Book Review – Delivering Effective Social Customer Service: How to Redefine the Way You Manage Customer Experience and Your Corporate Reputation

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It is impossible to ignore the fact that customer service has gone all social on us. Our obsession with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more has led to the humble consumer actively seeking to interact with companies via social networks. Although this is a fact, there are still many organisations who are yet to understand how to manage this new ‘channel’ particularly well. Part of the problem is that customers do not recognise channels – they recognise the company they are interacting with. Customers just expect you to be able to deal as effectively with their problems communicated through Twitter as they do over the phone.

So why are companies still not dealing with ‘social customer service’ very well? Why do we often find the customer service received via Twitter and Facebook to be less than satisfactory? Clearly some businesses have adapted better to the social phenomenon than others – yet the majority have yet to understand their ‘ecosystem’ or develop a suitable ‘framework’ for delivering social customer service. Fortunately, help is at hand.

‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’ is a fantastic resource for all customer service professionals looking for help and knowledge in understanding how to best deal with customer service in the social world. The book is written by Carolyn Blunt (Managing Director of Real Results) and Martin Hill-Wilson (Founder of Brainfood Consulting). I first met Martin at a customer service conference in 2009 – his knowledge, passion and expertise is infectious – his collaboration with Carolyn has produced a resource that is a ‘must-read’ in my opinion.

The book follows a logical flow – from how everything changed, to understanding the behaviour of the ‘social customer’, to ‘how to’ guides of delivering social customer service via Facebook and Twitter. There is also valuable advice provided on reputation and crisis management as well as the legalities of social interaction.

The two chapters that I would like to draw your attention to and potentially whet your appetite are as follows:

1. The Ecosystem for Social Customer Service

I am a big fan of models and frameworks. This chapter leads to the painting of a picture that looks at the demand for service that is being generated in the social space and how your business intends to serve it. The suggested visual map allows you to understand where demand is coming from and thus what you may need to do to influence the variety of ‘inputs’ that comprise your social ecosystem. When you see the example in the book, it makes you realise just how many ‘inputs’ there are – from self help forums, to corporate blogs, to ecommerce reviews. It is quite frightening!

Carolyn and Martin suggest that most organisations fail to visualise the ecosystem – they strongly recommend that you do not fall in to the same trap. Understanding your ecosystem means that you will be better able to design your approach to influencing all elements of it. Like every chapter in the book, a helpful ‘summary action list’ is provided as well as an interesting interview with the CEO of Conversocial, Joshua March.

2. The Roadmap for Social Customer Service

This excellent chapter provides readers with a framework for producing a roadmap for social customer service. The framework suggests that the best way to start is by conducting a self-assessment of the key competencies in delivering effective Social Customer Service. The assessment contains 15 competencies that are scored on three criteria – current capability; importance of the competency for your next generation strategy; and urgency of operationalizing the competency on your roadmap. Here is an example of 2 of the 15 competencies:

  • We know how to recruit, train and manage Social Customer Service Teams
  • We are ready for unexpected volumes of ‘social’ traffic: resourcing, escalation, house style

Every competency is walked through in detail looking at its importance, consequences, issues, quick wins, follow up actions and tips. The chapter serves as a comprehensive examination of what it takes to effectively manage your customer experience on social media.

As a Customer Experience Specialist, I am constantly looking to refresh my knowledge and expertise. Learning from others is as important as learning from my own experiences. I am not an expert in social customer service and have found this book to be an excellent summary of not just what ‘social customer service’ is, but more importantly what to do about it. I have no hesitation in recommending it to others, and strongly encourage you to have a read.

Social Customer Service is only going to become more and more significant over time. Do not be fooled into thinking that you already know what to do. Pick up a copy of Delivering Effective Customer Service to either re-assure yourself that you are doing the right thing, or to learn what you can do to develop an even more robust social customer service strategy. You can buy the book online here.

Out of interest, Martin runs a number of workshops on the subject of social customer service – if you like the book, you can find information about his workshops here.


3 thoughts on “Book Review – Delivering Effective Social Customer Service: How to Redefine the Way You Manage Customer Experience and Your Corporate Reputation

  1. Can I please pick your brain Ian with regard to the work that you do?
    This really relates to the words that businesses use and to how much this impacts on your reviews, and then how this feeds back into business action.
    Taking the pub and restaurant example: It would be possible to give 5* to both a Wetherspoon pub and also to say a Michelin starred restaurant. One delivering 3 courses for as little as £15, the other say £50.
    It may be said that they basically cover different client bases but there will be some crossover no doubt.
    Price must be factored in to a review? Are we therefore looking at higher standards from the more expensive restaurant implicitly?
    Reviews are as you said recently are personal. Many people would not entertain “posh” food at any price.
    But Wetherspoon tells us that they produce “superb” food (and drink). It will be this to some but I suspect to most, it would be more likely to be decent food at decent prices?
    So there may be a case for arguing that all 900 pubs fail to meet the company’s mission? (I leave you to tell them!!)
    Wetherspoon seems to have a great business model but it is partly based on a complete overstatement. How can you ever improve “superb” food?
    Business is about understanding your customer and communicating honestly to them and Wetherspoon seem to fall down on at least one of these.
    So my point is that a Wetherspoon pub should never get 5*? Not due to the food per se but rather because of use of a “meaningless” mission.

    Hope you get my problem!


    • Hi Adrian – I completely get your problem. When it comes to implementing a framework for embedding customer experience within an organisation, a good starting point is to clearly define the proposition of the company or brand – exactly what/who are you? What do you stand for? Why do customers interact with you? This proposition defines your company or brands reason for being. Often, in defining the proposition, organisations will spell out ‘promises’ or ‘commitments’ that define the proposition. Wetherspoons promise of ‘superb’ food is a commitment to every consumer that interacts with them.

      The key when defining a proposition is to ensure that it reflects a realistic aspiration – i.e. ‘world class’ is often unrealistic – as is ‘superb’. Ryanair up until recently have had one of the best defined propositions on the planet – their success has been based on their consistent ability to deliver it. They are not pretending to be Emirates – if you want Emirates service, then fly with Emirates. The challenge for emirates is that what the consumer expects from their proposition is the same as Ryanair – you must do what I expect – if the bar is set higher, it makes it more challenging to meet it.

      I am happy to chat more about this is you are interested – let me know!


      • Thanks for that Ian, I think I get you!
        You are arguing that the key issue is delivering what you promise. So as Wetherspoon set their bar high this perhaps gives them problems in that I may well judge their offering to be less than superb and therefore be dissatisfied.
        BUT – do they care? I believe that their aim is nonsense, but they are very successful despite this! Ultimately the key is what your customer wants/feels about you, but most people I know, frequent Wetherspoon as indeed I have, knowing what to expect and broadly getting it. I only looked at their website whist writing these posts. I suspect I am, along with you, one of very few people who have!
        Their “brand” has been established by what their customers say about them, even if they are trying to convince us of something else?
        Their success could also be down to the paucity of decent competition, and having a very competitive price structure, being the Aldi/Lidl of the modern pub market, perhaps?
        (My interest in all this is not, I should add, anything to do with having a particular fetish for or against “W”).
        My real interest is small/medium business marketing/growth, and how we can all differentiate ourselves to survive and grow.
        There seems to be a lot of good advice out there – but an awful lot of frankly wretched practice. I recognise the latter from 25 years of being clueless in what I was doing from a customer perspective.
        As the man says – “its not really about what you sell, people buy why you do it”.
        Why didn’t I know that 25 years ago?

        Thank you for your time.


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