Social Customer Care: Time for More Social, Less Media


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Guy Stephens asked for a five-year retrospective on social customer care from many of the world’s innovators and thought leaders. I’m honored to offer a few thoughts of my own to introduce this collection of articles.

Five years ago, we were at the height of social media hype. In 2010 I did my own “social business” study and found that social media was a veritable “swiss army knife” of capabilities that could be used to socialize traditional CRM processes like marketing, sales, and yes, also customer service.

Of course, online support communities existed long before terms like Social CRM became the next big thing. But Twitter and Facebook opened up genuinely new ways for consumers to vent about their experiences and ask for help. For a few brave souls like Frank Eliason at Comcast and Guy Stephens at Carphone Warehouse, these new social “channels” created opportunities to engage with, and care for, customers.

The real power of social media lies on the consumer side. Musician Dave Carroll (of United Breaks Guitars fame) put it brilliantly in a 2012 interview with me: “No customer is statistically insignificant.” Our voices count, and it’s about time.

I’m sure that’s why my attempts to get help via social media have been mostly successful. One time I got a DSL problem escalated and fixed more quickly after tweeting about my frustration. Another time, I got help picking technology from Best Buy’s twelpforce. I sum up the past five years as a big win for consumers.

That said, many companies struggle to serve customers effectively via social media. Scaling social channels and integrating into a multi-channel approach is a work in progress, to put it mildly. Still, these technology challenges can and will be overcome, just as contact centers have adopted web, email and chat as normal service channels.

The key to real success, in my view, is to look beyond the automation and remember the first word of social customer care — “social.” And the last one — “care.”

If Social Customer Care is to rise above “lipstick on a pig” status, business leaders should not treat social as just another channel to cost optimize. Instead, use social customer care as an opportunity to engage human-to-human and show that a company really does care about its customers.

When that happy day arrives, we can go back to just calling it Customer Care.

Note: This is my foreword to “Five Years of Social Customer Care: The Pig Puts on Some Lipstick and the Fish Come Out to Play!”, arranged by Guy Stephens. It’s an outstanding collection of articles you can download here.


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