Social Business Enables More Meaningful Customer Relationships

Social Business Enables More Meaningful Customer Relationships

Much of the social business conversation revolves around the internal dynamics that make up an organization – culture, change management, technology adoption, process creation, etc.  This should certainly be the focus because social business is not social media. I just wrote a post last week about employee engagement and how social business can extract innovation from employees behind the firewall.

But many of these internal initiatives (as boring as it may seem) enable an organization to better communicate with their constituencies externally. In other words, a social business enables a brand to be more social (i.e. a social brand.) A few weeks ago, Mitch Lieberman released his version of the Digital Interaction Process, which I like a lot:

Here is how I interpret this diagram.

  • The social customer is influential and they have no problem whatsoever telling the world about their experiences, whether positive or negative
  • Brands are listening to the conversation using online monitoring tools
  • They are collecting new social data about the customer AND/OR integrating that new data with the data that they already have from traditional CRM systems
  • They are applying a set of business rules which will determine what to do with the conversation; and then building workflows that direct the conversation down the right channel
  • Brands are attempting to become human as they attempt to engage with the social customer

Whatever we call this process – digital interaction, customer engagement or social CRM doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that we acknowledge that this process is happening today and has been for quite some time now.  And what’s more important to recognize is the collaboration and internal alignment that it takes in order to do this right. Marketing can’t do it alone. Support doesn’t have the resources, budget or “know how” and IT  probably wants to stay as far away from social as possible.  For this process to work, these teams need to work together and communicate.  Not an easy task, trust me.

One company that does this well is Comcast. 

Comcast Cable Company is a perfect example of a brand that has adopted this process.  In fact, they were one of the first to do this and often get all the glory for innovating the way they communicate with customers on the social web thanks to Frank Eliason. I am a huge Comcast fan and I have been a customer for over 10 years. I am happy with their products and the way they have handled my support issues over the years.

But not all Comcast customers feel this way.

Doing a search on Twitter will reveal a commonality of complaints about Comcast. One issue, which comes up daily, is that technicians are either late for their appointment window or just don’t show up at all. And for what it’s worth EVERY telecommunications and Cable Company has this problem, which is why many of them have established a guarantee of service.

Of course, if I am customer going through this, I can always pick up the phone, dial 1-800 Comcast and reach a support agent OR I can tweet at @ComcastCares and they will expedite my issue to the right office/support agent/technician. After all, this is what a good social brand should be doing, right?

  • Comcast is monitoring
  • Comcast comes across my Tweet
  • They take my social data and couple it with my actual customer record so they know just about everything about me
    • How long I have been a customer
    • My support history (i.e. previous support interactions)
    • Which products I subscribe to
    • Demographic data
  • They assign “my conversation” to the right region or office (I believe @ComcastCares is managed out of Philadelphia and there is a call center about 10 miles from my house in California)
  • They handle my issue with empathy, solve my problem and maybe give me a $20 credit or 3 months of a premium channel for free

That is a common scenario for many brands today; and many of them are doing a really good job including Comcast.

But if social business enables better customer relationships what about solving the root cause of the problem?

The issue with technicians being late to appointments or not showing up at all is not a customer relationship management problem at all.  The problem exists somewhere in the internal process – from the time I call in to order to service – to when the support agent takes my info, assigns me my appointment time, inputs into a system – to when my service order gets picked up from that technician on the day of appointment. Something is broken in that process.  Or, maybe they just need to hire more staff.  Either way, it’s not scalable to handle the same (day in and day out) customer support issues over Twitter, especially since Twitter as a support channel is becoming widely adopted; and consumers in general are gaining influence, daily. Someday, small things like this just might come back to bite them in the butt.

A social business does more than they enable more meaningful customer relationships. It optimizes processes and changes the way it does business.

Image: CRM & Network by Big Stock Photo

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Mark Fidelman

    Excellent as usual Michael.  I learn a lot from you. 

  • Michael Brito

    Thank you Mark. Likewise …. Learn a lot from you as well!

  • Becky Carroll

    Thanks for sharing this, Michael, and for your interpretation of the Digital Interaction Process. For me, this just emphasizes why it is so important to look at social media as an integral part of the business. Working with companies around customer service and customer experience, I know that these processes already exist for other customer touch points (phone, retail, email, chat, etc). It is critical to integrate social media touch points into them in order to create the ideal customer experience. Unfortunately, not too many are doing that well today. However, I think the time is right for them to make it happen!

    Thanks again. You rock!

  • Michael Brito

    Becky .. Thank you for the insightful comment!

    You rock more! : )

    … And I miss talking with you!

  • Marjorie Clayman

    This might be one of the best “real life examples” of social business I’ve seen. I think a lot of people have a hard time visualizing this stuff because us bloggers tend to talk in the abstract a lot. We talk conceptually instead of using actual examples to illustrate what we’re talking about.

    In the case of Comcast, they need to honestly assess as a company why their technicians are so often late. I’ve seen complaints here and there too that the product isn’t so great. You could have the best social media presence in the universe, complete with 50,000 followers and 200,000 blog subscribers. If your product is crap, if your leadership is crap, or if any other part of the circle is crap, everything will end up stinking. 

    Companies that don’t know how to communicate internally will just end up pointing fingers and resenting the stench. Companies that embrace the social business model will be more readily able to identify the problem and heck – maybe they’ll even be able to fix it. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Michael, I’m a big fan and really appreciate the Digital Interaction Process diagram as well as your interpretation. I work for an internet marketing company in Australia (Think Big Online) and we are always trying to convince small businesses that social media can work for them. It’s not easy to convince old-school customers that social goes beyond having a web page. One client says, “Why do I need Facebook? I have plenty of friends.” Of course we try to explain that his business needs friends too! You say, ”
    The social customer is influential and they have no problem whatsoever telling the world about their experiences, whether positive or negative.” I feel this is an important reason that your Comcast example is so tangible for those of us who want to help small businesses see the power of social. Alisa

    PS I also liked your recent post about employee innovation. I’ll stop there as there must be a line between a blog fan and a stalker. LOL.

  • James Barton

    I didnt realize that customer services was so sophisticated! Thanks for the eye opener. Social media may play its role but for some demographics it cannot play much of a role at present.

  • Michael Brito


    Thanks for the comment. Many orgs today have this process. It’s becoming a best practice.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I just couldn’t agree with you more when you pointed out: “A social business does more than they enable more meaningful customer relationships. It optimizes processes and changes the way it does business.” So true that businesses nowadays are streamlining their processes to have more meaningful engagements with their customers. Great post!

  • Romero Cavalcanti

    Thanks for sharing Michael Brito. Very interesting.
    Companies often try to make their social media presence more about, “Let me tell you how great my company is.” If you give great product or service, you might not have a relationship if you don’t take care of that relationship, internal and externally. 
    Becoming social and how understand that a broader spectrum internal and external has a direct impact on their innovative relationship in terms of improving customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. 
    To me, the return on investment (ROI) in social media is not only the information that’s there, but actually bringing about real change based on this information. The ROI in social media is all this information, all this discussion and actually bringing about change in the organization. That’s a great way to measure it.
    Greetings from Brazil.?