Did your airline make you wait hours on end on the tarmac? Did your favorite online shoe merchant send you the wrong sandals for your trip to Bermuda? Poor customer experiences can quickly damage the reputation of your brand. And let there be no doubt about it -- social computing has changed the game for managers in customer-facing roles such as customer service.

The Evolution of Solutions

Customers who are disappointed with the service they receive are quick to voice their disappointment -- which is then amplified by social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or similar communities -- leading to erosion of brand value.

In fact, Forrester’s Social Technographics studies indicate that 68 percent of B2C consumers and 80 percent of B2B customers fall into the “spectator” category, which consists of people who read comments, ratings and reviews posted on social media sites. Your brand is now under constant scrutiny 24 hours a day.

In this new world, traditional “CRM” (including those for customer service) solutions will continue to aggregate customer data, analyze that data, and automate workflows to optimize business processes. This is an inside-out approach, where activities are performed for the benefit of the organization.

But organizations must evolve to find innovative new solutions to engage with emerging social consumers, enrich the customer experience through community-based interactions, and architect flexible solutions that foster strong intra-organizational and customer collaboration. We describe this as taking an outside-in approach, where customer interactions are the key to success.

Forrester data shows that more and more organizations use social technologies for customer service to participate in virtual conversations with community members in order to gather and act on their feedback on products and services, as well as to leverage customer expertise to evolve product knowledge in line with customer demand.

In a recent a survey, we found that 47 percent use customer communities; 39 percent use social listening technologies; and 42 percent offer customer service via social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

How does social computing change the solution landscape that you must navigate? You need more than a social media monitoring tool. Already, we’re hearing stories of companies that have haphazardly implemented one, without thinking of their broader customer relationship strategy.