Social media and customer service; a no brainer

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. I’ve read iterations from other notable bloggers and marketers but my questions are these. Where does social media make the best sense in say, a B2B setting? Or. for that matter, a B2C setting? Could it be customer service?  It’s funny to think that in 2008 that a novel concept could be communicating with the customer! Reaching out to the customer. Talking with the customer, listening to the customer  before, during and after the purchase.

Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of companies out there that do a good job in maintaining a relationship with the customer but… But the problem is, the model that they are operating from is cut from the “old school” of marketing and customer service. It consists of 2-3 major direct mail campaigns per year, a decent if not underperforming customer service call center in which most customer issues are resolved amicably, and a website that takes orders and ships them on time etc. etc. You get the point. I’m sure you can think of at least a half a dozen companies like that. You see them everyday. You interact with them EVERY day. They do just enough to satisfy your expectation of customer service.

However, when a company reaches out to you or goes above and beyond your expectations, you raise an eyebrow. You’re surprised. Why? Because your expectations are so low that you expect NOTHING! and when you do get a friendly note, someone that speaks with you instead of at you, or the least bit of CSR love, you a) are surprised and b) become a customer for life and c) you tell your friends.

Lets do  a quick test. Think of 5 companies that suck. And perhaps they suck because you have heard that they do, which in an of itself is not good. Why? Because maybe they don’t, though chances are they do, but the viral reputation dictates that they must suck because so many have said so. Ok so quick, think of 5.

Most of the ones that come to mind for me are airlines. How about you? If you talk to Joseph Jaffe, he’ll go off on Delta But I would guess that most of you, if you fly with an frequency, will volunteer an airline. Ironically, I’m thinking that because our expectations are so lowered when we fly now, that when we do have a good experience, we think of that as a WIN.

But here’s what happened. If you’re fed bread and water for so long, you expect it. When they add an apple, you consider it a treat. But the reality is that you SHOULD be getting a balanced meal, but your expectations have been lowered so much, an APPLE is considered a score by the customer. How pathetic is that?  What’s worse is that customer service representatives throw us bones and we snap them up and thank them up and down and then we tell everyone about the great customer service we just received. Again, I say to you, how pathetic is that? I mean look at Seth Godin, he’s amazed at this small act of customer service.

Becky Carroll, who has a blog called Customers Rock wrote a post called Social Media Empowering Customer Service: Guest Blogger Brian Solis in which Brian Solis and Becky blog about social media empowering customerservice. That’s my point, it makes perfect sense for social media to be an extension of what customer service does FOR the customer. As new media marketers and observers, it’s up to us to explain to large companies and even small ones, that, here is a way to find out more about your customers instead of the usual demographic info.

Social media does empower customer service, if it’s used for that. But how many get that? How many examples can you, me and everyone else out there, think of? I think what’s more of a viable statment is: “Social media will eventually empower customer service and social media should empower customer service”.