I recently attended two events where the use of social media within customer services was discussed. What was interesting for me were the very different approaches and topics within social media customer service that were discussed by the two groups.

The first event was made up of people who worked in customer services. Everyone was aware of the use of social media within customer services, the impact it was having and the potential opportunities that came with it; but less than half actively used some form of social media. The topics that featured heavily included:

  • The use of social media within customer service: Twitter, YouTube and forums primarily.
  • The use of live chat: blended or dedicated agents, resourcing during peak times.
  • Call deflection: is it still about call deflection?

The questions and observations were very much practical ones, with little or no discussion about brand, crisis management etc. It was very functional and to the point.

The second event was primarily a marketing affair, more theory, more talk of brand and definitely a different type of language being used to discuss the issues around social media customer service.

The main topics of conversation included:

  • Customer advocacy: How do you create customer advocacy via social media customer service?
  • How do you help people on your own properties, and then extend this to helping people on independent sites?
  • Best practice customer experience around social media customer service
  • The place of customer service in the digital landscape. If customer service is becoming the frontline of how a company interacts with its customers, how does this impact on the traditional role of marketing or sales?
  • Content curation. How some companies were using YouTube videos to explain issues customers were having with their product or service. It was obvious that customers are more than happy to view and use videos which are not overproduced, as long as they give the information that is required; customers understand the context in which the videos are produced. The extension of this conversation was that publishing was no longer the sole preserve of marketing.

What was interesting for me was how both groups of people viewed the same topic – social media customer service – from such different perspectives. And yet there was the same amount of passion, interest, insight and expertise on the topic from both groups.

To me, the gap was not an insurmountable chasm, but simply reflective of the rich diversity of expertise and insight that is available to draw on to create what Zappos might call a ‘wow’ experience for the customer. Emotion, innovation and functional necessity equal partners.

Unfortunately, all too often we interpret diversity as a barrier. Rather than embracing diversity, and persevering with the search to find a common point at which a discussion amongst equals speaking a common language can take place, we retreat into our familiar silos and ways of thinking.

Our customers deserve better.


I work at a cross-channel consultancy called Foviance, where I help brands (my marketing bias already belies where I am coming from in this conversation) implement their social media customer service strategies. I tell companies (that’s better, much more neutral word) to listen to what their customers are saying. And yet when I tell companies to ‘listen’, what am I really saying to them? Listen to what people are saying about your brand? Listen to what your customers are complaining about? Listen to how customers are responding to your offers?

Note to self: Write out 100 times every day for the next 21 days – I will embrace diversity and I will love my colleagues in marketing, sales, legal and business operations.

Okay, marketing may take a little bit longer…