I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Guy Stephens, a Social Customer Care expert with a lot of years in this field.

Guy Stephens is a Social Customer Care and Social CRM consultant, considered one of the 100 Top Customer Service professionals by Huffington Post, and Co-Founder of FutureCareToday.com a website all about social customer care with a mission to drive innovation to customer service on social media.

Guy works for IBM as a consultant helping organizations understand the changes that social customer care is bringing and to help them navigate through those challenges, to either set it up or help them think about crisis situations or operational needs.

I have to say that Guy has an impressive career and that as soon as I connected with him I knew we could do a lot of great things together. He is now part of a Social Customer Care Mastermind with me and Paolo Fabrizio in which we tend to gather information and trends to enrich our global knowledge.

guy stephens

The questions answered in this interview

1. Define the term “Social Customer Care” and what is the difference between traditional customer service

We are seeing a change around the different types of technology that we use. If you look at traditional customer service a few years ago the main channels that were being used were phone, email and chat in the past few years, but these are very structured one to one engagements, driven by the organizations.

Now with the social channels the customer doesn’t even need to know all the information of the company to reach out, they can talk to them or about them in an open space which is public. What social customer care points to  is the use of disruptive technology like Facebook, Twitter and now the messaging apps that allow people to contact the organization or to talk about them wherever they are.

[Tweet “Social Customer Service allows clients to contact the organizations from wherever they are”]

2. How does an organization adapt to these changes and how can they provide an excellent customer experience through all the channels?

One of the major things is that organizations have to look at an internal change, not on the operational side of the company, much more around their culture or their mindset. Are they as an organization open to these changes? That is the biggest challenge.

The majority of companies are practicing traditional customer service but on Twitter, but they are not thinking about what are the characteristics of these specific channels, rather than designing a service with social at it’s heart. So the first thing is about internal education, embracing the changes and the risks, empower and trust the people on the frontline with the proper training.

3. How do you create this social enterprise?

This is a good question, and a long term goal. I don’t think there are a lot of big companies who are really doing this, I think they do it in pockets, but are not there yet. It takes time, you cannot suddenly have thousands of people collaborating or sharing.

It’s a slow and gradual process and it’s about changing the way you work. You have to show them that being collaborative and working together works better than not doing it and show the people the value rather than impose it. It’s about training and showing with example.

Social is about what people are saying now. Say for example you want to book a holiday, you can do a google search and look for what people thing about the resort (archived knowledge) where Twitter is much about today’s knowledge.

4. Give us some examples of companies that are doing great social customer service

The good thing is that those examples are much more global, and since I have been traveling a lot in the Middle East I will favor some companies over there because we tend to think about great examples in the US and UK and not globally. So here are two great examples:

Malasia:

Maxis (telco company) 

Social Customer Care MaxisListens

Middle East:

Altaia Group

Social Customer Care Altaia

5. How does snapchat adapt to a social customer care strategy?

The whole customer care space is gradually changing. The knowledge base that customer service generates as to when people ask something, we gather that information and then keep it for further use is a traditional customer service point of view. 

Technology like Snapchat is incredibly interesting in this whole idea of impermanent. Do we need these traditional knowledge bases that sit there and we add things to it? I think that if we can free up that knowledge base and make it impermanent. If something is impermanent you have to think about it more, you have to decide what you want to keep and what not.

We have to forget there is something called Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook and look at the characteristics. Why do people use them? And that’s the thing we should focus on, that is what companies should be designing their customer service model on.

We are in this period of change where customer service is happening on a mobile device so it changes the nature of the experience and the idea of context.

6. Is social customer services for all companies or just for big organizations?

I think it’s for all companies.

The definition of customer care is changing to one of simply being the way of an organization and a customer communicate with each other. And what we are seeing is that there isn’t a traditional split between PR, marketing, customer service, sales. What we are seeing is companies coming together, organizations have a front line of social that sits around them and almost anything can happen in that space and it doesn’t matter if it’s customer service or innovation or sales.

If we can think about it like that then it’s about a market place instead of traditional silos.

7. What about legal aspects in using apps like whatsapp?

There is a very traditional way at looking at these new channels and I think that whilst there is a responsibility for the companies ensuring that they create a safe environment for their customers, we all have to be careful that we don’t hide behind the legal aspects, those legal aspects were designed for a system that is evolving into something else, so we cannot apply the same legal guidelines that were created a few years ago.

The legal framework has to evolve as the channels evolve. Now changing this takes time because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

[Tweet “Choose the social networks you will use to provide service and don’t hide behind legal aspects”]

It’s easy to say that we shouldn’t go to Snapchat or Whatsapp because it’s unsafe or because from a legal point of view is not the safest of environments, so all I can say is that your customers are going to go wherever they want so companies have to make that choice for whatever reasons: legal, commercials. Choose if you are going to be there and don’t hide behind legal excuses. 

8. What will the future of social customer service be like?

There won’t be many changes.

People will still have questions, people will still have complaints to make, people will still occasionally provide positive feedback, that will never change. What changes is the way in which this takes place.

So if we look at the changes over the last five years, it’s not that complaints have changed, it’s just the way that they were delivered have changed. It’s changed from being written to phone, to email, to youtube. All of them involve some kind of media: written, visual, audio.

From a technology point of view there will be changes, but in terms of the fundamental service activity of complaining and responding that won’t change.

So where we do need to change is understanding what those new channels look like and designing systems and platforms that allow those unique characteristics of all the different channels to come into play. The organization will shift from a channel centric approach to a platform centric approach.

 

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