback takes them up a notch into ‘conscious incompetence’. “Why can’t you be the same as your competitors?” “Listen and learn. Or ignore and lose us.”  Thus even laggards get to join the party.

This is how new competencies tends to spread. However even for the seasoned brand, the nature of social is that you are only as good as your last positive word of mouth and even the most accomplished can screw up. So the bar is tough. Consistency is crucial.

Who Else Is Doing It?

So far, so good. But America is yet to see mainstream adoption. So where are the rest? As customers we are demanding it. The next tranche of brands ought to be arriving. But are they?

ICMI produced a great snapshot earlier this year that tells one version of the story. Their headline is that “while over 68% of contact center professionals think social media is a necessary channel, less than 40% are currently supporting social as a service channel.”

Yet in terms of its significance “over a third of study respondents think they’ll lose customers if they don’t have social as a service channel.”

So recognition is certainly present in the industry. Why the hold up? The research probed a number of issues. Here the summary in the form of a great infographic also produced by ICMI.


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