People are creating their own networks and ecosystems built on social platforms where the sharing of information between trusted ‘friends’ is paramount.

In this new paradigm, customers are helping each other, complaining on third party sites, or simply self-helping through their own research.

Customers are increasingly bypassing the need to engage with a company altogether. In a sense, customer service is moving outwards, it is decentralising into the hands of customers themselves. If you have a problem, who better to ask than someone who has recently had the same experience. Even more so, geography is no longer a boundary. The difference now is that we have the tools to ask the question.

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.

Take the example of making a complaint. This is no longer the exclusive domain of email, letters or the phone.

You can now complain in different ways via video, audio, blogs, in a forum – and on any number of sites over and above a company’s web site – Twitter, AudioBoo, Plebble, YouTube, Facebook.

The rise of third party complaint or feedback sites is further blurring the lines for a company. This blurring has the potential to make companies rethink how they will engage with not only customers, but people.

So, in this new highly fragmented space, companies are now having to proactively and publicly reach out to customers on their terms and in their spaces to find a renewed sense of their legitimacy to provide customer service.