Here is a picture of a cute cat doing something Internet related! 

(Click image to see larger version) 

That got your attention didn't it? Something else which gets a lot of attention is when customers share stories of exceptional customer service online (if those examples include cats that's just a bonus). This fantastic forum thread  taken from UK ISP Be Broadband is currently doing the rounds. In it the customer complains his wireless network is frequently disrupted by his cat's fascination with the router. After some playful banter that issues with feline "agressors" are a known problem the customer was supplied with a tactical decoy router. Subsequent images of the clearly fooled cat were posted by the customer showing success.

Wow. If you were currently feeling disatisfied with your ISP what would your brand perception of Be Broadband be right about now?

Customer service impacts social marketing

In this age of marketing it's well known that customers make purchasing decisions based on peer influence and that social technologies are being used to share brand stories daily — often customer experience driven. Customer service is an essential factor in social marketing because Conversationalists and Critics are using social technologies to talk both positively and  negatively about their brand interactions, something that previously stayed between the customer and the person on the other end of the line in the call center.

If you're getting customer service wrong, or it's simply nonexistent, then it doesn't matter what you're marketing on your Facebook page or Twitter feed; frustrated customers will start voicing their concerns and a negative brand impression will pervade. Social marketing cannot operate in isolation of what the customer service team is doing.

How to factor customer service into your social marketing

The organizational structure isn't going to change overnight and if social is still new to your business it's unlikely you're going to know how you want the two areas to work together yet, but here's what you should be doing as a minimum:

  • Shared planning between customer service and social. While traditionally separate functions of the business, customer service and social marketing need to sit down and map out where customer touchpoints cross over, what the brand's goals are in delivering exceptional customer experiences, and how each of those departments plans to achieve this. It's better to iron out different views during the planning process than during a live customer service issue kicking off online.
  • Cross-role education. Each role needs to educate the other on the issues and processes specific to their role with customers. For example, there will always be problem customers who are difficult, can't be "helped" or simply trying to work the system; customer service needs to explain what response a customer can reasonably expect from the brand before the social team gets trapped offering nonstandard support via social channels. Social also needs to educate on the uniqueness of their medium, for example speed, brevity, and the correct tone all impact how they respond. 
  • Sharing intelligence between customer service and social. It's likely that each part of the business will have made an investment in intelligence whether that's software products or customer survey data. Review systems, deciding which intelligence may be essential customer insight, and what are current or new ways to share that intelligence quickly and effectively. (Many social platforms have evolved to incorporate workflow and customer response functions like Radian 6, Lithium Technologies, and Conversocial).

We live in an age where companies must become customer obsessed to survive. This means breaking down silos (particularly in the digital space) and sharing intelligence, but also creating truly delightful customer experiences — like the cat on the router story — to drive customers to use social technologies positively on behalf of the brand.

See also: UK supermarket Sainsbury's renaming of 'Tiger Bread' to 'Giraffe Bread' in response to a letter from a three-year-old customer — the complete correspondence was uploaded to Facebook by the little girl's mother.

[Story credit: Al Storer]