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This post by Jeff Korhan addresses current issues in customer service today. I like how Jeff talks about how important it is to partner with customers to create better customer experiences. – Shep Hyken Is your business still hiding from social media – or using it to leverage the voice of the connected consumer? Social Media Presents New Responsibilities Customer service for most businesses used to be answering the telephone. These days it’s not so much the phone ringing during business hours as it is commenting on your Facebook page or Twitter account, both open around the clock. Is your business answering? Social networks provide a direct line to every business, and there is no waiting and few limitations or filters.  This is why many businesses fear these public conversations, which are actually opportunities in disguise. Use them to leverage the passion of your most vocal customers. For decades customer service has been controlled by the business. But that control has clearly shifted in favor of the customer.  Of course, their expectation, as a result, is that businesses be available and responsive to their comments or queries. More than just responding, why not consider developing a strategy to have meaningful conversations? For the most part, earlier customer service methods were designed to make the problem and the customer go away, hopefully amicably. A better approach is learning how to extend the conversation. Zappos is just one example of a business that does this well, earning a stellar customer service reputation.  Their service representatives will take as much time with a caller as necessary. The record service call being in excess of 10 hours! How about your business? Is your customer service program designed for favorably resolving situations? Or extending the relationship with every caller, Facebook fan, and Twitter follower?

Customers are Now Partners

Customers have always known how to get the attention of businesses. The old method was complaining. Remember the days of filling out a “complaint resolution” form while knowing you would be lucky to get a response? Believing that was once a standard and accepted business practice is difficult. Consumers have learned they can get what they want more readily by being complimentary. This is why companies like Ford Motor focus on using social media to get people to talk favorably about their brand simply. That’s their social marketing strategy, and it’s built on the premise that in a social economy, what the business has to say is not nearly as powerful as that of the connected community. To be more specific, according to its CMO Jim Farley, Ford literally takes the approach of giving up control of its brand to the customer. Social media has democratized media to effectively redistribute power that was once localized within corporations and institutions. So, letting go is a means for leveraging the influence of those that now share that power. This trend is transforming customer service into a new form of marketing by engaging customers as collaborators. In addition to helping create better solutions to common service problems, they can help the business reach new buyers by sharing with their social media communities. Treating customers as equal partners in a business relationship is a viable strategy for generating more favorable commentary about your business brand. In an increasingly transparent business environment, is there a more powerful form of marketing? We are really talking about reexamining the business process and designing it around the connected customer. This means the lines between sales, marketing, and customer service will inevitably become fuzzy because they all contribute to creating more favorable customer experiences that get talked about. How about you? Let’s have a conversation in the comments below. Jeff Korhan, MBA, is a small business marketing expert and the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. He helps mainstream businesses translate their traditional growth practices into a digital world. Contact him at

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