A few days ago, I was talking to a client about what the future of social media interactions might look like, and she remarked that it would be great if the Customer Service department could start telling Marketing what to do. This, of course, was followed by a bit of laughter, because the chance of that happening today rarely happens in a very structured manner. It’s actually a bit of a disconnect. Marketers are looking to understand their customer better, Customer Service happens to actually know the customer better, and yet Marketing tends to largely ignore this huge channel of customer data.
With corporate social media channels funneling more inquiries to Customer Service in a written and historical record, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the relationship between Customer Service and Marketing… and probably with other business functions like Product Development and Sales as well. When strategy consultants talk about changing processes and organizations to fit this new channel of communication, this is one area that we are specifically talking about.
Rather than a few inaccurate or incomplete call logs, we now have full text details on the actual conversation that is taking place between customers and the folks in Customer Service who are helping them and listening to their issues. What was the problem, what was the resolution, how did the customer react, and what did the customer ask for? Based on this insight, we can drill down to the tiniest detail and make large scale improvements in the way we approach Marketing, Sales and Product Development.
And the only way that organizations can do this is by paying close attention to what is happening within their Customer Service department. The time is near for Customer Service to play a much larger role than it has in the past. It is imperative that organizations begin to think about how they will channel the right information to the right groups. I think it will involve three broad steps:
1. Define the type of information that each group (whether Marketing, Sales or Product Development) can benefit from knowing through the interactions that Customer Service has with your customers, and start pushing it out.
2. Provide guidancefrom the top to make sure that the information flowing from these channels is a high priority. As your business units demonstrate to each other how they are using new insights, you will continue to see collaboration both inside and out of the organization. Without the proper governance structure and leadership around social media, this can easily become a piece of insight that gets lost. Start making it part of the lifeblood of your organization as Starbucks or Zappos has done.
3. Demand accountability from the executive team to provide metrics around how social media insight from the customer service function are being used. Social media as a channel for growth can only work, if you set achievable metrics that are monitored and reported on often.
What do you think? How can we begin bridging the gap between what Customer Service knows and what everyone else wants to (or should want to) know?