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Reinventing Relationships with Social Business
Luis Suarez    

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo and The Friar in the SpringIt’s been nearly two weeks already since the last time I put together a blog post over here, on purpose, and, yet again, another round of business trips is now done and dealt with. Phew! What a rush! As I have mentioned back then, this last time I participated in the Social Business Strategy Summit in London and then off to present in Milan at the quite amazingly insightful Social Business Forum event. Yet, as a surprising fact, why am I mentioning that I didn’t blog on purpose this time around, you may be wondering, right? Specially, since time and time again I kept relating how I struggle constantly getting connected, finding the time and eventually write down a blur of entries while on the road. Well, basically, because I wanted to wait and see what digital customer service was going to be like. Once again, I was not disappointed. To summarise it all in a single word I could probably use this one: non-existent.

Indeed, in my last article over here, under the heading “The Trials and Tribulations of a Mobile Knowledge Worker in a Social Business World“, I mentioned how a bunch of businesses have been providing, consistently, quite an appalling set of digital (customer) services and how, two weeks later, I am still waiting for a response from Quadriga, Swisscom, NH Hotels and my all time favourite one: Movistar (Who coincidentally has just taken things into the next level of insultingly poor customer service when, upon my return back home they have downgraded my home office ADSL connection from the 10MB I am still paying to a mere 6MB download. And all of that without asking!!) #lesigh

Things haven’t improved much, it seems, or have they? It looks like they haven’t and I guess at this point in time I’m on the brink of giving up altogether on getting some decent customer service through social digital channels, specially, for those rather expensive offerings one has got to endure in order to get work done. It looks like it’s just not happening and I guess from now onwards you would have to colour me skeptic with regards to the role of digital when providing good, solid, overall customer service. Again, so far, non-existent.

And it is just way too funny, because as we are fully immersed in the world of the Social Web, in the new, exciting era of Social Businesses, yet, plenty of companies out there keep failing on delivering. Time and time again. Not even thinking about engaging through digital channels to keep their customers happy. Brand loyalty, anyone? No wonder we bump into research studies that confirm how poor customer loyalty has been in the last couple of years and counting. In fact, I would venture to state that, if anything, it’s deteriorated big time and from a very dangerous point of view: not just from customers to vendors, but, more worryingly, from vendors themselves to their customers. And that’s just what I would not have expected to experience till today, hoping that most businesses would wake up eventually to a new era of engagement or involvement with their customer base. Or is it?

While at the Social Business Forum (#sbf12), held in Milan, Italy, a week ago exactly, there were plenty of incredibly insightful highlights that will come through over the course of time in several blog entries from yours truly, plus a nice new experiment I have been playing with that I am hoping folks out there would enjoy as well (More on that shortly…), but one of the most revealing and eye-opening ones was the absolutely stunning couple of presentations that my good friend Esteban Kolsky did on the topic of Social CRM (As in Social Customer Relationship Management) under the rather suggestive title “The way we will complain. How customer service is going to evolve over the next 10 years“, which he also covered, some of the materials, that is, at the Social Business Strategy Summit as he documented well on this article

As a starting point here are some great quotes from some of his initial, starting slides: “90 percent of transactions for customer service happen offline” or this other gem: “80 percent of organisations think their experiences are good (8% of customers agree)” or, finally, this other one that clearly blew me away when we got exposed to it: “66 percent have no defined processes for customer service over social channels“. Yes, that’s right, you are reading it correctly: 66% of businesses out there have no defined processes to engage with their customers through social channels. Whoahhh! Still think we are living on a Social Business Era? 

Ha! Absolutely!! We all are! It’s that we are just getting started! Remember, this whole thing about Social Business is not only a destination, the final frontier, but also quite an amazing journey, one where we are all embarking on it as we speak, and one where we can see how some businesses are more ready than others. But, we will all eventually get there as Esteban himself pointed out very clearly throughout the remaining of his presentations and the blog post he put together on the subject, which I would strongly encourage you all to take a look, including the slide decks!!, specially, the piece around the essence of social business which drives around three major, core concepts that I just couldn’t have agreed more with him when he explained them together in context: 

  • “Channels (Social)
  • Engagement (Connected)
  • Collaboration (Collaborative)”

Brilliant stuff altogether and clearly very thought provoking on laying down for all of us, what lies ahead, including the various different opportunities, but just as well the many challenges. Fascinating altogether, to say the least!

So I guess I shouldn’t have held my hopes too high to get some decent customer service through digital / social channels for all of those businesses when they may not have even planned accordingly for them in the first place. Perhaps I should try out the next time the offline approach and see how that works. But then again, I would still want to muse further along about the whole subject behind customer / vendor loyalty. Because it is still there, isn’t it? Or have we lost it for good altogether? What do you think?

While you, too, keep pondering about it further along, and would love to read your thoughts in the comments, please!, here’s something that I would want to throw out there on the table as well for all of us to consider… How about Reinventing Relationships with Social Business?

That’s the interesting and rather intriguing title from a recent short video clip that IBMSocialBiz has put together and which, when going through it, I am sure it will help reframe these questions about managing, or better, facilitating customer relationships, vendor relationships or even just your employees, your partners, even your competitors. All part of a giant ecosystem where there is no way back, apparently.

Now, you all know that I work for IBM, so I suppose the usual disclaimer applies in here, but must admit that the video clip itself even made me think about my own relationships as a customer, as a vendor, as an employee, as a partner, as a competitor, even as myself! to the point where it may well be rather accurate to start reinventing those business relationships into rather personal business ones where we try to apply lots of fresh thinking on how we engage with those around us, because by just thinking about reinventing those relationships we are probably considering what may be the critical success factor around them: how to make them better, that is, more beneficial for all parties involved? 

Perhaps it’s all part of that behavioural change we should ALL aim at in order to become successful social business. Perhaps it’s all about building up new, more empowering and inspiring loyalties, or learn in a different way, or maybe develop altogether a new model of trust that would work both ways, mutual and beneficial for everyone, one where the whole focus would be on providing overall exceptional experiences. Wouldn’t that be quite something? Still a utopia? Or today’s reality, perhaps?

Well, let’s make it happen then! Let’s go and Reinvent Relationships with Social Business. Together!

It’s time. The right time.

Jun 11, 2012
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