The changing nature of customer service

As I left Edinburgh castle last week and contemplated a trip back down to South Africa, I was thinking about some of the key messages that I could take personally from the debate we organised.

Customer service within social media has already moved on from the niche area it occupied a year or so back. Major retailers like Sainsbury’s are engaging with customers. Entertainment firms like Virgin Media are able to interact in a more personal way than the regular contact centre, and even the British Prime Minister has 2 million people following his Twitter account.

These social channels can start taking on a life of their own, a new relevance in society when you consider that millions will follow the Prime Minister online or millions will call or text a vote for a singer on the X Factor. How far can this go and how does it affect consumer brands?

The two biggest changes I can see from the discussions that took place in Edinburgh are:

  • Transparency; the assumption is that any conversation between the brand and the customer is open and visible to all, whether as Twitter messages or a Facebook wall discussion. Calls to a contact centre were all recorded, but other consumers would not listen in to other calls, so there is a very different open discourse taking place in this new environment – where one customer might even have the answer sought by another and be happy to share it. The communication is no longer only between the agent and customer.
  • Amplification; whether the experience is good or bad, it is very easy for customers to amplify something they see online by sharing or retweeting… passing on something interesting to all of their own followers, who can in turn do the same. This is a tremendously powerful concept and should be combined with the transparent approach to hopefully create scenarios where many customers are showing others a positive experience with the brand.

There is a lot changing in the customer service space at present and this summary doesn’t do justice to the discussions that took place over half a day, but if I had to nail the most important two topics discussed then this is what I think is going to be changing fastest.

Water Drop ~ Explored ~

Photo by Sergiu Bacioiu licensed under Creative Commons

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