Social Networking and Customer Service: What’s the Real Value?

I meet up with some former colleagues last night who are now both analysts at Datamonitor covering the contact center space. We had an interesting conversation about social media’s impact, or perhaps, indirect impact on customer service.

By that I mean much of the “social” functionality you see vendors imbedding within CRM systems are really just another channel through which customers can reach a business and through which a business can respond and/or monitor commentary these actions.

Not that I’m discounting the value this plays, but what’s really changed? Simply leveraging social networking as another channel for customer support isn’t much different than sending an email or picking up the phone. I think down the road businesses will discover the real difference lies in the underlying ability to recognize how these new trends should be altering the way in which businesses view their customers and engage with them.

For example, much of the focus around these up-and-coming channels has centered around demographics – how the so-called millennial generation differs from older generations in shopping purchasing habits. Yet the use of social networks are no longer confined to just younger people.

Simply repurposing older contact and customer support paradigms using new methods and technologies is fine in the short term, but smart companies – and vendors as well – should be viewing mediums such as Twitter as a chance to view their customers in a new light and build more personalized relationships – and profitability – in the long term, in addition to giving them some experience in these tools while not requiring a radical reworking of internal processes.