It's Not about Social, it's about the Customer Experience #forrforumCustomers are more empowered than ever before, and social media is one of the ways they are able to quickly voice their opinions and experiences online. However, the social revolution is really just a symptom of the wider customer revolution, and customer experiences are the groundswell.

Social Empowering Customers or Customers Empowering Themselves

While social media is a visible and very popular venue for customers to sound off on their business dealings, it is the wider effect of mobile, social and the Internet combined that is really driving customer empowerment. 

Even for the companies that are committed to engaging customers on social media, there is still a large gap between what those companies are doing and how customers perceive it, Katy Keim, Lithium CMO said at the Forrester Forum conference recently.

"Companies are lying to themselves about the importance they place on social media," she said.

Organizations may say social media is important to them, but the amount of money being spent on it pales in comparison to what they are actually spending on call centers, for example. Companies will be spending US$ 337 billion on call centers by 2018, according to Global Industry Analysts, but only US$ 12 billion by 2018 on social, according to Gartner.

Social media is no doubt an important part of customer experience, but that experience is still too often defined by the companies themselves, and doesn't really involve what's important to customers, Keim said.

Customer Experience is Trusted, Personal + Shared

People share their thoughts and experiences on social media where they often get virtually instant feedback. This has had the effect of raising expectations customers have of the companies they deal with, especially online. It may not be feasible to turn contact center functions completely over to social media, but companies at least need to be listening and responding to customers there, Keim said.

Additionally, companies can improve customer experiences on social media by honoring their issues, and helping customers to self serve. These are just the first two steps companies can take to help them build great customer experiences on social media. Once those steps are taken, companies can begin to develop the kinds of customer relationships that help create loyalty, and even advocacy.

Once that level of customer experience is attained, true differentiation is realized, Keim said.

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