As I was walking in to work today I got thinking about a whole range of things. So in no particular order here are my random musings for a Friday on social media customer service. As always my views are my own.

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Great Manchester Police now tweeting (@gmpolice, @gmp24_1, @gmp24_2, @gmp24_3), as well as @GavtheCop (Surrey Police Chief Superintendent). Reading through some of the tweets it provides a fascinating insight into what goes on, and we learn that over the past 24 hours, 341 arrests have been made across Greater Manchester, and 126 people are currently in custody. It can only be a matter of time before what may have started as a controlled experiment actually becomes properly embedded into how GMP engages and communicates with the community.

I wonder in what ways the imminent comprehensive spending review will influence the shift towards the use of social media within the provision of public sector services.

This is balanced against the thought of those who are still digitally dispossessed and initiatives such as Martha Lane Fox’s RaceOnline2010. Life is full of one-sided views.

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#bwe10: I was following the hashtag for BlogWorld Expo (Las Vegas) and came across some Tweets putting forward the view that customer service should own social media as it was the largest interface between company and customer. This got me thinking about the idea of ownership. For me, a customer will touch on different parts of a company depending on their needs at a particular time. From a company perspective, customer service, sales, marketing, legal etc all have the opportunity to influence that overall relationship at the instance in which they come into contact with a customer. But do they individually own it? No. The company does and should always own the customer. It’s the same for social media. Social shouldn’t be owned by one department. Because social is not a company-created platform, companies cannot prescribe how customers should use it. Social is there for all parts of a company to use, and a company’s view of social will be different depending on which department(s) is sitting behind it. That doesn’t mean a unified framework can’t be implemented, whilst still allowing different departments to use it to reflect their own/customers’ needs.

The other thought I had on this point about ownership, is that it goes to the very heart of social. Social by its nature implies sharing, openness, transparency, collaboration, relationships. By one department claiming to own it, runs counter to this, and takes us all back to the shackles of  traditional business paradigms. Something we’re trying to break free from. Our customers are showing us the way, but which way is your business looking?

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Looking forward to hearing TCS webinar: Getting sentimental about customer service with Brent Leary and Jim Sterne amongst others on October 19th. Just hope I can make it.

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Social media mission control, The Contact Center must evolve #socialsupport by Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter Group). Read this post with interest. Without wishing to be overly sycophantic (okay just a little), I am a fan of Jeremiah Owyang. Perhaps, sometimes, more for the fact that he constantly puts a position forwards. He doesn’t hide behind someone else’s ideas, but has the courage to express his own. My thoughts are nothing to do with the content of the post – I need to read it a few more times and really try to digest what he is saying – but more with how we treat people like Jeremiah Owyang. Often times, and I’m guilty of this, we read such musings and insights from commentators and don’t really question them, we accept them at face value. Questioning what people write isn’t wrong or right, it’s about furthering the discussion to a new or different level of understanding for all of us. Why do we sometimes have this ‘willing suspension of disbelief’?

This ‘willing suspension’ seems so much more heightened also with Tweets. I follow the #custserv hashtag and because of it have come across many interesting posts and people. But at the same time, there is also a propensity to simply nod one’s head in agreement to what can sometimes seem like soundbytes, such as ‘customer service is the new marketing’, without actually thinking what this even means.

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Enjoyed reading Barry Dalton’s post – Social Customer Service and the Nile Perch. What I enjoyed in the post was this thought, and I’ll copy it directly from Barry’s post:

But his [Seth Godin] genius lies in the fact that he rarely takes the easy pot shot or calls out that target by name.  Instead, he focuses on the lesson, remaining broad and vague enough to allow you, the reader, to connect the dots to your own experiences, thus making an infinitely more valuable tool for driving change.

Thanks for the thought Barry. Something I’ll try to work into my writings.

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I’ve often spoken about the rise of third party sites which allow people to comment about a service they may have recently experienced. These sites have sprung up off the back of social media and the associated slicing open of traditional methods of customer engagement.

These sites tend to focus on providing a platform that allows anyone at anytime to either praise or complain about a company and the service it has or hasn’t provided. I’m not talking about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, FourSquare etc.

I genuinely believe that such sites, in principle, provide a valuable service ensuring that companies are kept honest in the eyes of their customers.  Where I think the concept needs fine tuning perhaps, to really encourage companies to want to respond and for a genuine conversation to take place is to somehow ensure that companies don’t feel boxed into a corner and forced to respond.

This isn’t about shifting control back to companies by letting them immediately take the complaint behind closed doors. It’s about creating a platform that engenders a two-way communication to take place in a constructive way. To only allow such a conversation to take place by a company having to pay for the right to do so, or as a result of being publicly shamed at their lack of response, unfortunately may mean that the opportunity is missed altogether for everyone to benefit.

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I’m still convinced that the use of social is more about mindset than toolset. If you walk into work on a Monday morning and are greeted by the following Tweet – Crap service. I’ve called you five times about this problem, and it’s still not fixed. #fail! – how would your company react? Tweetdeck will tweet your response, but what will your actual response be (if at all)? Look inwards before you look outwards.

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I’ve been told that apparently it’s not referred to as ‘social media’ any more – that’s so 2.0, but simply ‘social’.

No matter what you call it, I can’t wait until it’s just called – customer engagement.

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