Social Media does not make a good listener

Social Media continues to be a “hot topic” in marketing and customer services discussion arena’s. I stumbled upon an article on Customer Think with the title: CrowdService: A Clear and Present ROI for Social CRM. One of the many articles that promote usage of Social Media or Social CRM for Customer Services.

Customer services in general is not that great

One line in the article caught my special attention:

About two-thirds of U.S. consumers believe that companies should ramp up social media usage to “identify service/support issues and contact consumer to resolve.”

This one line proves to me more than that there is “a clear and present ROI for Social CRM”. This line tells me:

  • Companies have not been listening to their customers very well, and
  • Companies have not been able to resolve their customer’s issues very well, and
  • One of the above, or a combination or both, is true for two-thirds of consumers
Little efforts in the past could cure Customer services

Despite all efforts been made over the past decade or two, despite of all good interaction channels we have available, despite (or maybe because of) the wide spread of Customer Relationship Management (systems), despite Total Quality Management, despite business process re-engineering, despite quality monitoring efforts in the call centers, despite … this list can go on and on and on…

Despite all of the above and more, we still have accomplished too little, according to two-thirds of consumers..

Is social media the cure for poor Customer service?

And now Social Media or Social CRM is being presented to be the solution to start listening, engaging with our customers and solve their issues. I like the idea, but have the following reservation: if in your company, all or a good part of the above mentioned efforts did not succeed, you will have very little chance that implementing Social Media or Social CRM will make you successful.

Only if you start listening first

If you want to be successful in your business, or with Social Media for that matter, you need to start with one thing first: listen.. seek first to understand and then to be understood..

If you want to be successful you need to change the DNA of your company, of your people. You need to change from an inside-out to an outside-in thinking and breathing customer-centric organization. This requires a change in the course of your company’s evolution.

Social Media cannot make you a good listener.. Can you?

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21 thoughts on “Social Media does not make a good listener

  1. Pingback: The Future of (Social) Listening: If we knew.. « Wim Rampen's Blog

  2. Wim,

    Twitter is actually a good channel because it gives the impression that not only are you being listened to, but also that the whole world knows you are being listened to.

    i am sure abraham maslow would come up with yet another layer to his pyramid if he was still around today.

    however as you and Esteban keep saying, its all pointless if Twitter engagements do not translate to real time action.


    ps: like the new improved look


  3. Hello Bob,

    Thanks for the clarification. You definitely have a point that the answers to the question you asked do not necessarily lead to the conclusion I gave it in my post. I can see that, knowing the question asked now.

    Fortunately you and others do agree with the main message of my post, as can be clearly read in the last sentence of the comment.

    Thx for stopping by!


  4. Wim, I’m glad my article stirred up some interesting discussion!

    The specific question asked in our survey of U.S. consumers was: “How much do you agree that companies should use these types of social media to interact with you??

    And one of the answers was “Identify service/support issues and contact consumer to resolve.” About two out three (66%) said agree or strongly agree.

    I don’t think this necessarily means that companies aren’t listening, although certainly that is true for some. Sometimes the problem is the consumer doesn’t complain to the company, but elsewhere. If a company monitors comments on Twitter, Facebook, etc. (as Comcast, JetBlue and Zappos do) then they have the opportunity to resolve a situation that they may not hear about through the formal channels.

    I believe the best listening strategy in the social economy is to use all available channels. But as others have pointed out, unless this is part of the culture, social media will be just another tool (like CRM software) that disappoints.

    Bob Thompson


  5. I noticed your post about that social media can not be good listeners. A rather strange statement because social media in it self are mere technological artefact’s. And the essence of social meda and social crm should be that is about communicating at the same level, in a relationship or in an encounter, facilitated by the technology.

    I refer to my yesterday´s posting (and in case you missed it watch the video)

    The really crazy change is not that people can talk back to organizations but the fact that people are no longer disconnected to each other. The fact that former consumers/colleges/employees/friends/family members/your partner are now produces and can talk directly to each other.

    The ultimate question for : do you act accordingly on a personal or professional level?


  6. Pingback: Social CRM & Creating Demand in a Hyper-Connected World « Fredzimny’s CCCCC Blog

  7. I agree that social media presence does not make a good listener, but I would recommend all companies listen to their Customer through all channels available to them, which includes social media. This is an era of change in Customer Service and the Customer will have a larger say. I will also say that companies that recognize the need to change, listening to Customer feedback in social media can be a big help. It is the Customer speaking in their own words. I have always found Customer stories to have the greatest impact on change.

    Social media has another power, especially in places like Twitter (and when Facebook opens up). On Twitter Customers are answering a question ‘What are you doing?” and through this question a lot of information can be obtained. I have found you can learn things before calls even calls in. More thoughts are available in this short video:

    Now I agree that a company must be striving to improve to effectively listen to Customer feedback through any channel. For Comcast we are actively engaged to improve the overall Customer experience through every means of communication, so we are listening everywhere. In fact it is so important to us that we changed our credo to: “We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day. Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer-friendly and reliable service in the market.”

    We know we have a way to go, but we are heading in the right direction. I look forward to the time where we all agree, including our Customers, that we are there.

    Frank Eliason


    • Hello Frank,

      Thanks for the comment. You are definitely right that lots can be learned from listening to the Voice of the Customer. Social Media can be a great place to listen.

      As I stated above, in my re-@DrNatalie comment, listening is only effective when completed with a 360 degree cycle: Listening, Learning, Acting, Closing the feedback-loop.

      I’d be cheering along with you when our Customers provide us with the feedback that we all understand what they’ve wanted for decades. I agree with you that we are heading in the right direction.

      Thx again for sharing!


  8. Some people think Twitter is a poor channel for customer service. Are you personally using it for your company and came to that conclusion? Or are you conjecturing that it doesn’t work?

    I’m show casing 4 companies – Intuit, Comcast, Carphone Warehouse and JetBlue that are using it for customer service and its working really well.

    I can’t wait to get the case studies done… so that there are clear, obvious examples to put the low grade pessimism to bed.

    Social media works. But only if you “get” it and know how to use it!

    Please take an hour and listen to the audio of this presentation to get a dose of — its possible social media can work… and here’s how…


    • I’ve experienced myself one twitter service-team intervention (@Zappos_Service) which was a good experience. I’ve also blogged about a good example (in dutch) on this site. I think both cases where the company truly understands the listening competence. I do not deny that there are good examples.

      A good summary of different examples of Twitterservice can be found in a recent article in the New York Times: Twitter Comes to the rescue:

      One that supports my arguments I have copied here:

      – start quote –
      Getting a quick response through Twitter is one thing; getting a resolution is another. After Evan Reeves, 27, a Web developer from Portland, Ore., spent an hour on the phone with Travelocity, trying to redeem a credit for a future flight, he jokingly posted the following tweet: “@travelocity your hold times are whack, bro. 56 minutes and counting!”

      “It was more of a way for me to vent than to actually get any results,” Mr. Reeves said. Even though, Travelocity quickly tweeted back with an offer to help, Mr. Reeves didn’t hear back from anyone after responding with his contact information.

      “I finally called them back on the phone after all the twitter nonsense, talked with a gentleman for about half an hour or so investigating my options,” he said.
      -end quote

      We all know it is not a “bright and shiny” customer services world. New media – without “good old 360 degree feedback-loop” – does not improve your customer service experience.


  9. I hear your reservations about — if companies didn’t get CRM right, how could they possibly get social media right? There are a number of reasons why its different…

    What we all have to do is “step away from the old paradigms” about how CRM was deployed, how companies don’t get it, don’t listen…

    Throw everything you know about technology deployments out the window.

    Get a clean slate… otherwise… you won’t be able to see the new reality of companies that do get it, that did learn from the past and are doing it right…

    Below is the link to read about why Social CRM and Customer Service Social Media is being deployed differently– not all companies are doing this- but those that I show cased in my model are… here’s the audio- check it out

    those that I am writing case studies about did… and that’s why I am writing about them… so that we can all let go of the past, move on and start doing technology a favor by learning from the past AND doing all the things we didn’t do in the past right– AND NOW doing them right in present time…

    Here’s some of the reasons social CRM is different…


    • Hello Natalie,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comment(s) as well as a link to the audio file. Both will certainly provide my readers with a balanced picture.

      Here are some of my thoughts:

      As you might have read in the comments by Esteban Kolsky and myself, we are not far apart at all.

      My view is that those companies that already have “listening to customers” in their DNA, will be the ones successful in implementing and using social media to their and their customers advantage.

      At the same time I’m advocating that companies that do not have “listening” in their DNA, should focus on development of that competence. Or at least be aware that this competence has a one-on-one relation with the implementation of Social Media tools, for whatever function they want it.

      The listening competence is not only about listening. Listening is about also about taking away learnings and acting upon those. Last, but not least, it is about closing the feedback-loop to your customers.

      Social Media is not about a new channel, it should definitely not be about new technology, it should be about listening, learning, acting and closing the feedback-loop. When a company understands and fully adapts that 360 degree cycle, when implementing social media, one can benefit from it.

      If not, your customers and your company, after a short while, will be disappointed more than they’ve ever been before.


  10. Corporations have long focused their efforts on convincing us they do not have any problems instead of resolving problems. In spite of that, the majority of people continue to patronize heavily advertised brands instead of supporting local businesses.

    If you (or anyone else) can explain why that is so I am all ears. When businesses ignore their customers they deserve to lose them.


  11. Wim,

    very nicely said. a couple of things that caught my attention..

    1. true, true, true. social media is not a solution if nothing is done right before you get there. you can implement twitter, blogs, communities, etc. — but if the culture in the company is not set to listen to, respond to, and tender to the customer needs, nothing will help you. i wish more people would understand this. this was the main motivator i had in 2001 when i came up with EFM – it is not about saying you listen, it is about listening.

    2. here is an interesting thing you do not mention but that it can make a significant difference: managing expectations. 2/3 of customers are not saying you are not listening, they are saying i don’t know if you are or not so i am going to presume you are not – as everything else you do and i don’t know about. managing the expectations of the customer and making sure they know what is the path to service, what are the results, what are the timeframes, the channels, the inquiries, etc. goes far longer than adopting any new channel. If you tell your customer you won’t listen on twitter (and have a good reason), but you will listen on FB (for example), and provide a workable turn-around time that meets their needs… twitter is not an issue. it is not knowing how to contact you, for what, and when that is the issue. deploying social media won’t solve your problem of not communicating with the customer. it will probably make it worse. why? if you thrown technology at a bad process you don’t solve it, you just have a fast, bad process that your customers notice sooner.

    as you say, it is all about listening… and telling people you are listening.


    • Hi Esteban,

      I said I had nothing to add to your comment, but a thought came to me in relation to the “telling people you are listening” and “twitter” as a growing channel for Customer Service.

      Personally I believe Twitter (or any other public social media platform) is a poor channel for solving issues. I believe that 140 characters is mostly too short and there are lots of challenges with regard to integrating social conversation in your CRM strategy. In line though with your comment I believe that Twitter might add value (to your customers) with respect to letting people know you’re out there and listening as well as willing to engage with your customers. It does not really matter that issues are then “migrated” to other channels for resolution purposes. The function is not servicing, but communicating you’re listening.


      • It is interesting that you added that.

        As you probably remember, I have been advocating against using Twitter for Service for quite some time – mostly due to lack of space and lack of tools to support the experience.

        I was reading around the web the last couple of days and I read about a company that uses Twitter in an unusual way – that totally complies with what you describe.

        The listen on twitter for key words, names, and phrases related to their products and when they found something they redirect that user to a web-based community to complain, get help, or do whatever they need.

        At first I thought it was a bad idea, but the more I think about it I think it is a great idea – precisely for what I said above and the great comment you made.

        Customers want you to listen, not merely act. If you showed them that you are listening, you are already delivering to those great expectations.


  12. I need to make one more statement at this post:

    The post might leave the impression that I am against Social Media usage in Customer Services or any other “arena”.

    This is not the case.

    I am in favor of any movement or media that can enhance a company’s listening capabilities.

    My message of this post should be clearly read: If you do not have “listening” to your customers in your DNA and you are not willing to truly listen, social media will not help you solve your problems.

    If Social Media can help you get the message (that your company needs to listen better to its customers) out, then please do so.


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