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Much has been done in recent months to highlight ”big thinkers” in the Social Service space. As participants in the “Social Enterprise” space, many of us are quick to point out who is doing this right (and perhaps too quick to point out who isn’t). But there aren’t enough conversations around building scalable models, the ROI of Social Service, or how to wrap your head around the “101” of Social Service.

So we asked Hypatia Research for their thoughts (P.S. It’s’s a great read.)

After I finished it myself I had scribbled a few notes in the margins. I thought that I’d share those (not that you asked) to see if others wind up at the same place, or are perhaps able to offer their own perspectives on the topic of Social Service.


Social service for urgent but under reported customer issues

Foremost, I’m seeing Social Service as a critical component of urgent or important issue resolution.  Let’s be honest – how many people are going to bother calling your local public works agency to report a potentially serious traffic condition such as road flooding or a guard rail that’s gone missing? How about a traffic light that’s out? Or something that looks out of place at the airport?  But isn’t social media a better way of crowd sourcing these insights? I might not be bothered to phone the City of Seattle to report a burned out traffic light, but if I can tweet about it in 30 characters with a simple hashtag? Sure – count me in.  And if 5 others make the same tweet (from the same meta tagged long/lat coordinates), it’s pretty easy for the city to validate the outage and roll a truck within 15 minutes.  Make it easy, and I’ll engage for the good of all my neighbors.   Tell me to dial a government agency I don’t have in my contact list, sit on hold for 10 minutes and then explain to someone sitting in their offices in West Seattle “You know that one light…the one on 51st Avenue – by the dry cleaners – across from the park?  No – ok, well pull up a map and read to me the cross streets…. I’ll wait…”  and I’m less enthusiastic about being an active member of the community.


Social service for issue justification

A sudden surge in social media activity can create a “social at scale” service justification as well.  Are 5,000 people tweeting about their inability to install the latest patch for Mac OS X from the same timezone or country or in the same language when most others are upgrading fine? Previously those insights might have taken a day to roll through a customer service call center group – or bubble up on chat boards. But the instantaneous nature of social media means instant validation of the need for social service – and the need for a software patch job. This serves the purpose of turning service for a passive need for one person to a proactive public good. The more people that contribute to the social conversation, the more likely the gravity of the situation, and the more likely the vendor’s willingness to respond.


Social service as a beginning, not necessarily an end

Of course, sometimes service shouldn’t be social – or at least shouldn’t be social past an initial stage. If I am tweeting about a billing problem with my cell phone bill – along with dozens of others of people–  my carrier is probably immediately aware that things in today’s batch of bills aren’t correct. But that doesn’t mean the entire social service experience should be delivered in the Social Sphere. I probably don’t want to have a conversation over Twitter about my phone number and the “last 4 of my SSN.”  So escalating to a more suitable medium (chat, perhaps?) is a critical extension of social service.

So what is the most suitable model for Social Service?  And how should B2C and B2B companies think about this? Again – Hypatia proposes a model in their “A time to Listen, A time to Engage” report If you’re trying to decode the magic of social service for your customers, check it out.  It’s worth the (quick) read.

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