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Social Media fails CRM efforts amidst a confederacy of dunces.

by Michael Maoz  |  January 8, 2013  |  2 Comments

My “Triple Play” communications provider was the first to invest significant time, thought, and resources into Social Media. It built social listening, actively monitors and responds to Tweets and Facebook posts, and analyzes all of the social interactions of its customers.  Why then, one might ask, do they fail so miserably at basic customer processes? A reasonable place to start is over in Customer Support. Not only am I a customer of this enterprise, but they are also a client, which means there is every reason to mask the identity of said business. It can be said from outside observance that the technical support team with whom customers interact is top-notch. They are well trained, do not rush, have a great attitude, and can usually get a problem solved.

Customer Support passes the customer satisfaction test, but the enterprise fails the customer satisfaction test. Here is a recent example: Six weeks ago came a request by the company to customers to upgrade the modems that they supply to take advantage of higher speeds. Ordering a new modem was a snap, and could be done over the telephone or internet or through the mail or in a store. What could be better than this all-channel option? So far, so good. And four weeks later, at the New Year, UPS delivered a new modem.

And now I began to feel like a genius. A genius in the sense that Jonathan Swift wrote in his epigraph to Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting, “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

What happened? It is kind of funny, in a “Whose on First” sort of way. Here goes: The instructions for installation were a snap, as long as your home had no routers. As long as you have only one landline. As long as you do not mind that the Customer Support person for the telephone signal is a different person than for the Internet connection, even though the phone is IP telephony. And you don’t mind that three times the phone line goes dead during the transfer between departments. If you don’t mind waiting seven minutes after the third transfer and repeating everything you said on the initial call. But we worked through it all, after 39 minutes. Some ‘Snap.”

Ah, and then there is the ‘Satisfaction Survey.’ Satisfaction’ with what, exactly? The automated voice asks, “Thinking only about your last interaction…..” and I think… the one where I was cut off twice and the rest was self service? Or the original call that was great but partial, but with a human? And no matter how great, or how abysmal my answers were, there is statistically no chance I will ever hear back from them.

And now the final bit of fun: I must return their old equipment. But it is “EASY” it says on the instructions. Just wrap it in the box provided, tape the box with the tape not provided, attach the label provided and 1) bring it to a UPS drop box or 2) call UPS for a pick up or 3) find a UPS store and deliver it. Which did I want? The free pick up. But the UPS number rang and put me on hold for eight minutes and then the kind, helpful, and polite woman said: “Sir, your provider pays for the shipping, but not for the cost of pick up at your home.” Oh. Hmmm. (I would include an image of the instructions, but it would reveal the provider, which is not, for example, ATT or Verizon or DirectTV.).

Next step: I guess I’ll drop it in a UPS Drop Box, which I found conveniently from the UPS website in three seconds. And only three minutes from my house. But it is -13C outside. No problem. Not until I try to fit the box that the company provided into the Drop Box. It was too large. Natch. Again, I’ve got a cute photo of the box and the mouth of the Drop Box and all of the different angles that wouldn’t work that would be great for Instagram. So I drive off into the sunset (literally) and find the UPS Store using my mobile app. UPS, once again, couldn’t be nicer or easier or more friendly.

So: where are we? My provider’s social media engine is a Lamborghini – loaded with power and ready to scream down the Autobahn. But the CRM road it travels is like the rutted back roads around Guanacaste in Costa Rica. How will this fine company, with good customer service, understand that the disconnect between Social Media, where it is ‘really listening’ and the actual customer experience, where it has a blind spot, is causing a lot of lost good will, and a tremendous amount of wasted money in escalations, repeated calls, and client defection? Why force the customer to ‘complain’ into the Social Ether rather than create a truer picture of the customer experience?

These are not difficult issues. They seem to be intractable largely due to organisational silos. We likely all see analogous behaviours in our own organisations. I would love to hear more from those of you who have successfully overcome the natural splintering that happens within businesses!

Oh, one more thing: for those of you who are clients, we published the 2013 Social for CRM vendor guide listing as many of the key vendors for Social and CRM, and the subcategories: 

Thanks again for your many insights.

Category: cio  crm  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  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 Social Media fails CRM efforts amidst a confederacy of dunces.

  1. Pat Hartwell says:

    Sadly Michael I can only report similar experiences. It seems that the issue is in the ‘too difficult’ pile for organisations. My suspicion is that when the systems are ‘designed’ (I use that word advisedly) no-one asks the people at the bottom of the pyramid who might be able to tell you obvious things about the size of the box, the non-standard connectors etc. but hey – it looked great on paper!

  2. Hansen Lieu says:

    Michael, your example pointed out the challenges of providing customer experience with a network of partners (your triple play provider and UPS). Both can deliver decent experience on their own, but together, they flopped!

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