I was reading a blog post from Sentiment the other day – Sentiment predicts closer integration between marketing and customer service, web chat and smart data will top the social customer care agenda in 2016.

In the post three predictions are made:

  • Closer integration between marketing and customer service functions to create a unified social hub across the business
  • Web chat integration to ensure customer support teams can work across channels
  • Smart data analysis to drive operational business change and deliver wider visibility on social ROI

It struck me as I read these three predictions, that they were less predictions and more a statement of the inevitable. Perhaps not in 2016, but at some point. We’ve been talking about customer service and marketing coming together since 2008! I’m trying to think of how many forward-thinking organisations are doing this? I’m also trying to think what the benefits are of being a forward-thinking organisation? And if the benefits are so great, why aren’t there more of them? Perhaps being forward-thinking is no more or less than just doing the basics well? By the way, what does a forward-thinking organisation look like?

My predictions:

  • Customer service and marketing will come together at some point. Consultants have you got your spiel ready about the seven steps to transitioning to a forward thinking customer experience enterprise where marketing and customer service are integrated holistically and, don’t forget, end-to-end, as well?
  • Messaging apps will dominate communication … that is until the next wave of <insert name of disruptive communication media here> emerges. Companies will still take an age to actually integrate them and by the time they do, customers will be on to the next one.
  • Data will underpin and drive all customer experiences across all channels, regardless of whether that data source is social, mobile, in store, email, billboards, TV. I wonder if this was the case in the 1960s?

Why am I being critical? Flippant perhaps?

I’m being critical because I think we, I, increasingly write in cliches and hackneyed phrases. I write without thinking about what I am writing. I write without a sense of critical judgement. Howard Rheingold talks about ‘crap detection’ and the ability to discern, to be critical thinkers. The same old blog posts are being written over and over again, the same thinking being churned out again and again and again and again…

  • Please, can we get over the question of ROI?
  • Please, can we get over the myth of social customer care and call deflection?
  • Please can we just get over it!

There are so many posts out there writing about the technology, the changes that it will bring, the benefits that will result. But the technology is a means to an end. It’s people who make the biggest changes. The technology as we know, simply enables. Do we always have to wait until the technology gets boring?

We already have enough systems that can deliver the fastest resolutions. It’s the thinking that puts the barriers in the way that causes the problems. Break down the barriers, break down the thinking, look internally, look to yourself, before looking to buy new systems or create supposedly ‘faster’ processes.

Perhaps I’ve simply forgotten how to think? How to be critical? Perhaps I don’t even know, am not even aware that I’ve forgotten…

re-think, re-wire, re-engineer, re-build…

We have become used to looking to technology to give us the answer, to be the answer. But looking to technology has made us lazy. We couldn’t rethink our processes to cut down the SLA for FCR, so our customers decided to create their own DIY workaround, it’s called Twitter. A three minute SLA is an artifice, it signifies nothing. The focus is all wrong.

We should be writing about ‘forward thinking’ people, not forward thinking organisations. It’s the people that will change, not the organisations. Perhaps what social has done/is doing is being the catalyst that reminds us what critical thinking is.

Organisations are simply a manifestation of the people that inhabit their ecosystem. I tut-tut at myself at the emptiness of that sentence. It’s all a cliche. It’s just words hung together. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. The habit is difficult to break.

Organisations are nothing without people.

trust, authenticity, collaboration, sharing, transparency … add your own words, the list of empty words is endless! And yet, these are the very words that lie at the heart of social? The words that give social its meaning, its essence, are the very words that undermine it.

Perhaps we’re all competing with each other, competing for your attention? Quick add more empty words! But what do these words mean to you, in your context, at this moment in time? Do you even know? Do you care?

We look to KLM as the most socially innovative. But for KLM social is a way of thinking, a way of doing. Perhaps it started off as the technology – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, but someone or some people within KLM recognised and understood that by doing, the biggest change to be made was not the face value of responding on Twitter within three minutes, but recognising the opportunity for what that response could be, could represent, in that moment in time. There is a subtle, but critical dependence in social between doing and understanding, doing and recognising, doing and realising. You have to do it, in order to realise the value of it. I can’t teach you the value of social to you. I can’t teach you best practice for you, it’s your journey. I can show you what others have done, but that is their journey. Ultimately, this is your journey. And it is a journey.

Even KLM, who have intertwined customer service, marketing and PR, are still on their journey, they are still understanding how to build, create and think from social. Still trying to cast off ‘we’ve always done it this way’, in favour of something that reflects the nuances of today. The blueprint forever being shaped and crafted, by you.

Kate Leggett (Forrester) talks about a ‘mobile-first’ mentality in her customer service trends for 2015, and perhaps KLM is making the mental shift towards a ‘social first’ mentality. What social, mobile, digital and even traditional channels represent is far greater than the sum of the individual technologies that are grouped together under these terms.

We must all be critical, because in doing so, we stop ourselves falling into the trap of becoming a cliche or a hackneyed phrase.