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Traditional Customer Service Excellence Trumps Social Anything.

by Michael Maoz  |  July 28, 2010  |  9 Comments

Over the past several weeks I have been trolling around the Customer Service organizations of nine seperate companies, each of which has been focused on CRM for at least ten years. They also have Social CRM projects. In conversations with their customers I’ve asked which is more important to you: ‘participating in the conversations about the company’ or ‘getting what you want from the company?’ In every instance, what customers most want is to be treated fairly. The ‘control of the conversation’ or ‘engaging about the company’ or whatever variant of social CRM that one throws at them comes a distant fifth. Price/Quality/Convenience/Fairness are the top four – bar none.  You will find that electronics manufacturers, online retailers, car companies and restaurants outshine businesses like facebook or almost any wireless provider, in no small part because the ‘four P’s’ of Price, Promotion, Product (which includes customer service as part of the ‘solution’ aspect), and Placement – things we learned as first year business students – were solved for.

Yes, yes, yes, I know that the nabobs of social media will try to refute my position. What they will not do is bring statistically solid empirical evidence. Instead they will blather on about the many examples of where ‘participation’ and ‘reviews’ are what made business success possible.  I have heard all of this evidence. I know that shopping networks and online retailers would not dare give up Bazaarvoice ( http://www.bazaarvoice.com/). And companies like comScore will argue, cogently and correctly, that customer reviews are a must for success of many products. I agree. This reinforces my point rather than refutes it. Social aspects – in this case consumer reviews – are amplifying the truth about the Four Ps. Get these right. By all means use social channels and processes. But stay focused – social is a way of peeling back the dross. Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations. Why? Because we want you satisfied that we are getting the basics right.” Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally.

The crucial derivative benefit of analyzing what the customer community is saying about your Four Ps is that you will be better able to focus on where to invest in marketing, sales and service. Where should you focus? What is a process gap and what is a technology gap? Which problems are about real-time decision support and which about lack of channel integration. Again: this is Intention Social CRM, and it works.

As an aside: Check out the ACSI website for details on customer satisfaction in the United States (http://www.theacsi.org/). If you know of analogous sites for Europe and Asia, let me know.

Category: crm  customer-centric-web  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  saas-and-cloud-computing  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  strategic-planning  

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 Traditional Customer Service Excellence Trumps Social Anything.


  1. Robert Bacal says:

    I’ve been saying exactly the same thing for about 12 months now, so I’m happy that others are picking up the banner. I’ve written a bit on why people have fallen in love with social media and wrongly so.

    It’s almost like a strange mass hysteria where people try so hard to believe that you can replace real human contact with that mediated by computers. It doesn’t work that way. It never did.

    Now the irony. 5 responses above. Not ONE useful. And that, too is part of what social media is fast becoming.

  2. Mike,

    I think the title would be best stated “EFFECTIVE Traditional Customer Service Trumps etc.”

    The reason why some social methods are in place are BECAUSE so many traditional contact center and company policies are BROKEN.

    The ad hoc nature of social enables CSRs and the like to circumvent their limitations. I agree – this is more of a hot fix than an evolution in service.

    If customers could get their problems solved easily via traditional means – there would be no need for ridiculous (and in my mind useless) entities like “Comcast cares” that only highlight the failure of a support organization.

    If Twitter is the best way to get your question answered, the company you are dealing with has big problems.

    Just my $.02

  3. […] looking at Michael Maoz’s recent blog post around customer service vs. social. He makes a great point: good service is a must-have goal of any company and you need to man the […]

  4. I agree with you Michael…There is no substitute for the soft skills required in the personal delivery of excellent customer service. Unless an indivdiual has writing skills that convey a sincere caring of your satisfaction and the decision-making authority to make things right, a person is just a number. We are people, NOT robots and are NOT just a number being served. Many corporate systems are very broken…

  5. Social media/networking is only a facet of SCRM. No engagement on behalf of an organization across the social web should be accidental…and by that I mean there should be a strategy of engagement. An organization cannot control the conversation, but it can control response. The discipline of servicing a customer and treating feedback as a two-way dialog must be wired into an organization first. We must address the root problems of communication and data collecting before we slap on a social layer. Social media is just another business function. We must improve upon what is existing and not throw out the baby with the bath water.

    Lauren Vargas
    Sr. Community Manager at Radian6
    @VargasL

  6. […] looking at Michael Maoz’s recent blog post around customer service vs. social. He makes a great point: good service is a must-have goal of any company and you need to man the […]

  7. […] Michael Maoz, from Gartner stated the following, just the other day: Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations….Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally. […]

  8. […] Michael Maoz, from Gartner stated the following, just the other day: Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations….Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally. […]



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