Customers and Support: A Social Contract

July 31, 2013

Guest Poster: Miguel Perez

Miguel Perez of Media Temple

It is my pleasure to introduce Miguel Perez, (mt) Media Temple Engagement Supervisor. Miguel has spent 15 years in customer service. Since coming to (mt) Media Temple in 2008 he’s done front line support, lead a support team, served as a supervisor and now leads the Media Temple customer engagement effort.

I invite you to give thought to some ideas I am going to share about the implied, unspoken, unwritten, and (in some ways) unconscious contract that exists between a customer and a support organization. I call it a “social contract.”

I’ll break it down for you a little and show some interesting statistics and observations that apply. Finally, I’ll present some strategies to help derive value from this “social contract.”

I borrowed the term “Social Contract” from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote “Of The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right” in 1762, a work that influenced both the French and American revolutions. Here is a key quote:

“Every law the people have not ratified in person is null and void – is, in fact, not a law.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

What does Rousseau’s quote mean to us in the web hosting industry?

It means that, in the mind of the customer, all the TOS’s, SLA’s and Statements of Support are trumped by this unspoken social contract. It means that the customer and the support rep can sometimes begin a support encounter with entirely different expectations.

CRM guru Paul Greenberg tells us that:

40% of people calling customer service for assistance, call with no expectation of having their problem resolved.

Paul Greenberg, (BPT Partners Social CRM Summit, Atlanta, GA. Feb. 2010)

That is an amazing statistic. 4 out of 10 callers are phoning, writing, tweeting or chatting with no expectation of a solution. So why are they doing it? What do they want if they do not even expect a solution? What is the expectation they bring that derives from that “Social Contract”?

I suggest to you that they want an experience! They want the experience of being understood, of being acknowledged, of being comforted. They want simply to be told that everything will be all right.

So when Elya McCleave from iWeb Technologies in Montreal observes that…

34% of customers who change webhosts do so because of dissatisfaction with support.

Elya McCleave (HostingCon, Boston, MA. 2012)

…it’s possible to make the case that those customers aren’t dissatisfied with the actual support but rather with the way that unspoken social contract was fulfilled, or unfulfilled.

Social Contract Guest Post

At (mt) Media Temple we came upon the idea of support as a social contract without even knowing it.

From the beginning, our support team has been engaged in a conversation with our customers. We have been listening, talking, and sharing our knowledge in a way that unintentionally fulfilled that unwritten social contract.

In return, our customers have rewarded us by staying put and telling their friends. Our support effort to honor the “social contract” together with the efforts of Engineering and Product are why (mt) Media Temple can boast a very respectable customer churn rate of 1.3%.

Building a Support Team

Here are some guidelines for building a support team that can offer understanding to frightened customers, exceed the expectations of the 40% who don’t even know why they’re calling, and capture the loyalty of the 34% who are willing to bolt:

Hire Thinkers

Get imaginative people on your support team who can think, learn and do something with the knowledge they have gained.

Empower Them

Give your team the training and the coaching they need to succeed. Give them the tools they need for the job. For example, a (mt) Media Temple support rep can issue credit to a customer for any reason in the interest of making things right for the customer.

Get Social

Are you doing support via Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? If the answer is yes, good! If no, then stop reading and get started. Yes, social media is not good for long technical explanations, but then the customers who are using social channels are looking for support more than technical help.


This is a toughie, and it goes to philosophy. To listen means that you avoid holding your support team to metrics like “talk time,” and that you do away with productivity quotas. Instead, the emphasis should be on the quality of each support encounter. Make it possible to listen fully and carefully to each customer’s concern. The very act of listening makes a difference in terms of customer experience. Most of all, it means that a support encounter is not and should never be a sales opportunity.


You have to be in tune and knowledgeable at both the agent level and the organization level. If you know where the customer is going, you can be there to greet her. Make sure your regular training cycle includes the latest information on lessons learned, future updates to popular software, the latest trends and the newest techniques.

Now there is one more guideline I want to share with you as we wrap this up. It is an (mt) Media Temple guiding value, and it is something we live by:

Enjoy the Journey

If your support team is having fun at work and enjoying the day to day, that sense of fun and enjoyment will infuse their work and become a part of every support encounter. And when that happens, your team and your customers are on the way to a long and profitable journey… together.

Guest Post Disclaimer: Guest Posts on the Customers That Stick blog are submitted by individual guest posters and in no way represent the opinions or endorsement of CTS Service Solutions, its owners or employees. CTS Service Solutions does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of statements or facts posted by Guest Posters on this blog.

3 thoughts on “Customers and Support: A Social Contract”

  1. Pingback: The Social Contract

  2. Thanks for introducing Miguel and letting him post here as a guest. I think his article is really great! I liked the way he discussed how important it is to engage with customers through keeping up with the conversation as a way to sharing knowledge and being more social. Customers like that approach!

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