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The Social Customer recently published its crowd-sourced eBook called The Year in Customer Care. The book is a compilation of 2010 blog posts voted on by TSC readers.

As 2010 draws to a close, I’m posting this to share this collection of insightful commentary with you. And, to entice you, I’ve provided a few comments about how each of the articles in the book has made me a bit smarter. So, in that light, let me first say that I’m completely and utterly flattered to be included in the company of the other authors here – the likes of which include some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in customer experience. These are folks that I have learned a great deal from over time. I hope these articles add to your thinking as well.

Robin Carey, the CEO and Co-Founder of Social Media Today, starts off in her forward reiterating that social customer service is not simply about applying social tools and technologies to existing business practices. Becoming a social business means evolving, sometimes radically, the way your company views and communicates with your customers. Customers really are empowered like at no other time. And, they are exercising that power in both positive and sometimes very negative ways. So, as Bob Dylan said, the times the are a changing.

In chapter 1, as the social customer continues to redefine social business, Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks tackles a red-hot topic this year: the challenge of redefining customer value metrics. Read Vanessa’s thoughts on how WOM, social influence analysis and other social data are changing the definition of lifetime value and the insights into our customers.

Never one to think about today or tomorrow for more than 5 minutes, Esteban Kolsky is always looking further and further down the road to help us navigate in the same direction as the ever-changing social customer. In chapter 2, Esteban takes a looks at the customer relationship beyond social business, including the value of social data and channel integration and collaboration.

The title of Chapter 3 may conjure up a specific image in your head. I know it did in mine. And, I’m guessing that was author Peter Auditore’s intention. The provocative title of this article leads to Peter painting a vivid picture of the mobile social customer and how there is no place for brands to hide from customers in this wireless, connected world.

The term management implies the ability to control something towards a specific direction. In a chapter from one of my favorite social business practitioners, Maria Ogneva challenges, and rightfully so in my opinion, the notion that the relationship between a customer and brand can be managed by the brand. While this post doesn’t spend time bickering about terms, it makes a very important point that its the experience, and how its co-created and nurtured, that matters to the social customer.

Who engages in the experiences with your customers at each touch point? I saw a great sign on a lobby reception desk several months ago that made me write this contribution. This is a conversation I’ve had in several flavors over the course of this year. The bottom line is that everyone in your company, whether they be “back office” or “customer facing”, impacts the customer’s perception of the experience. Instill that culture in your organization, and you’ll have achieved a lot.

Frank Eliason concludes the book establishing that in fact there is a dark side to customer service. To those of you who are familiar with the original @comcastcares on twitter, this may sound odd coming from Frank. But by dark side, I interpret Frank’s post as referring to the genie that has been let out of the bottle through the social business revolution. As I mentioned above, customers now have a voice bigger than anytime before. In some hands however, that voice is like a loaded gun in the hands of an infant. Some customers are releasing their pent up frustrations towards companies and brands in very destructive, and in some cases, borderline illegal ways.

There has been much progress in the execution of social customer service, social business and the new customer experience paradigm. There are now I believe some great companies to model your strategy after, great minds to learn from and even some case studies to show the path to those “fast followers”. There is also much work to be done.

Seeing some companies still struggling with CRM over 20 years after the concept first surfaced is proof that change is really hard. It takes organization-wide commitment, dedication and, oh yea, investment. I’m excited to see what 2011 brings in terms of new thinking from my colleagues here in this eBook and all the great folks at The Social Customer.

Once again, if you haven’t already, you can download a free copy of The Year in Customer Care eBook right here.

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