Archives for posts with tag: #socialcustcare

I get asked a lot by people who are thinking of providing social customer care: “I’m so confused, I don’t know where to start?” Let me offer my thoughts on the matter.

Don’t internalise the problem. All too often we keep the problem in our head. We don’t share the problem, because we don’t know who to talk to or we don’t want to show any sign of vulnerability in this perceived gap in our knowledge (beleive me you know more than you think, you just don’t have the confidence to trust yourself). We mull the problem over in our heads. We look at it from different angles. We consider different starting points, and rationalise each one. We do a Google search – first steps in social customer care – we browse through some of the first few links, but soon glaze over as, once again, we suddenly feel the weight of confusion bear down on us, as well as the fact that there seems to be over 10 pages of results. We have no reference points or experience to inform us whether what we are reading makes sense, neither do we trust our instincts. There suddenly seem to be so many gurus out there!

My advice, grab a bunch of Post-Its, a Sharpie pen (but any pen will do), find an available wall somewhere, and then simply start to get your concerns, blockers, assumptions and ideas on to those Post-Its; one concern, blocker, assumption or idea per Post-it.


Don’t try to analyse what you’ve written, just get everything out of your head, no matter how trivial or absurd it seems. When you feel you’ve got as far as you can, take a break, make yourself a coffee, let your mind rest a bit!.

When you’re ready to start up again, you’ve got various options on what to do next. So in no particular order:

a) Group similar Post-Its: Look over all the Post-Its and group similar ones together, label the different groups. Whatever is left over, if you really can’t put them into any of the groups, just label them ‘other’.


b) Stakeholders: For each Post-It identify who the key stakeholder(s) might be. For this, you could then repeat the activity from a stakeholder perspective ie. if one of your stakeholders is the Chief Marketing Officer, what might their concerns or blockers be.

You can add further degrees of granularity, by specifying:

The stakeholders can be individuals (customer service agent, compliance, social media director) or a group of individuals (ie. management, customer service etc)

Show the relationship between the different stakeholder groups

Show the specific concerns or blockers each stakeholder or group might have

c) Risk: Draw a vertical line, add ‘High Risk’ to the top of the line, and ‘low risk’ to the bottom of the line. Now take each Post-It and add it in the appropriate place on your graph.

d) Timeline: Draw a horizontal line and label the left hand side ‘Project Start’ and the right hand side ‘Project Close’. Now start to add each Post-It to the appropriate place on your graph. You can also combine more than one variable into the same graph ie. Timeline + Risk, Timeline + Category.

e) Likelihood: Draw a vertical or horizontal line, label one side ‘High Certainty’ and the other side ‘Low possibility’. You could also combine this with Risk.

stakeholders etc

You could also look at specific categories and plot them against the timeline and risk. There may be other ways to categorise or organise the Post-Its, so have the confidence to experiment. Some will work, some won’t. However, you choose to do it, just make sure you don’t leave it inside your head!


Once you’ve finished the above, you can then take each concern, blocker, idea and assumption and think of ways to resolve them. One resolution per Post-it.



You can repeat this approach at any time, and I would recommend that you revisit your concerns, blockers, assumptions and ideas at regular intervals.

You can do this activity on your own to begin with, simply to familiarise yourself with how it works. And then, do it with your team, and when you’re ready expand it to include some of the stakeholders you originally identified.

This becomes a great way to bring together and align people from across the organisation, who will all have their own perspective of and opinions on social customer care. They will add new concerns you hadn’t thought of, or bring nuances and subtleties of meaning to shared concerns. This will result in a richer and fuller understanding overall of the potential blockers and concerns that exist. And by bringing these blockers and concerns out into the open, you’re not only starting to work in a more open and collaborative way, you’re also bringing clarity and focus, and importantly instilling a sense of confidence in your ability to provide direction on a subject that people still struggle with.


I fell out of love with social customer care. It felt like it was going nowhere…perhaps in reality, I was going nowhere. I hear Esteban in the background saying – told you so! I felt like the same old stories and case studies were being churned out by the same old experts and vendors. I include myself in that mix, we/I got stuck in some kind of a ‘seven steps to social customer care’ time warp, that lasted about five years. There were the predictable variations on a theme – three steps, five steps.

I wanted someone to rock the proverbial boat. I wanted a vendor, any vendor, to come up with something novel. HelpSocial tried to do that. I wanted some kind of self-proclaimed guru to come up with something controversial. But all that seemed to happen was that people became highly creative and inventive in the art of constructing attention-grabbing headlines for their blog posts; the content remained the same. The same story told over and over again. The same quest over and over again – scale and ROI – and yet no one really ever had any answers.

United Breaks Guitars, giffgaff, #Twelpforce, KLM, #Tweetserve… great stories, but we needed new ones. Not just new, but different, ones that pushed boundaries, ones that challenged the very existence of the contact centre. Ones that challenged. I wanted organisations to truly rethink customer service and design innovative services with the characteristics of social in mind. But it never really happened. Even now, the only real examples IMHO where companies have designed with social in mind are Best Buy and #Twelpforce, O2 and #Tweetserve, and KLM and #HappyToHelp; all between 2009 – 2014. That’s five years ago. KLM has largely been a lone beacon of hope. But the challenge is too large for one company to bear alone.

Vendors simply tried to make their social customer care platforms look more like an inbound email queue by the day. The technology had changed, but everyone forgot to try to change the service model as well.

Twitter and Facebook, in turn, made the use of their channels suddenly far more appealing to organisations clinging on to the coat tails of the contact centre, by offering up to sacrifice the very cornerstone of what makes social customer care, well…social. They placed on a silver tray the very characteristics of social – openness, authenticity and transparency, and no one raised even so much as half an eyebrow: they offered organisations the ability to take conversations out of the public domain and into a DM as quickly as possible. They were letting organisations off the hook. Organisations embraced it, breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Twitter and Facebook had the opportunity to truly disrupt the service model that emerged with the mass production of the Model T Ford and the thinking of Frederick Taylor, and hasn’t essentially changed since. There was a time I thought Apple might save customer service from itself, and in the same way that it brought simplicity of beauty and innovation to the cellphone, do the same for customer service. My hope is that Google, perhaps Amazon, may be the light at the end of the tunnel; but my sense is that Google or Amazon would only do it inadvertently. But actually, my belief is that for the customer service model that exists today to truly change, it will take a fundamental shift in the way the knowledge base is viewed. Only when the knowledge base is freed up might a profound change in the model take place.

But why couldn’t it have been me?! I lost interest. The passion was gone and I mentally left social customer care. I was tired and jaded of playing the ‘Cluetrain Manifesto’ record over and over again. You were tired of hearing me play it. I know. Many of you are asking ‘What’s Cluetrain?’

So here I am, the forgotten old man of social customer care, ready to wake up again. I’m still cynical, I’ll still be critical, I’ll still be scathing of consultants and gurus who peddle the same stories that they were telling five years ago. That’s a challenge to me as well; and if you find I’m telling that same story, you’ve every right to be critical of me. And why am I saying this? Because, quite simply, I think we/I can do better, should do better, have an obligation to do better, not for the sake of it, but because there is a ‘better’ out there that we should all actively aspire to. Complacency in our thinking, in our advice,  in our writing, is a scourge that we must all fight off. As social was the catalyst that disrupted customer service, so too must we reinvent ourselves and our thinking. Otherwise we too will become that self-proclaimed guru, peddling lipstick fit only for that proverbial pig.