Social Initiatives Less About Marketing, More About Customer Service in 2011

Ann All

I've written more than once about companies that seem to get so caught up in their social media initiatives that they neglect basic principles of good customer service such as "Don't promise what you can't deliver."


I cited a study by Gartner analyst Michael Maoz in which he found four aspects of traditional customer service - price, quality, convenience and fairness-are far more important to customers than any kind of social engagement. While companies should still employ social channels as part of their CRM efforts, they should stress the connection to traditional service, wrote Maoz on his blog.


Esteban Kolsky touches upon this theme in a post on TheSocialCustomer, suggesting that some of the hype around social media will begin to dissipate in 2011 as companies start to realize providing employees with collaboration tools to empower them to better serve customers is more important than amassing Facebook friends or Twitter followers. To deliver better service, writes Kolsky, companies will have to focus on "boring business functions."


When I interviewed Brent Leary, co-founder and partner of consulting/advisory firm CRM Essentials LLC and a member of TheSocialCustomer's advisory board, he told me:

Social CRM works best with a good traditional CRM foundation. At some point, you do have to enter the formal sales and customer service processes. You need to integrate social media into those formal processes. But you begin those processes now with a click, it's starting online.

As Kolsky wrote in an earlier post, the two biggest challenges for companies in incorporating social channels into their traditional (OK, boring) business functions are plumbing the huge amounts of data generated by social channels, much of it unstructured, for actionable insights and ensuring that social channels don't become yet another organizational silo.


To deal with the data, Kolsky says companies must "invest in filters (to separate noise from valuable data), processing (analytics engines that can process in memory or in stream to manage the volume in near-real-time) and storage (you cannot store all the data you collect for a long time, the volume becomes prohibitive-not on cost, on space to store it and tools to manage it)."


Investing in collaboration tools should, in theory, help companies overcome the silo problem. But companies will need to be careful that bottom-up adoption doesn't result in a mishmash of tools that creates even more gaps in communications.


Kolsky also predicts a back-to-the-future focus on contact centers. Cisco is among companies hoping to capitalize on a trend of integrating social feedback into contact center operations, as I wrote last month.

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