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Customer service is the bane of the business/consumer connection.

“Relationship” is defined as: the mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties, countries, people, etc: a business relationship. 

“Friendship” is defined as: a friendly relation or intimacy; friendly feeling or disposition. 

Social Media has radically changed everything about how our world does business and interacts. Perhaps the modern conundrum of customer relations needs to be turned on its head and the social medium is the way it will be done. Looking at the definition of relationship above, it’s a little cold.  This certainly describes my interaction with say Vodacom or Nedbank. What if customer relations became customer friendships.  Sounds pretty wishy washy but stay with me.

Facebook forever changed the definition of a friend.  It moved from being a very tight association to a lot more loose and fraternal.  It was now possible to be friends with someone you had never met half a world away.  Quite possibly you will never meet this friend but nonetheless you’re friends.

On the same basis then, should it not be possible for the same relationship to be forged between a business and its customer?  Of course it’s possible and there are some very forward thinking businesses that have done so to one degree or another.

I can communicate with someone on many platforms almost anywhere in the world:  text message, instant chat, phone, email, facebook, twitter.  I am able to carry on a conversation across these platforms – moving a phone conversation to facebook chat or Blackberry Messenger.

Imagine a similar relationship with your bank – you receive an SMS about an insurance offer.  You respond by SMS saying you’d like more info.  The conversation then moves to a facebook chat to get all your questions answered, the policy document is emailed to you for your records.

Sounds terribly fanciful, I know, but it is very possible.

And here it comes….. BUT:

This will require that a business view its customer very differently.  Every division in a business has their own view of the customer – Accounts wants money, marketing wants you to view a value proposition and sales wants you to sign up right now.   In the modern economy every division would have to see its customer as one thing – a friend.

This may well need to mean the death of the call centre or a monumental re-engineering of their culture and practice.

A move in this direction in some form will have to take place as greater and greater demand is placed on  businesses to “go social”.

So how about it Vodacom – wanna be my friend?

Leave your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.