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Social Customer Service

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Social media as a customer service channel

Amazon has done exceptionally well when it comes to customer service. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

He’s saying that effectively he’s inviting his customers to a party, and he’s trying to throw a party as part of his service, as part of the value that he’s delivering to his customers. That’s a really interesting mindset shift that is probably one of the sort of fundamental reasons behind Amazon’s success.

Obviously, Amazon have amazing systems in place. They have an amazing platform. They do very well on their pricing. They’re tough bargainers and they manage to get very good prices for their customers. That’s all part of their strategy. But at the end of the day, those things are aspects of a business that can be quite easily replicated. What they’ve been able to do is add a service layer on top of that, that makes Amazon a preferred place for people to go.

Outstanding social customer service involves:

  • Making service a priority
  • Being accessible to customers
  • Consistently following up with customers
  • Using a range of social tools

Social channels leveraged for customer service

In the US, the UK, and a lot of the western world, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are commonly leveraged for customer service. Facebook, in particular, has been at the forefront of this. They have been investing quite heavily in getting companies to use Facebook as a platform for engaging with customers. They’ve realized the value for customers in being able to engage directly with a company. And companies see the value too, because it puts a human face on the business.

It’s not just Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter: there are different players in different markets. For example, Qzone, WeChat, and Ren Ren in China; and Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki in Russia.


Companies face challenges with social media customer service, including:

  • Risk of rapid amplification of dissatisfaction. You’ve probably seen on the internet, Facebook, or Twitter, where someone’s had a bad experience in general with a company and it goes viral. There was a really famous case in the U.S. with United Airlines, where a man looked out the window and saw some baggage handlers throwing his guitar across the tarmac. He made a funny video about it, which was very well made, and it went viral. That obviously posed a huge challenge for United Airlines because now, there were millions of people looking at this video effectively making fun of them.
  • Customer control over pace of conversation. This is something that you essentially relinquish when you start using social media as a way of delivering customer service. It is the customer who determines when, where, and how they want to interact with you.
  • High expectations for in-the-moment resolution. People have high expectations when they are engaging in a customer service interaction. They expect the company to respond within a few minutes of them posting an issue.
  • Expectation for exceptional service. Customers expect the company to go over and above to satisfy their needs and resolve their complaints.

Models of ownership

There are three models for how your company could own customer service within the business:

  • Marketing-owned. This has occurred as social media has been seen as a marketing activity – despite recognizing that it’s also a tool for customer service, many organizations still keep this function in the marketing department.
  • Contact-center-owned. Some organizations have moved this aspect of service into a contact center where, traditionally, the customer complaints team was based.
  • Co-owned. Some companies adopt a hybrid approach instead, where marketing and the contact center work together to solve problems quickly.
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Christian Polman

Christian Polman is a General Manager at Eone, Europe. He has driven digital marketing strategy through analytics and research to solve strategic and operating challenges and develop business plans for Fortune 100 brands.

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    Social Customer Service
    Christian Polman
    Skills Expert

    This module introduces the concept of social customer service and highlights the social channels that are most often leveraged for this activity. It provides you with best practices you can follow to create and implement a robust social customer service strategy – and to manage it effectively. It also provides best practices for measuring customer satisfaction with the social customer service they receive, and for training social customer service agents. Finally, you learn how to build, grow, and maintain online support communities.