Customer service in the cloud

photo credit nateOne on Flickr

I have an ongoing internal battle over the issue of influence. Whether it’s my hesitation about tools like Klout offering product sampling to influential audiences or my concern over customer service teams treating those with large social followings with preferential treatment, there seems to be something amiss with the use of influence in social strategies. So today I was happy to hear that we may be getting closer to linking customer service, social media and influence.

The technology isn’t new but the uptake is slow. Several software companies offer products that can not only provide a link between a customer ID and a social profile but can also assign workflow tasks to customer service staff to reply to the customer if they use a tracked keyword on an identified and linked social account.

Today’s speaker, Ted Bray from software provider Right Now, used the Peter Shankman/Morton’s story as an example of the difference between marketing influence and customer service influence. To further illustrate his point he told us that as a regular Marriott guest, he recently deviated his travel plans and stayed with another hotel chain in Singapore. He tweeted his appreciation of their service and left it as that. Ted’s point was that this was an opportunity for the Marriott team to jump on his disloyalty and show him some love.

If the Marriott had the right tools in place, they’d be notified that one of their platinum loyalty program members had tweeted about staying at another hotel. Ted said he would have been more than impressed if he’d received a tweet in reply asking for the chance to win back his loyalty.

The room agreed. This would be a powerful way to recognise opportunities to go above and beyond for loyal customers. And personally, I’m more comfortable with this definition of influence, using customer service on social media to influence the behaviour of a (high) revenue generating customer.

So do you think this would work in Australia? Do you think the telcos, the banks, the frequent flyer programs, the department stores, the retail outlets etc would be going above and beyond customer expectations to integrate this kind of technology?

I’m reminded of the Interflora campaign in the UK that monitored Twitter looking for users that needed cheering up. They contacted tweeps who had tweeted about feeling down and sent a bouquet of flowers as a surprise. Who doesn’t love a random act of kindness? Turns out – a hell of a lot of people who feel like they’re being watched or that brands are eavesdropping on their personal (yet public) conversations.

Today I posted a poll on Twitter asking the question “How would you feel if a company had your Twitter profile linked to your customer profile and used it to proactively contact you?”. I hold no illusions about the quality of data my poll will produce, but so far most respondents have said they would be impressed that a company was monitoring their online behaviour.

So which companies will be first to use this kind of technology to target their top 20% of customers? How will we react? What would you do if you were contacted? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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~ by mandi bateson on October 13, 2011.

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