When most marketers think and talk about social media they mean Facebook ads and fans or Twitter followers — or getting “viral” mileage out of more conventional media buys. They rarely if ever include customer service in that discussion. More precisely they don’t think about the way customer service now directly impacts their marketing efforts and brand. They also don’t consider how customer interactions and data collected by customer care organizations represent an untapped opportunity for marketers and brands.
Customer service and social media connect in crisis management (e.g., Toyota or BP). Customer care reps are often the ones manning Twitter or responding to public criticism. But customer service is still thought of in this “reactive” way.
There are limited budgets for service; it’s a “cost center.” Call centers are “offshored” to save money. That’s why I speak to people in Nicaragua when I call VirginMobile customer service regarding my daughter’s mobile phone. Virgin apparently doesn’t see the bad customer service it delivers via poorly trained live agents having any impact on its brand. They’re very wrong.
Most companies fail to see how customer care plays into their larger marketing and branding efforts, though sometimes customer service and sales are combined. And a few companies “get” how service impacts brand perception. Better than most enterprises small businesses understand how good or negative service can impact word of mouth. (This now plays out in “reputation management” online.) However, in general, there remains a fairly wide chasm between marketing and customer care.
This is the point and purpose of next week’s C3 event in San Francisco: to bring marketing and customer service people together to talk about how a new, more social, more public landscape compels them to work together but also creates new opportunities. This sounds much easier than it is.
A simple metaphor is: Who owns the Facebook page?
If it’s marketing exclusively a valuable customer care touchpoint is missed. Indeed, part of a “social media” program should be service; this gives the “campaign” something more to be about than just promotions or “brand messaging.” Collecting feedback and addressing customer concerns and complaints in an authentic way should be as much a part of “social media” strategies as pushing sales and offers.
This may seem obvious as I say it but it’s generally not being done.
A few months ago I was having a conversation with Marchex about their call-analytics product. I also spoke with Telmetrics about similar capabilities being developed there. Search marketing platform Kenshoo had also introduced “call optimization” — driving higher bids to keywords that produce more calls. These firms were to varying degrees recording calls and then running analysis over the transcripts for insights that could then be fed back into “keyword expansion” or marketing in other ways — even product development.
These programs were something of a revelation to me because they start to create feedback loops that are very powerful. And they offer a directional hint of what becomes possible when customer care and marketing are coordinated.
I spoke about these call-based marketing tools and programs to colleague Dan Miller and he pointed out that call recording has been going on in the contact center for many years. The difference is that the transcripts were never used for marketing or product development; they were used to keep agents in line and “for training purposes.” That’s a missed opportunity also now coming into focus.
On the flip side, customer service interactions that happened “in the shadows” and in isolation are now very public: on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums and in search results. Search markers have talked about “negative SEO” and combatting poor reputation for years but not really connected marketing and customer service in the way I’m describing.
Social media now compel a conversation between the two sides of the house and proactive brands and enterprises will recognize that there are huge advantages in bringing marketing people and customer service personnel together at the same table. This is what we’re exploring next week at C3 and we’ve put together an incredible and unique lineup of speakers to do it.
It’s very unusual to find Groupon, Yelp, iCrossing and Cisco on the same agenda, together with Rapleaf, Marchex, Acxiom, Lithium and RightNow. What about Nielsen, Meteor Solutions, Microsoft, Oodle, Closely, Praized, Air2Web and Michael Becker from the MMA. We’ve also got Edelman, Orange Labs, Venrock, Comcast, Nokia Growth Partners, MerchantCircle, Empirix, Autonomy, Innovation Interactive, FICO, Weber Shandwick . . . and many more.
Check out this speaker lineup: it’s very usual to say the least. There will be case studies from Cisco, Lithium and Marchex as well as “big thinker” discussions about a range of topics:
- Where Does Support End and Marketing Begin – and Vice Versa?
- The ROI of Social Conversations – What Metrics Should Apply?
- VRM vs. CRM Who Controls the Conversation?
- A Conversation with the Networks
- Shaping the Conversation: Search, Reputation and P2P
- A Parallel Universe: Social CRM for SMBs
- Customer Care in a Mobile and X-Platform World
- VC Panel: What’s on the Horizon?
- The Age of the Individual: From CRM to VRM
The CRM to VRM discussions will be about data control, privacy and consumer-marketer interactions. With new privacy rules around the corner this will be an especially fascinating discussion. In addition to the speakers in the room we’re trying to bring in Doc Searls via video/Skype.
C3 is going to be one of the most interesting — and I think important — events for marketers, brands and customer care executives of the year . . . if I do say so myself. I hope to see you there.