Customer service myths, half-truths and nonsense

It is often said that managing a call center is more of an art than a science. Some customer service managers use standard operational metrics to manage their business to – like average hold times (AHT), first contact closure rate (FCR) agent, agent productivity numbers, escalation rates, etc. Others apply established customer service best practices to their organizations without understanding the intent behind these best practices. Yet other companies adopt the current trends without an analysis of their strategic importance.

Here is my list of “half truths and total nonsense” about management philosophies and technologies in customer service. Which ones resonate with you? Which ones do you believe are not myths and work for you?

Kate’s List of Common Services and Support Myths

  • Social customer service myths
    • Social CRM is giving customers control
    • Twitter works for customer service
    • I don’t need to interface my social processes with my traditional customer service processes
    • If I have a forum, I don’t need a knowledgebase
  •  Multichannel customer service myths
    • Established best practice apply to my call center
    • I am special - Established best practices do not apply to my call center
    • Front-line support agents don’t know anything
    • When you measure operational activities, you measure business outcomes
    • Support can act independently of brand –Support can have a different brand identity than the rest of the company
    • Email doesn’t work as a support medium
    • Chat won’t work for tech support
    • I dont need proactive chat
  • Knowledge management for customer service myths
    • Longer calls are not good web self-service candidates
    • Customers can’t create reliable knowledge
    • Better search means that I can find everything
    • We don’t need to segment based on customer type of persona

What is your favorite myth about customer service?


I'm not sure that Twitter for

I'm not sure that Twitter for customer service is a myth. Best Buy's Twelpforce Twitter account seems to work, although I grant you that is a best-in-class example. The "Front line support agents don't know anything" myth is an interesting one. On the surface, yes, that is a myth if you think of it in terms of product knowledge -- agents do know about the products. However, there is a slew of aloof call agents out there who can hamstring any well-thought-out customer service program. Those agents don't know anything in the broader scope of CRM.

Twitter for customer service

Perhaps the myth you're seeking is "Twitter cannot substitute for traditional customer service." Because among companies I work with, Twitter often enhances their traditional customer service. See Chapter 4 of Empowered, for example.

Spot on


That's exactly right. Twitter is augmentative. It is nearly impossible for me to imagine providing in-depth support in a 140 character stream. But many simple inquiries can be dispatched quickly with Twitter, satisfying both customer and service agent. And more in-depth inquiries can be moved to a different channel (e.g., taken to a phone call or email), where Twitter serves as the entry point.

The important point is that customer-centric companies crave responding to customers in whichever channels their customers want to contact them. If the customer wants to use Twitter, then a service-oriented company will try to have a presence.

The trick, of course, is to work these proliferating channels into a single workflow so that they can be added at scale without having to buy new tools and retraining. As new channels emerge, you want to be able to just "plug them in" to your existing workflow. You also, ideally, want all of these channels to be tied back to a single CRM so that you can track a customers' service interactions across channels.

Matt Trifiro
SVP Marketing
Assistly (

what about the people?

It's interesting that many customer service professionals do not mention people when talking about customer service. In the end, the tools, knowledge, workflows will be used by people. Having the right people and motivating them is the key to good customer service.

And my half-truth, which is actually not true at all, is that many people assume that customer service representatives should be happy to have a job, and therefore do their best to make customers happy.

Twitter for Customer Service - take 2

Absolutely agree with Josh. And while "Twitter cannot substitute for traditional customer service", it can often times highlight what is really broken with it. Isn't that one of the reasons why organisations need to interface social processes with traditional customer service processes?


Twitter is interesting. There are examples where Twitter is successful for customer service. However, I believe that true customer service can't be delivered effectively in the constraints of Twitter. What is better to do is to let the tweeter know that "hey, we are listening to you", then take their issue offline to get it solved via the most appropriate communication channel for the customer and the issue at hand.

More than that, the trick is to make sure that the processes that you follow over the social channels are similar to what you follow over traditional channels, so that your brand can be reinforced over every touchpoint.

And, as Clare points out, tweets can point out broken organizational processes. Hopes are that companies listen to the underlying messages in these tweets, and have change management capabilities to fix these processes.


What you describe is exactly how I've seen Twitter succeed for customer service.

Each response is either "Here's a link to what you want" (if it's simple) or "DM us your contact info and we'll take it from there."

Another use case

Companies that deliver a web-based service often see a great deal of Twitter activity when they have downtime or service interruptions. A best practice that I've seen emerge is to use a "Support" account to not only broadcast system status, but also to reply to users who want to know what has happened. It seem common practice for many users to go right to a tweet when a service is down and customer-centric organizations jump on it as an opportunity to deliver awesomely responsive service to their customers.

Case in point that I recently observe was over on Tiny Grab's Twitter feed -!/tinygrab - if you read back over the last few days, they were hit with a Denial-of-Service attack that brought down their systems. Customers of all kinds -- angry, worried, curious - Tweeted out to their questions or frustration. The folks at Tiny Grab did a superlative job in responding to each customer and making a distinctly positive brand impression.

One our our clients, Twitter, does a lot of support using Assistly to manage their incoming Twitter support streams and turn them into actionable tickets. Many of their cases need to be resolved over email or DM, but a public Tweet is the customer's preferred entry path.


Twitter Use Case

Another great use case for Twitter that is very similar to the one you describe is what VMware does. They broadcast new knowledge added to their knowledgebase over two twitter handles: @VMwarecare and @VMwarekb to thousands of followers. This proactively deliveres content to their users, deflecting calls from their call center.

Tweeting new KB entries

That is a great idea! It could even become part of the knowledgebase update workflow and be completely or partially automated.

Twitter Use Case for Customer Service

Great blog Kate. Twitter seems to get all the attention here, but I guess that the point. Twitter is where the buzz is at and where the conversations are happening. Organizations need to be there too - much like Facebook.

I also like the idea of using it as a broadcast channel for everything that gets published, assuming each subject matter would become its own channel that users could subscribe too - much like they can do today in communities and Self-Service sites.

Listening, broadcasting, capturing, engaging, or even auto responding... there are many ways for organizations to engage through Twitter that make sense as a part of their Social strategy. Unlocking the who, how and when - recognizing that one size doesn't fit all. The tools (from the vendor), the type of business, the subject matter, the intent of the engagement, the type of customer, the type of conversation... Organizations should look to answer these questions before taking a hammer to their approach for supporting customers in this channel.