Today’s guest post is written by Beth Kribs-LaPierre.

In 2007, Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent wrote a blog post titled “Customer Service is the New Marketing.”

In her post, she suggested interruption marketing is broken and that we are still figuring out how to do the permission part.

Well, it’s five years later and I’m afraid we’re still working on it.

Customer service represents the single greatest branding opportunity for any organization or business.

Bad customer service represents the single greatest risk to today’s brands.

Think about it. Name one other time a known customer comes knocking on your door/website/Facebook page. You might say “when they opt-in to my email” or “when they ‘like’ me on Facebook”.


We continue to hold out hope that eventually these ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ (actual people called users) will become customers, but I’ll bet the majority already buys something from you. Opt-ins and ‘likes’ do not mean, “please sell me stuff,” but instead ‘stay close, I may need you.’

Prior to my current gig, I was chief listening officer at Eastman Kodak (I can hear it now; “Must not have been a very good listener,” ‘The silence must have been deafening,” etc. Incidentally, I’m no longer at Kodak so I cannot comment on the bankruptcy or anything that happened after my departure…but I will).

Part of my job was handling escalation for our 35+ Facebook pages, 20+ Twitter accounts, YouTube, etc. So when a customer complained about service, a faulty product, or our choice of Drake as a spokesperson, it was up to me to figure out what to do with it.

Silos Don’t Work

The problem with this, as with most big companies, is the silo. Social is usually organized under PR or marketing or worse, sales. Ask your typical marketer for a response to a customer complaint about a faulty product and they will give you a typical response: Thank you for your suggestion. We apologize for any inconvenience…blah…blah…blah.

Do you think the customer cares we’re sorry? Well, yes they probably do, but they also need help! That’s why they posted on your page to begin with.

Unfortunately, most social media experts aren’t product experts or service experts. Those folks are way over in another zip code in a building with no windows and they sure aren’t social media savvy. So, by the time you directed the commenter to email you at such and such address, and then briefed the service team, then followed up and…can you see how crazy this is?!

It is time for every employee to work to improve the customer experience. I don’t mean just the call center or one department, but the entire company.

Being a social business means empowering employees to act on behalf of the brand–in any situation–including on Facebook and Twitter. It requires you to stop fearing customer calls, comments, and questions, and start realizing the value of these touch points. It means ending your dependence on software and platforms and starting to develop your own technology to improve customer experience.

A social business does not accept excuses like “we’ll never scale” or “it’s on the 2020 roadmap.” It is still five to 20 times more expensive to acquire a new customer then retain a current one. Customers can use the Internet to bring businesses to their knees (FedEx, Susan Koman, etc.).

Your customers are driving a change in thinking. You can continue to ignore the tremendous opportunity customer service presents and wait for the threats, or you can listen.

Beth Kribs-LaPierre, director, social intelligence + analytics at Brand Networks, a Facebook preferred developer and ads API partner.  She is a lefty-right brained strategist with more than 12 years of experience providing leadership, strategy, and governance for social media intelligence and analytics programs. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.