Social media, meet Achilles??? – Not So Fast

An recent article written by Jen Zingsheim at Media Bullseye takes aim at the Social Media “experts” who overpromise the value and underestimate the ability to scale.  Several well documented examples of companies using Social Media (Twitter specifically) to monitor for and address customer service issues have many in the social media echo chamber (myself included) urging other companies to “join the conversation”.  And they should because social media provide a low-cost way for companies to learn from their customers and address their issues.

Zingsheim points out that companies engaging in social media requires two things:

  1. An effective monitoring program to quickly identify problems being mentioned, and
  2. Competent people who can resolve issues without being hindered by red tape.

It’s the latter of these two which Zingsheim says isn’t scalable.  In the long run, it probably isn’t, assuming the objective is to respond to every customer individually AND assuming that the company doesn’t make significant Customer Experience improvements along the way.

On the other hand, if companies use SM to learn from their customers and address the root causes of their issues, the Customer Experience should improve over time and the number problems being mentioned should decrease.


3 comments so far

  1. Jen Zingsheim on

    Sorry for the delay in commenting! Long weekends…fun, but hard to recover from. 🙂

    First, thanks for reading Media Bullseye.

    Next, I actually did consider the “improvement on performance” aspect that you reference above. For some companies and systems, there can be tangible improvements made that will decrease the volume of customer complaints. I’m thinking of things like a problem in a distribution system that you can identify, and correct.

    Companies like Comcast and Dell provide products and services that will always have a steady level of problems, and this is due to the nature of their businesses. Comcast has to field questions about things within their control (installation, billing, etc.) but also things beyond their control (the guy up the street digging up his yard who just cut the cable line to the entire block). It’s this combination, plus their size, that puts a finite number on the improvements they can conceivably make, and even then due to their size they will still field a significant volume of calls/tweets/etc.

    So, I agree with you that the total number of problems will decrease over time. But, I feel they will most likely never drop below a certain (and still high) level, thus my concern about the scalability of customer service delivered through Twitter.


  2. Becky Carroll on

    Using social media for customer service is still relatively new. The best way to look at how to “staff” it is by keeping customer preferences in mind. Certain customers will always have certain ways they want to be communicated with. When email support came along, companies were anxious to move customers off the phone and onto “e-services”. However, there will always be customers who would rather talk to someone voice-to-voice!

    Social media might provide that bridge between phone support and email support that has been lacking. This will only work if a company’s customers want to use social media… and it is still foreign to many people.

    Thanks for the post, Doug! I am looking forward to hearing what Frank from Comcast has to say about all this on my panel at Blogworld in a few weeks. I will ask him the scaling question. 🙂

  3. Doug Meacham on

    Jen & Becky, Thank you so much for your comments. I think we are coming at this from two different directions. I’m not suggesting that companies try to move customers to social channels. To Jen’s point, it’s not practical and to Becky’s, you need to support customers in the channels they feel comfortable with. I also agree with Jen’s point that companies with complex operating models (including third parties for customer-sensitive work like installations and repair) will always have problems that can’t be avoided.

    My point is simply that there insights to be gained by listening to and interacting with customers in various social media channels. They are there now and they are talking. Over time, as Millenials make up more and more of a company’s customer base I would expect to see even more discussion of their experiences in social media channels. By using these channels as a sensory input (vs a customer service solution), the insights gathered can be synthesized into improvements.

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