“Social Customer Service is a failure”


Luke Brynley-Jones is the founder of Our Social Times, who run social media conferences in the UK, Europe and the USA. They’re hosting The Social Customer 2012 in London on Thursday 29th March.

Frank Eliason

Very few of the leading lights in social media operate in the cut-and-thrust world of real-time customer services, yet that’s exactly how Frank Eliason gained his renown. Credited with turning US cable company, Comcast, from a faceless giant into a best practice case study for social customer care, Frank now heads up social media at Citibank.

Joining a major bank during a global backlash against banking may not seem the smartest move, but Frank believes the openness that social customer care demands can have a powerful and positive effect on large organisations. “Social media will tend to simply highlight the culture that already exists for the company”, he says. Ergo, getting your internal culture right is critical to the success of your external social communications.

In the run up to The Social Customer 2012 (London), at which Frank is the afternoon Keynote, I’ve been asking the speakers for their views on what social means for customer services. Some of the responses have been quite critical of social customer services, others controversial. Here’s how Frank responded to my questions.

Where do you see the pain points for organisations seeking to implement social customer services?
Let’s be clear: Social Customer Service is a failure. Most companies are running these programs through their marketing and/or PR teams with the ultimate goal of quieting down loud customers. What people fail to see is at Comcast we were also working to improve the other interaction channels. By focusing on quieting down loud customers, but not fixing the underlying cause, companies are encouraging people to come to social to rip apart their brand.

Are there things that Marketers could learn from Customer Service with regard to their use of social media?
Social media is bigger than marketing and Customer Service – but I actually think Customer Service can learn from marketing and PR, just as much as these groups can learn from Customer Service. The fact is Customer Service knows how to speak to Customers, which is what is happening in the space, so service can be a huge asset in how to be a part of the dialogue.

At the same time, PR and Marketing have done an amazing job within their fields and typically garner more respect within the organization. Customer Service needs to learn how Marketing and PR are able to speak to executives within the company and do the same.

Marketing and PR typically have a seat at the top table through Chief Marketing Officers and/or Chief Communications Officers, but it is rare to see Customer Service gain that seat through the Chief Customer Officer role. This is the fastest growing C-Suite position at this time, but that is because the customer is demanding it, rather than through a change in internal priorities.

Are there specific tools or services you feel are particularly useful in helping companies to overcome the pain points?
I think the biggest aspect that companies need to overcome is not something a tool can help with.  Social media is making the world a flatter place and organizations must do the same. Businesses must break down the existing silos that they have built up. It’s the only way.

Luke has kindly offered We Are Social readers a 10% discount on The Social Customer 2012 ticket price, by entering the discount code “WAS10” when buying a ticket directly from their website.