Is social media awareness just a fad ? I don’t think so.

Over at Ad Age, Simon Dumenco has an article about him being helped by a bright young spirit who does social media for Sprint and tries to solve his billing problem.

Simon seems to think that this is nice, but won’t last because, really, in the end, those bright young spirits will burn out and be replaced by call center robots.

Which ain’t gonna last. Old-school customer-service phone lines tend to be staffed by not-so-helpful, not-particularly-well-educated, not-so-patient workers because, let’s be honest, talking to cranky, pissy customers is shit work. (Or the call center employees are well-educated, but non-native speakers of English squeezed into cubicles on another continent. Either way, they’re probably biding time.)

I happen to disagree with several points in his opinion piece. Rather than registering there and provide lots of personal information just to make a comment (why not twitter or facebook integration, or via google ?),  I’ll do it on my blog.

First of all, while my day-job work is in Sales, our customer care department is right behind me on the same floor, and while it is sometimes shit work, it’s not always so. And I have never had so many colleagues around me that are a) good at communicating, b) have a can-do attitude and c) are fun to be with (and are ready to have fun). YMMV, mine certainly does when I get other call center operators on the line, but I think highly of our particular Customer Care persons.  They do not sit in cubicles, and they are well-educated.

Simon, I think you are making a generalization here, perhaps even on purpose (maybe to generate debate ?).

Second, I think more and more customers are discerning of customer service. In a world where the internet is more and more pervasive, the active few (?) can make a difference with little or no effort (a tweet is less than a blog is less than a complete article), and a little noise can go a long way. More and more customers are reading that noise, or discover it with just a few Google searches just before they make their purchase or believe that story they are reading.

And if you as a company don’t react, or don’t have a presence on the social media part of the internet where YOUR customers are, you have already lost. Just look at BP. A fake twitter presence with biting sarcasm that currently has 173948 followers, dutch newspaper adverts that pertain to be from BP but aren’t…  as somebody on twitter said : “The world is at war with bp”.

I think social media and twitter are just a symptom of the real cause : the new awareness of people.

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