Joshua Marsh, writing at PandoDaily, discusses the impact of social media on the customer service role within companies. The challenge that he points out, is to empower customer service reps (traditionally one of the lowest paying positions at most firms – sometimes even lower compensation than janitorial work) with more freedom to respond appropriately to customer needs. Social media provides a feedback loop that doesn’t allow for the current status quo of, “let me check with my supervisor, and we’ll get back to you.”
This may seem a superficial observation; after all, technologies change all the time, and each new tool introduces new possibilities and new demands. However, social media has changed the customer service game in a much more dramatic way: rather than pursue their complaint as a discrete transaction, customers nowadays reach out to corporations as naturally and effortlessly as they do their friends. The same way I’m likely to think my friend is rude if he or she ignores a message from me on Facebook or Twitter, companies, too, are learning, often the hard way, that the kind of service they need to provide has to be immediate and public.
To do that effectively, the old way of providing customer service won’t do. Too often, the traditional rep on the phone was trained to do one thing and one thing only, which is pass a complaint up the bureaucratic chain of command, receive a resolution, and report it back — a classic centralized model of corporate communication. Today’s customer service agent, on the other hand, must be nimble, smart, fast, attentive, personable, and talented at defusing volatile situations and creating new opportunities.