One of the demos of the service cloud showed how monitoring social media could result in better, more efficient provision of service. The idea behind this is that many consumers no longer go directly to the company whose products or services are giving them issues, but to the social media universe. I always thought it odd that people would ask total strangers about a product instead of asking the people who made the product, but thanks in part to abysmal customer service in the past, consumers have been driven to those external information sources.

In any event, the solution - in a way similar to many other solutions, although perhaps more completely - can identify those service-related customer conversations and allow companies to offer advice. Better yet, they can learn from customer advice for situations they may not have anticipated. Partners can be brought into this process (for example, a telecommunications carrier could work with a headset manufacturer to provide answers). And all this activity can be then captured in the CRM system.

This emphasizes how dramatically the shift has been toward customer-centricity. Back when I was reporting on telecommunications (a whole decade ago!), the classic service issue was an intermittent technical problem. Often, the customer's direct provider would blame the problem on other up-stream providers, who would then point back at other providers. The customer would make call after call and hear companies blaming each other and never really making any effort to solve his problems.

Now, with solutions like what described, there is real merit in seizing responsibility in service conversations and actively working to fix the problem. If you can't fix it, engage with your partners to fix it. Imagine a scenario in which a single customer's service solution is the result of two companies collaborating on an answer - the impact on the customer would be enormous. It's not about saying "sorry" and admitting failure; it's about getting things to work with the customer and getting your relationship with the customer back on track. At the same time, pursing this approach and building a knowledge base of solutions and tactics actually results in a more responsive and efficient sales organization and saves money in the process.

Add to that the long-understood concept that a customer who's had a problem solved satisfactorily is often more loyal than a customer who never had a problem in the first place. From a basic loyalty point of view, engaging actively in these service discussions is going to be a critical differentiator.