Social customer care: Robert Burns and social media


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I recently attended a Customer Contact Association masterclass on ‘Social media, mobile and online customer communications’. The masterclass was attended by a range of financial, travel, utilities, healthcare and policing organisations.

The discussion opened with a reference to Robert Burns and what his view might have been towards social media if he were sitting around the table. One of the attendees recalled the following quote by him from ‘To a Louse’ and based on that we felt that he would have liked what he saw, and may well have been blogging or tweeting during the masterclass:

‘O would some power the gifite gie us to see ourselves as others see us’

Social gives us the opportunity to see ourselves as others see us, and much of the discussion focussed on aspects around this. There were those companies which were well into their social journey and beginning to understand the impact social was having on their business sitting next to those yet to start their journey.

Some of the themes discussed focussed on ownership, making a business case, creating a social customer care call centre, the need to understand customer demographics to a far greater degree, the role of smartphones, what skillset is needed, understanding how to resource for social within the contact centre, whether social can be outsourced, the role of influence in determining how to respond to customers, how social and traditional channels fit together, the role of PR/marketing within customer service, and how social is like a sticking plaster. And yes, Dave Carroll and United guitars was mentioned at some point.

What was interesting for me were two things:

  • how as soon as someone says ‘social’ it is treated as a channel in its own right, rather than simply treating it as another channel which sits alongside any other channel
  • how closely someone’s personal understanding of social was often intertwined and allowed to influence their corporate view on social, rather than trying to understand the case for social based on what their customers were doing. I don’t get it, so we don’t get it.

Most memorable quote of the day: Owning social is like picking up a bar of soap.

It was a really stimulating discussion and every time I attend a roundtable I come away thinking that talking and exchanging views with others and challenging one’s own assumptions and thinking are key parts of overcoming the challenges of social.

Social challenges what we know and urges us towards something different, perhaps even something better, something simpler, something less complicated, but it is as much a personal journey that needs to be made as it is a company-wide one. Perhaps Robert Burns was closer to the truth than we realise.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Guy Stephens
Guy is a social customer care trainer/consultant who has been in the social customer care space since 2008. He is also the Co-founder of Snak Academy, which provides online social customer care microlearning for individuals and SMEs.


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