Hi, I’ve got a problem…

No one ever calls a customer service line to talk about how thrilled they are with a product or how fantastic their experience with the company has been. No, usually those phone calls involve a slightly frazzled to full blown furious customer who is having a less than stellar experience with your company. So the person who picks up the phone in the call center matters. They shouldn’t just be clicking through modules, giving prepackaged answers, processing a customer who not only wants a resolution to their current problem, but wants to be truly heard and reassured that your company will be there for them in the future.

Sounds a lot like relationship building, right? Then why do so many companies take a quantitative approach that focuses on call time rather than recruiting a brand advocate? Why are call center departments so rigid and problem focused, rather than collaborative and brand opportunity focused? How can this model work in the age of social media that boasts the most empowered generation of customers to challenge the corporate world?

Well it really can’t and industry leaders are noticing. Comcast has been successfully using Twitter to help customers on a platform that requires authentic relationship building. Their profile isn’t splashed in red and black with a huge Comcast logo; instead, the profile picture is of the guy (Frank Eliason) who is actually helping you and an unimposing, slightly optimistic (if you’re fuming over cable problems) cloud image. Rather than letting customers broadcast their problems to the Twitterverse unanswered, Comcast employees tackle them head on and lend their side of the story to the interaction. At SXSW Frank said the personal, instantaneous interactions that the team has online has affected the entire service culture at Comcast, improving their focus on quality interaction in the call center environment.

Then there are the companies who breathe their culture into all of their service platforms like Zappos. They have been a Twitter staple for quite some time, interacting with customers who both praise and criticize them in a brand voice that is fun and helpful. Zappos employees are empowered to use social media to talk about the company, interact with customers, connect with other distant employees, and let their own individual personalities shine. So what happens next when customers can’t quite get the answer they need in 140 characters or less? The customer connects with a compassionate, dedicated customer service representative who ditches the typical script and engages the customer in a real way. In a sea of online retailers Zappos has stood out with their ability to “deliver happiness” that extends past the shoe box and through the entire customer experience. The value proposition is so strong that Zappos is going the Google route and using “old fashioned” TV spots to recreate the customer-employee interaction in living rooms across the country.

As customer service continues to become more social, consumers will have more personalized, streamlined, and useful interactions with companies and companies will be able to better assess what we need from them and how they can better deliver it to us.

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