In the past, marketing was a broadcast. Advertising space was bought and a message was provided to an audience of potential customers. A company would craft a message and display it in hopes of casting a wide net and making a sale. Consumers had very few choices in how to communicate with these companies.
The best case scenario could very well be that a customer was connected to a dedicated customer service representative in a company with very centralized organizational structure. These companies have strict guidelines in regards to customer interaction.
Often, this customer service representative had a script as to how to address a customers concerns. For example, If a customer complained about Situation A, a rep was to respond with Solution A as dictated by the script. If a customer complained about Situation B, they were met with Solution B. There was very little freedom on the part of the customer service rep to offer complete customer satisfaction, tailored to a customer's unique situation.
With social media as an inbound marketing tool, much about this type of interaction has changed. There is now an emphasis on pleasing a customer in new and surprising ways. Social media allows a customer to begin a conversation with a company in order to praise or complain.
A colleague once said, "Social media now holds companies hostage." While I understand the sentiment, I do not agree with it. I feel that instead of holding a company hostage, it allows the consumer begin a dialogue with a company. This is a much different concept than previous customer service interactions.
This is not to say that social media managers are not properly trained to handle conversations with customers. That is farther from the truth. Training of employees who manage social media is of utmost importance in effectively conducting conversations on social media.
Social media is the avenue for the conversation to begin. Companies who use social media as a way to provide customer service are going to stay ahead of the game. They are innovators in their industries in they way that they maintain relationships with clients and provide excellent customer service to them.
A company dedicated to listening to their customers on social media (social listening) is going to be able to provide the best customer service. They will be able to effectively have the type of dialogue that many consumers have become accustomed to. In the near future, this will become the standard for customer service.