Fads. Trends. Bubbles.
Management is almost as susceptible to “what’s hot” as fashion and entertainment.
It is easy to get carried away with the hot thing of the moment, even easier to lose focus on basic principles.
Of course, in customer service (like in many other disciplines), the hot thing for the past few years has been social media.
Social Customer Service Comes Online
Social customer service is the most significant development in customer service since computerized CRM systems, providing unparalleled opportunities to connect with customers more frequently, more rapidly, and, in some cases, more substantively.
Social media is a seismic shift in the customer service landscape; however, it is not a game changer.
Dramatic pronouncements notwithstanding, social media has not completely upended the basics of customer service. We still need people skills, truthful marketing, and products that perform as expected.
We might get less phone calls, but we still get phone calls. Fewer people might shop in our stores, but many still do. And television advertising still works, even if it requires more skill to get the same return as a decade ago.
Social media is just another channel, a revolutionary and important one, but a channel nonetheless.
Service Fundamentals Still Rule
Generally, technology is only completely disruptive when it replaces another technology — think automobiles and horse-drawn carriages. More typically, when something comes along and pundits begin exclaiming the end of business as we know it, it almost never is.
Business fundamentals are rarely made extinct.
“The rules are different this time” is the rallying cry of everyone who stands to profit from a new economic environment. How many stock brokers in 1998 and real estate agents in 2005 repeated this very mantra.
Of course, the rules weren’t different; they were just temporarily ignored to the detriment of millions of individuals and of society at large.
The importance of remembering the value of fundamentals, of viewing social media not as your customer service strategy but as simply another channel to interact with customers, is to avoid losing focus on the totality of your customer experience.
When social media is viewed as a channel, it can be evaluated for what its proper role is in the strategic plan of a customer centric organization.
Properly understand social media’s relevance to your customers and your interactions with them, and you can wisely decide what amount and types of resources to allocate to it. Run headlong into social with a half-blind “we have to be there” approach, and you’ll be online in six months reading articles about the ROI of social media.
My advice: View social media as a new and exciting opportunity but also as just another channel in a mix of mediums through which you communicate with your customers.
And if you think I’m underselling social media, I understand — I also have some stock in Pets.com I would like to sell you.