New Social CustomerThere is not doubt, in my mind, that customer service, sales and technical support will continue to be the differentiating factor determining the longevity of a brand or a company. However, the landscape has changed and the battlefield is both physical and digital.  The rise of social media has equipped and empowered people, and business, with new opportunities to transform themselves and their companies.

Let’s start with Zappos, the online retail brand famous for its customer service. In the words of Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos, social media presents an opportunity to “connect on a more personal level with both employees and customers. It gives people a glimpse into our company culture, which is ultimately what our brand is all about.”  Just check out Andi from Zappos http://www.youtube.com/user/kfiveson/videos?query=zappos and you will see what I mean.

A great many other companies are going the Zappos way, using social media to connect with their customers and build better and long-lasting relationships with them.  If you embrace it social media will redefine customer service for your employees and company.  Here’s how:

Create a Trust-Inspiring Businesses

Today, a consumer is aware of all the people behind a brand right from the customer service representative to the CEO, thanks to social media.  Gone are the days when the face of a brand was just its ads.  While those days maybe fond memories for some (I love MadMen) they suffer from hierarchal relationships and one way, walled, communication.

A profile page on Facebook or a Twitter account gives insights into your company and the people behind social media conversations. Audiences are able to give a face to the speaker and indirectly to the company, which brings the company and its consumers closer.

Moreover, since customers interact directly with brand makers, the authenticity of information disseminated to the public is intact, which in turn generates trust for consumers.

Give Customers the Power of Voice

One of my favorite people in the world is Dave Carroll, who has become the new consumer advocate for the social media generation.  The United Airlines episode is evidence of the power a consumer holds on social media today. David Carroll created online sensation with his music video on YouTube, which described how United Airlines broke his guitar, the bad customer service that followed, and the Airline’s refusal to provide a reimbursement. The video hit a chord with the audience and United Airlines ended up paying up both for the damage of the guitar and their brand reputation.  If you have not seen it go to his video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo - or read his new book, The Power of One Voice.

Wiser businesses are learning to heed to their customers’ voices and provide quicker solutions rather than inviting a PR issue, creating enhanced customer experiences in the process.

Get Businesses Insights

What are your customers’ views about your existing product or about a new product in the market? How do they rate your customer service and your competitors’? What brand do they mention in their conversations with other consumers? Social media conversations offer a wealth of information about consumer behavior, their needs and sentiment, for those willing to listen.  There are a number of tools that you can use, and many of them are free, just email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for a complimentary listing.

Actively Keep Customers Engaged

Interesting and innovative content often clicks with customers, who are more likely to reward such efforts with brand propagation such as a Facebook “Like” or “Retweet”. Zappos uploads videos featuring their employees demonstrating their product usage while some companies upload videos showing their office culture.

Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Idea” social media platform encourages active participation from its customers by inviting ideas and implementing winning entries. Such efforts make customers feel important and help create memorable customer experiences. Check it out at http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/

About the Author:

Keith Fiveson, is the chief strategic consultant for ITESA and Social Gogo.  He offers advisory services for contact center and social media development.  Visit his website at www.itesa.com or view his linkedin profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/itesa