I’ve been thinking recently about the huge shift that is taking place within the world of customer service as a result of social. What we are seeing with social is a move from a closed, largely process driven transaction towards a more open and experiential one, where the resolution of the issue is almost secondary to the experience of it.

The advent of social has brought with it a whole new lexicon that is having to be learnt. This lexicon is made up of a vocabulary that is heavily open, collaborative and emotional. In many respects anathema to traditional customer service.

Agencies, analysts and commentators alike, of which I am one, tell businesses to be open, transparent, meaningful, authentic, empathetic, honest, relevant, interesting, courageous, human, humane, and ultimately be real.

The pursuit of these is a noble one, and ultimately will one day result in a better, more acceptable and accessible form of customer service.

But I’m wondering for a part of the business that has always sought solace in numbers and structure, predictability and averages, what do these words really mean?

What does being open mean?

What does being authentic mean?

What does being empathetic mean?

What does being relevant mean?

What does being real mean?

If I’ve never known these things, and never had to be them, how do I know what they are? How do I know where they are? How do I know what they look like? How do I know when I’ve become them? How do I know?

The agencies tell me that my first tweet should be interesting and relevant. But what does that really mean to me? What does it really mean to my business? Do the agencies really know themselves?

Openness to one company is not necessarily the same openness to another. And perhaps it’s even different again to what a customer thinks openness is.

So the next time you tell an organisation to be open, make sure you know what you mean in the first place, and then tell the organisation what you mean as well. Otherwise you’ll both be forever guessing and assuming, and the only thing that comes out of guessing and assuming is likely to be disappointment.

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