It's bad enough when companies have poor customer service, but it's worse when they (cluelessly or cynically) tell you how great they are. One of the worst things a company can do is purport to be something it's not. That was the case with splashy advertising campaigns in traditional media, and it's still the case with social media.
A while back I offered retailer Best Buy as an example of a company that is often lauded for its savvy use of Twitter and other social channels, yet seemingly continues to struggle with some pretty basic customer-service issues. As I wrote in another post, "Social Support Only a Part of Bigger Customer Service Picture":
Companies that focus on providing customer service through social channels while neglecting more traditional avenues like company websites and call centers may drive themselves crazy trying to keep up with the growing numbers of channels, and it's ultimately a costly and inefficient way to address problems. Not only that, but you run a risk of further alienating customers if you don't respond quickly or empathetically enough or resolve situations to their satisfaction. It's annoying when a call center agent can't fix your problem; it may feel like a personal letdown when a Facebook "friend" can't do so.
Gartner analyst Michael Maoz also recently found that traditional customer-service excellence trumps social anything after talking to customers of nine companies that have made serious investments in CRM, including social CRM. Four tenets of traditional customer service -- price, quality, convenience and fairness -- are far more important to customers than any kind of social engagement, Maoz writes on his blog.
Realizing that many folks will point to customer reviews as an example of the power of social channels, Maoz notes that reviews work because they help promote when companies succeed (or fail) at providing traditional service. While companies should still employ social channels as part of their CRM efforts, they should stress the connection to traditional service. Don't just have conversations for conversations' sake. Maoz writes:
Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: "Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations. Why? Because we want you satisfied that we are getting the basics right." Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional -- focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally."
Social conversations are valuable because they can help companies identify and solve customer service problems, Maoz concludes.
Traditional CRM complements social CRM and vice versa. CRM Essentials co-founder and partner Brent Leary said as much when I interviewed him about social CRM last summer. As social channels continue to grow in popularity, laggard companies will need to add social aspects to their existing CRM strategies.