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Getting closer to the customer: first shut down all social media.

by Michael Maoz  |  April 19, 2010  |  4 Comments

A lot of my professional life entails meeting with clients, and my personal life involves a good amount of interaction with stores, medical insurers, airline personnel, postal workers, government employees and the like.

Collectively our clients spend billions a year on customer feedback systems and processes. Their customers are surveyed to death. Everywhere one turns there is a follow-up survey. All good. and there are so many social media: RSS, SMS, Chat, Vote, Blog! Rate! Comment!

Yet in real time, when you, as a consumer, have a real comment on a real issue? The answer, unspoken, is: NOT MY JOB. Yesterday I flew from Washington, DC to NYC, but didn’t have a seat assignment. The woman at the airline desk said I should have done that ahead of time on the internet. Hmmm, yes, I tried that, said I, but it said I could not perform that task at this time. Her response? She started complaining about all of the problems that the new customer service system was causing, and of all of the glitches, and on and on.

Trivial example, yes. I could add the US Postal Service, who gave me a Tracking Receipt for a package, to follow on the website. But one catch: the website didn’t accept the Tracking Receipt number. But the IVR in the Contact Center did. But it couldn’t find the package. And it didn’t give me an option of an agent. So I pressed, as I always do, regardless of company: 000, ### until it connects to a human, who asked me for the address of the person I sent it to, and then transferred me to a Post Office that was closed.

Never mind the times you enter all of the information in the IVR and then are told to call during working hours.

In fact, each of us has a dozen examples of unempowered service agents at the ready.

So, why do we spend billions on social media? One reason is to uncover glitches, poor processes, and customer insights. The same ones that we have spent other billions distancing ourselves from by stripping away decision making from agents, by denying them the tools to enter complaints or capture helpful hints, and by putting in endless self service options on one channel, but the survey for the experience later.

Are you over-engineering your enterprise when a bit more empowerment of the humans working for you might do the trick? It could be happening.

And for all of that Survey Data from social media, how are you qualifying its efficacy?

I’d like to hear.

Category: crm  customer-centric-web  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Getting closer to the customer: first shut down all social media.


  1. Very insightful post Michael and there is definitely a disconnect in the consistency of support channel interactions.

    This is somewhat similar to a blog post by Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief of 1to1 Media last week titled “Using Social Media to Jump to the Que” http://www.1to1media.com/weblog/2010/04/using_social_media_to_jump_the.html

    This “Que” can work in a real time as well as a process improvement mechanism.

    There is a time to shut a company’s “Social Media” mouth and listen to gain insight on what your customer’s and audience are discussing online about your brand.

    Just the fact that you voiced an opinion via this blog probably means that many others expressed the same feelings toward some type of issue. A company should listen to all of the conversations because most people voice their frustration or use this medium to alert of an issue.

    By taking in consideration of frequency, sentiment, influencer ratings and comments should lend a hand in correcting and streamlining the process overall.

    I constantly say that companies need to realize that their “social media” strategy is not a separate entity outside the the lines of their CRM strategy thus Social CRM. Just as technology is the enabler in Social CRM People and Process are more important than ever.

    By using this monitoring tools and intelligence to respond or for engagement more efficient processes could improve the reaction of all channels.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TweetCRM: Getting closer to the customer: first shut down all social media. http://bit.ly/brInd6

  3. David McCoy says:

    Without calling for any action against social media, I too have posted on a similar issue: the flip side of “who cares?” You raise the fact that we are not capturing the corrective comments from our own staff; I raise the issue that staff sometimes live in silos and have no interest in seeing the bigger picture, even when a customer is the source of corrective insight. Both informational failings are rooted in selective ignorance (systematic, structural, perceptual and motivational) and both are mistakes:

    https://blogs.gartner.com/dave_mccoy/2009/08/07/process-ignorance-comes-from-living-in-process-silos/

  4. Mike Milburn says:

    Great post Michael.

    I actually want to share a user tale of Social Media in the support center. I recently purchased a one of those new devices used to charge electronics wirelessly. I purchased the base + iphone attachment and all worked great. I then wanted to connect a Droid to it and searched everyplace (Bestbuy, Company website and the web) before finally contacting the product customer service team. The response that I got back was “We are unsure of what products are coming out and a specific date. We believe that in the summer time there will be more receivers. Again, we don’t know for which phones. Please keep checking our website for more updates.” Needless to say i was a bit confused by the statement “we are unsure of what products are coming out at what specific date.
    I then did what is only obvious and found the Facebook page and posted a similar inquiry. Within minutes the post was removed by the company and I was not contacted. Seems like this company is using the Social Side to push Marketing and Sales and has not figured out the customer support function.



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