Devices and Services

Yesterday we discussed how advertising on social media sites was being impacted by the shift to mobile devices as the dominant method of accessing social media. Today we will consider the implications of the shift to mobile social media on how a business delivers customer service. (We’re not, however, going to discuss how best to employ social media to provide effective customer service, as we wish to examine this in more detail in future posts.)  

Traditionally, when a customer wished to interact with a business, this would be by telephone or letter, and more recently by email or a web form. These interactions could only take place during designated customer service hours – or at least the response from the business would only be during those hours.   Importantly, the interaction was solely between the customer and business – it was not in the public domain.

Social media has changed things, though. Firstly, interactions between the customer and business are now in the public domain, and can be re-tweeted, linked or ‘liked’ with a few clicks of a mouse, with the potential to rapidly reach a wide (even global) audience. Secondly, mobile access to social media means that this can happen instantaneously – not only do customers no longer have wait until their lunch hour to call a customer service number, or wait until they finish work to send an email, but they don’t even have to wait until they are at home to tweet, post on Facebook, update their blog or post on a forum – smart phones and tablets allow this to happen at any time.

The upshot of this is that bad or slow customer service is increasingly dissonant in a mobile, always online world. Mobile devices allow instant, convenient access to one’s friends, family and work colleagues; users’ expectations are that businesses should be instantly accessible, too. These expectations will ultimately, we feel, drive fundamental changes in how companies run their customer service operations.

So what will those changes look like? Initially, we anticipate a move to 24-hour customer service. As the trend for customers posting thoughts or concerns on social media at any time of day increases, it follows that there must be customer service representatives available to monitor social media and respond to the customers in real time.  These customer service centres need not be geographically close to the customer, however – the beauty of social media customer service is that all it really requires is an internet connection, so customer service teams can be based in different parts of the world, or even location-independent (perhaps using mobile devices themselves).  

Just as customers begin to expect businesses to be more accessible, though, the reverse is true – customer service through social media need not be tied to traditional working hours, and we predict it will soon be acceptable for a business to interact with customers 24-7 provided the interaction is part of an ongoing dialogue – that is, not unprompted sales or marketing but a genuine resolution to a problem.

Another likely development is that customer service will become a significantly larger part of a company’s operations. Social media (especially with mobile access) has made it significantly quicker and easier for customers to engage with businesses, when perhaps they might have thought twice before calling up or sending an email. This results in an increased volume of complaints and comments that requires more manpower to respond to.

The rise of the smart device as a social media platform will likely transform customer service for many, if not all, businesses. If you have any thoughts or experiences on this topic, please share them with us below.

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