I’ve given a couple of talks recently about how social media is redefining the way in which customer service is being provided. One of the themes I talk about is the increasing ubiquity of devices like the smartphone, typified by the iPhone.

What we are seeing is the rise of customer service ‘on the go’. It is the idea that customer service agents are no longer bounded by having to be in one fixed place for a particular period of time to help customers or indeed people. As long as I have a means of receiving information and imparting it, I can answer questions, possibly resolve complaints whenever and wherever I am.

I remember one instance at the beginning of the year when I went onto Tweetdeck and read a tweet from someone who was trying to find out how to take the SIM card out of their iPhone. I sent them a link to a YouTube video showing them how to do it. Unfortunately, the person didn’t have a paperclip, but what was interesting was that this person was on a train, and the train was in the States. I live in a smallish town about 35 miles south west of London.

The above example, together with the fact that I can and have helped people for the 50 minutes I am on a train on my way home from work with just an iPhone loaded up with Tweetdeck or another Twitter client illustrates how the rules of engagement are changing. We are still at the outset of this journey, but it is prescient of what may come.

Let’s for a minute, extend this even further and forget about the idea of customers. Let’s just think in terms of people. And let’s for a moment, also forget about the idea of customer service agents, and let’s think about them, as people.

Social media platforms, such as Twitter are allowing people to more easily, just help each other. I’ve got a problem, I tweet about it, someone helps me. The traditional paradigm that I go back to the company that I bought the product or service from to help me out is changing.

We all possess tacit knowledge made up of our experiences and expertise that we have built up. We all possess the possibility of helping someone at some point. In the act of simply posing my question or problem to the Twitterverse I am also directly questioning the traditional model of customer service provision.

The idea that anyone, with an iPhone, a Twitter account and the inclination to help at any time is a very real challenge.

I’ve just come across this post by Mark Jaffe on the idea of customer service ‘on the go’ as well – Will mobile phone replace in-store retail salespeople?