Social Media Force a ‘Conversation’ between Marketing and Customer Service

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.

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7 Responses to “Social Media Force a ‘Conversation’ between Marketing and Customer Service”

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  2. 40deuce says at

    I wish I had heard about this earlier. It sounds like a topic I’m very interested in. Just today I was thinking about putting together a presentation for something that focuses on how customer service can be a big and great part of almost any companies social media efforts and how it can be measured.

  3. Greg Sterling says at

    Of course it hasn’t happened yet. It’s next week.

  4. Customer Service Is A Social Medium says at

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  7. Guy Stephens says at

    Interesting post around the question of ownership of social within an organisation. What is also interesting is how social is immediately associated with a specific department, whether that is marketing, customer service, sales etc. Traditional business thinking requires that someone owns something. Someone must own social. What I haven’t figured out is why the company doesn’t own social, in the same way that the customer is customer to the whole company and not just to one department. The emergence of social is challenging ways of thinking, and the notion of ownership is probably due a rethink also.

  8. Greg Sterling says at

    Ideally social would be widely integrated and coordinated across groups within an organization as you suggest. But that’s not the way it is in practice in US companies. Part of the notion of “ownership” is about execution — if someone doesn’t have responsibility or accountability — things don’t get accomplished. Then there’s he question of budgets: who pays?

  9. Tim Cohn says at

    Interesting distinction.

  10. Dan Greenfield says at

    sorry I will miss the C3 conference;  a great line up of speakers. (What’s the hashtag?) You’re post makes me think of another ( by Becky Carroll @bcarroll7  Does Social Media Help or Hurt Customer Service?  Among her points, she writes: “Part of the issue may be that social media responses are not necessarily in-sync with the customer service organization. Social media is often managed by other departments (PR, marketing) with a third-party (agency) taking responsibility for Tweeting or posting responses on Facebook.”

    Indeed – social is as much as about listening as it is messaging (generating content). This is not to suggest that marketing should become customer service or customer service should become marketing. Rather each function should have its own expertise, but each function must work in concert with each other.

  11. Becky Carroll says at

    Dan, thank you for bringing me into the conversation, and glad to see this here, Greg. The focus should really be on the customer and the ways that they prefer to interact with a company. If they want to interact via social media, companies should be prepared to meet them there – regardless of our internal functional dividing lines. The customer doesn’t really care which department anyone works for; they just want to connect with the company for whatever reason.

    In my Customers Rock! blog, I have long shared your view, Greg, that customer service and marketing need to work hand in hand. I am just finishing up my final manuscript for a book based on that blog, and in it I discuss the importance of coordinating the entire customer experience – from the customer’s perspective. When that happens, divisional lines disappear and the whole organization is centered around one person – the customer.

    Enjoy your event next week; would love to participate in one in the future!

  12. Boomeroo Web Resources - Customer Service Is A Social Medium says at

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  13. Twitter, Kenneth Cole and ‘Authenticity’ says at

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