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March 26, 2017

Top 5 Reasons Why Customer Service is Avoiding the Social Media Wave

Waiting for the social wave

By michaelpace on August 19, 2011

Ok, show of hands (and be honest, I can see you through your webcam), does your company provide social customer service through your actual customer service department?

Or does Marketing handle it; or some other department or combo? During a webinar hosted by Jeremiah Owyang (a must follow) earlier this month, he stated that roughly in 70% of the cases, Marketing handles social media, including customer service inquiries. In my own experience speaking with customer service executives and at conferences, I estimate less than 10% of customer service departments handle support related inquires or comments. Why? Why are you not riding the Social Customer Service wave or are you waiting for the wave to crash into you?

Reason #1: Marketing owns and handles social

Background or Myth: Marketing should handle social media stuff because of possible public relation issues, social media is a marketing job, or it’s just always been that way.

Reality: Social media is a tool of social business, similar to your phone system being a tool for your customer service. You probably don’t own the phone system, and Marketing probably doesn’t need your permission to use the phone. If individuals are afraid of a public relations issue being created through social media, do they monitor all of your outgoing emails and chats? An email or a chat is equally “socialable” through their own technology or in combination with other social networks. Similar to email and chat technology channels, best practices, process and clear roles and responsibilities are needed to execute effectively. Your customer service team is best equipped to handle service inquiries and provide content that helps educate your customers. And anytime someone tells you it’s always been done that way, you know it’s time for a change.

Reason #2: If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

Background or Myth: You know there are millions of people on social sites like Facebook, but they are not talking about our brand or service (or at least we haven’t heard it).

Reality: If you are not listening, how can you know if someone is talking about or to you? Have you ever put your company name (or variations of) into Google Blog Search or into Twitter’s Search? There are tremendous amount of free tools to use to listen to understand if people are talking to you or about you. I prefer Hootsuite for Twitter and Google Alerts for everything else on the web. It’s now common place for people to express their opinions to their friends, family and followers on the web, and it will only become more common. Per Socialnomics, ½ of the world’s population is under 30, they do not know what life was like before the internet (think about it).

Reason #3: Not a valuable use of time or resources

Background or Myth: As compared to our other channels, social media related channels are such a small percentage of our overall volume.

Reality: The previous statement is both true and false. It is true for an actual physical count of tweets, Facebook posts, blogs commenting on your business, and LinkedIn discussions, but it does not accurately reflect the impact. For example, at Constant Contact (where I work), the average person tweeting positively or negatively about us has approximately 1300 followers. Over the course of 2010, there were almost 1,000,000 impressions of positive or negative commentary. Now not all of those impressions were influential, but even if a small portion (10% or 100,000) were influential, doesn’t it make sense for you to be a part of those conversations?

Reason #4: We are in a regulated industry; we could break laws by talking about personal accounts publicly

Background or Myth: In many industries, such as healthcare and financial services, public “discussion” of personal information can land your company in a heap of legal and compliance trouble. This statement is true, but there are reasons to still get engaged.

Reality: Probably the most valuable aspect of social customer service (at this point) is pure acknowledgement of being heard. If someone mentions you on the social web, you should still acknowledge their message and then offer to take it to a more secure channel. If you need to track even these minimal conversations, you can do it manually or if you have the scale, most CRMs now are available with social tools integrated into their workcase management. Regulated industries are typically complicated, which also makes them ripe for proactive outbound communications to your customers about your products and services. Blogs, branded communities, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn provide fantastic platforms for educational content that can be pulled from existing sources like your knowledge base or marketing materials.

Reason #5: Getting started is too overwhelming

Background or Myth: There is very limited data or information on how to get started in social customer service, let alone operationalizing it.

Reality: Yes, getting up and running in social customer service is a sizeable task, but like other large initiatives, if you break it down it can be less daunting. Below is my high level work breakdown structure:

  1. Get yourself involved in social media
  2. Know your business strategy/what are your objectives/guidelines More information on steps 1 & 2
  3. Listen to your customers
  4. Customer Conversation
    • Develop SLA’s
    • Know your brand (big difference in Tiffany & Co.’s & Zappos corporate voice)
    • Engage your customers
  5. Workflow, Catalog & Tracking
  6. Developing & delivering proactive contentSocial Wave

Customer service leaders have a choice, try to stand strong against the incoming wave, and hope it does not knock you over (or provide a competitive disadvantage), or pick up your board, paddle out and ride the wave. This trend may not have all the same tools at the end of the day, but the premise of social business will remain, and become more prevalent in our lives and the lives of our future customers.

To chat with a bunch of other smart people about the topic of social customer service, and getting started, join me, Brad Cleveland, Bob Furniss & Todd Hixon for a tweetchat presented by ICMI on Tuesday, 8/23 @ 6:30 pm CST – follow hashtag #CCDemo11 for up to date details and more information.


Wave Image Credit,solitary/Interesting

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About mpace101


  1. 16 Comments

    Mike, thank you. Great piece and essential reading for those afraid of dipping that first bare toe in the water.
    I’ll be passing this on.

  2. 16 Comments

    I found this post thanks to Jay Baer’s Twitter feed. It’s straight forward and to the point. As a lawyer solely dedicated to Social Media and Internet issues, my clients find it hard to adopt, because they fear the medium doesn’t allow them the control they need to isolate liability and specially bad publicity, as you very well stated. Nonetheless, they keep discussing it because it can be cost effective and profoundly insightful on how they truly handle their business. With that in mind, I made a short vlog on the legal considerations of adopting social media for customer service, so as to ease them into giving it further consideration. I will be linking this article to my original post as well if you don’t mind. If you are interested in checking it out, you can do so here:


    Julizzette Colon, Esquire – (@ConsultaConJCB)

  3. 16 Comments

    Probably the most valuable aspect of social customer service (at this point) is pure acknowledgement of being heard.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. I’ve taught my former agents with my previous employers that that’s the “minimum customer service requirement” to do when communicating with customers, be it off or online.

    One thing I observed in my customer service years is that even if the customer’s issue isn’t resolved to their satisfaction, they also tend to acknowledge by thanking you for at least acknowledging their issue. If you think about it, acknowledging is pretty much what many (if not all) of us want, right?



      I would wholeheartedly agree. The steps my team uses are as follows:
      1. know your customer – do they have an account, good customer, influence in our domain, followings
      2. acknowledge +/- acknowledge both praise and “non-praise” 🙂
      3. be transparent & human
      4.Keep Online/Offline/Between line – we try to keep in online, but may move it off or to a more “private but public” space like our community.

      Thanks Dan

  4. 16 Comments

    Morning Eric,

    Good post, with some topics surely to be considered. I will state that I do not believe that Customer Service is avoiding the Social Media Wave, as you describe it. I believe that Customer Service is doing what it does best, helping Customers. Studies show that traffic on social media channels is heavily skewed towards anything but requests for service.

    I did some research, and IBM released a couple of good white papers on the topic, worthy of a read. This is one of my favorite quotes (I included it in my analysis of the second paper):

    “If companies want to unlock the potential of social media to reinvent their customer relationships, they need to think about CRM in a new light while building a strategic and operational framework that provides both structure and flexibility.”

    The paper focuses on Social CRM, as does my post and personal research. I am not tied to the name – it could be CRM using Social, Customer Service by Social – pick your poison. The quote suggests that Social CRM is the strategy end-point of social media. Whether it is ‘the’ strategy end-point or ‘a’ strategy end-point is to be determined, but IBM makes a strong case. It is a bold statement, but goes to some of your arguments – make sure that you have a purpose and get on-board.

    Cheers – Mitch Lieberman (@mjayliebs)


      Interesting perspective. Does the paper focus on (S)CRM the technology? or the philosophy? I have a hard time believing any tool is the end point of a strategy or even the actual strategy.

      Another way you can look at the avoiding question is, how many customer service leaders are actively using social networks at all. I am sure a bunch have a LinkedIn profile, may not be actively used, and a Facebook page (mostly to keep track of their friends and family). However are they actively using twitter, RSS’ing blogs, leveraging digital communities, or sharing in other forms. In my experience, most are not at this time.

      Thank you for the comment, it has given me a different angle to look at this from.



        The papers (there are two) focus on strategy and philosophy, not the technology. There is some good data points in each, but the science is young, for sure.

        I agree with the other way you are looking at it. Again, the science is young. There are lots of reasons for it. my perspective it is not because people believe that marketing should own it, it is because marketing does own it. Marketing is where many of the programs started and it is now complex, technically, to segment the channel. My research is included in two posts, easily found on my blog (wordpress) or


  5. 16 Comments

    Mike – great post. A good sign for me when starting the official “social media” department at my company was that I interviewed with the VP of Customer Service who asked me about my approach to social service. I simply said, “You wouldn’t ignore a ringing phone.” The tools may change, but whether someone chooses to tweet, blog, call or snail mail you, not listening is not listening regardless of the technology. While my role lives in marketing, I consider my extended team in customer service to be central to whatever we do. And the team has responded beyond my (and our customer’s) expectations – they treat it as an opportunity to connect with people on a very personal level and in real time. We’ve definitely chosen to paddle out and catch the wave.
    *Views here are my own.


      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for the comment, and I am glad to hear you (and your org.) have chosen the social business wave. As you go on your journey, I would love to help anyway that I can.

      I prefer to look at social as a discipline, that enables the social organization. Similar to process management or project management. The more people in your org. that understand the value/power of the social organization, the more productive each department will be. But take your first steps and get your process and governance set up, and before anything get your objectives inline with your broad company goals.

      Some of my prior posts may help get set up, see the RACI and Social Conversation posts.

      Glad you feel this may be a helpful resource.


  6. 16 Comments


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