Home > Call Center, Customer Service, Social CRM > The Phone, It Still Matters in this Social, Cross-Channel World

The Phone, It Still Matters in this Social, Cross-Channel World

(This is an expanded post based on the original – with a bit of a teaser on survey results at the bottom)

First talked about in 1844, written about again in 1854, patented (US) in 1876, argued about for another 10 years, connected across the US in 1915: The Telephone. We cannot forget the importance of Alexander Graham Bell (and many others, to be fair), a native of Edinburgh, Scotland a short trip from the Ciboodle HQ outside of Glasgow. So, here we are nearly 100 years from that first cross country call and the phone remains relevant, even more important than many communication channels which have come on the scene since. Friend Mark Tamis suggests that given my thoughts and writing regarding cross channel, I could have been a bit more creative and played on the word ‘cross’ a bit m0re – he is probably right – but I digress.

A Chat With Paul Greenberg

“When push comes to shove, social stuff is still, and even email, is degrees of separation. People are nastier in emails than they ever are in person…Consequently, the real one-on-one interaction is always the telephone” Paul Greenberg

I had a great opportunity to spend a few minutes talking with Paul Greenberg while at the Destination CRM show in NYC. It just so happened that during this time we had a video crew on stand-by and were able to spontaneously capture the moments on film, with excellent lighting of course.

During the emergent phase of Social Communications, the phase we are in right now, the core objective of many social platforms is to go get something done on another platform. To some, this is go read this article, to others; this is please go buy something. In the customer service realm, this is often to shift the communications from a channel that is hard, like email or Twitter, to something synchronous and real-time. It is still too difficult to resolve a personal, complex or sensitive issue on a Facebook wall or in 140 characters.

Multi-channel customer service is the wave the present and we will certainly ride this wave into the future. We will see an increase use of social channels for many different things, but we will hop from one channel to the next (cross-channel) and make contextual decisions based on many things. In the end, when there is an emotionally charged issue, or an urgent issue such as a service outage, insurance claim, bank issue – in person or face to face communication and the telephone will remain critical to problem resolution for many years to come.

“The phone is ultimately how things will get resolved, if it is big enough”

A bit of a Teaser

What do you think? Am I being over simplistic? Too conservative in my approach and thoughts? I invite you to give some feedback and challenge me a bit. Esteban Kolsky and his Research firm thinkJar are just now completing a survey and I am finding the results very interesting. As a bit of a teaser, out of 300 respondents, when asked the question “What social service channels does your organization currently support?” over 60% said they support Twitter and a handful more (literally) said they support Facebook. This is a cross industry, cross continental result set – one that we will be digging into (ie, slicing and dicing the data a bit) in more depth in the upcoming weeks. Does that number surprise you? It did surprise me….

  1. scorpfromhell
    November 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Nice post Mitch. Multi & cross channel is the way to go forward. 🙂

    That point about the Phone that Paul is driving home, its called Media Richness. Medium channels are differentiated in terms of their capacity to convey meaning or “richness”. The
    richness of medium channels is based on four factors:
    – feedback (ability to ask questions & make corrections),
    – cue multiplicity (Physical presence, voice inflection, body gestures, words, numbers, graphic symbols),
    – language variety (numbers for precision and
    natural language for concepts and ideas), and
    – personal focus (Infusion of personal feelings & emotions).

    As for the survey results, no, it didn’t surprise me since my anecdotal experience has been similar. Good to have a formal survey & analysis behind the hunch.

  2. Mitch Lieberman
    November 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Prem –

    Thanks for the comments, insightful at that. In terms of media richness, why is it that email is so bad at it? I hear more stories about email being poor at communication than any other channel – including Twitter and Facebook posts, which are usually much shorter. There is no doubt that Face-to-face is the best, and phone is better than many other channels. I always wonder about email.

    Many people have been talking about the death of email, I think that will not happen. I do believe that its purpose has changed. In the context of this post, email was skipped as Paul talked about.


    • scorpfromhell
      November 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Mitch, email as a medium is low on cue multiplicity and thanks to the dry corporate lingo, personal focus is extremely reduced too. And so, in effect, it sounds nastier than the sender intended it to.

      • Mitch Lieberman
        November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

        Prem- thanks for the further comments and I am willing to admit when I am learn something new.

        Since Cue Multiplicity (the number of ways in which a medium can communicate information) is low, driven mostly by the fact that words and definitions are the only options, I can see some of the issue. I have experienced emails sounding nastier than intended, I am still not clear why that is the case – even when I try – or the author tries.

    • scorpfromhell
      November 23, 2011 at 1:43 am

      And here is some statistics to show that people lie more on emails than face to face. http://scienceblog.com/49579/lying-is-more-common-when-we-email/

      • Mitch Lieberman
        November 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

        This is just plain scary and disturbing!

  3. November 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Mitch I was speaking at the Customers for Life conference in Sydney last week and got a couple of key take aways which are relevant to your post. Firstly the Google speaker told the conference that Google estimates that by 2015, 95% of all new content will be in video format. What impact will that have on communication, body language, emails, personal presentation skills etc? The second ah ha came from my wife who said “have you noticed that over the last 30 years the phone has gone from the desk (or hallway at home), to the pocket (the first mobile phones) and now to the palm of your hand (today’s smartphones)”. She’s right, when I travel by train or tram, about 50% of people are looking at, working on or listening to their smartphone. Enjoyed the interview with Paul, thanks. I’ve added it to a CRM playlist on my YouTube channel called The Customer Show.

  4. Mitch Lieberman
    November 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm


    Thanks for the comment. It is good to hear from you.

    I agree, we are all going back toward making electronic interactions as close to in-person as possible. By 2016 I wonder if I will need to put on my 3D glasses to make a customer service call! Is that a sarcastic comment? Only partially, we will get there, it is just a matter of how quickly.

    BTW – looks I will be coming down your way at the end of February for the Kickstart Forum and maybe some other stuff as well!

    Cheers – Mitch

    • November 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      Tks for the quick response. Let me know your movements when you come down under. I’d love to catch up face to face.

    • scorpfromhell
      November 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Mitch, holographic display, a la star wars, not stereoscopic 3D requiring cumbersome glasses. 😉 The consumer on the street of course could be wearing bionic lens while you are immersed in a Minority Report kind of environment, most probably built by one of the Microsoft funded startups tinkering with Kinect. 😀

  5. December 19, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I don´t understand how Twitter or Facebook (well, this one maybe a little bit more) could be of any utility, or in any case better than email, to customer relationship. Don´t you think that most of it is actually a trend phase that will expire as soon as something else sets in? The phone is actually a great example. I guess probably video calling will increase its importance in the future, so I don´t know if we´ll actually be allowed to still call this “telephone”, but still the need for a (virtual) face-to-face communication remains a priority.

    • Mitch Lieberman
      December 19, 2011 at 9:39 am

      I agree – I do not think the new channels are necessarily better – but they are the ones the customers are choosing to use. The question then becomes how can we make them better? Two choices really – switch the customer from the bad to the good – or ignore. Like I said, one choice really 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

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