... or at least that's the contention made by Ann All in a recent blog post on the topic. She points out -- and rightly so -- that a recent Gartner study foound that "four aspects of traditional customer service – price, quality, convenience and fairness – are far more important to customers than any kind of social engagement." In other words, no matter how "friend-ly" a firm is out on the social web, if they don't fulfill the core customer expectations, they will fail.
That said, we've seen evidence that conversation-oriented engagement has proven quite useful for firefighting once your customer service department has already failed and suffered a black eye -- in fact, social media skills are probably as useful in crisis communications as anywhere else in the corporate branding and PR pantheon (especially considering that these conversations can get away from you quite quickly -- witness the post-spill BP brandjacking for ample evidence).
It's just that, as with so many new things, All says that the social media sizzle distracts us from the social business steak. She notes that some firms are better at customer service on Twitter than they are anywhere else -- and that's a recipe that may appeal to the social web echo-chamber, All believes that it doesn't make for a very good customer service strategy.
I'm not so sure. The social web fills the human need for social signals, the desire to rely upon "word of mouth" input or feedback to validate the many choices that we're forced to make in our hyperconsumption environment. Below are some recent stats:
12 percent of consumers have posted on social media sites about a service experience, with the average post being viewed by 45 people.
Gartner estimates that by 2013, 65 percent of customer service interactions will be in the cloud – that includes social media, communities, search and self-service. The customer chooses the channel they want to use, not your company. For customer service, the number-one channel isn’t the phone anymore, it’s Google.
In a Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) study, 59 percent of respondents said they regularly use social media to "vent" about their own customer care frustrations.
72 percent of respondents said they used social media to research a company's reputation for customer care before making a purchase, and 74 percent choose to do business with companies based on the customer care experiences shared by others online.
Several online retailers have employed rapid response programs to address support requests and customer feedback – they found a 4-7% increase in customer satisfaction and a 1-3% improvement in retention rates
And it's not as if All is writing off social business altogether. In fact, she notes that taking social data and using it as feedback into current customer service and contact center practices via sentiment analysis and social analytics, or connecting colleagues, vendors and customers together in social environments for the purposes of better business-to-business collaboration (i.e., the "extended enterprise" perspective), are noted as two potential areas of value to explore. And as the takeaway for those who might persist with social CRM efforts, All cites as Gartner analyst Michael Maoz, who cautions us to remember that the best social CRM is focused "on customer advocacy and excellence, not conversations or engagement."
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