07:50 AM

The "Customer Serviceization" of Staff Through Social Media And Other Pitfalls

Social media is by far the quickest way an organization can recruit nearly all of its staff into customer support and evangelism roles.

But I'm not sure employees will be too pleased by such moves. It is easy to track who is active and who is not. That's certainly going to be a factor in promotions and pay raises.

Also, because of the blurring of personal and business lives, this means employees will be spamming their friends and family as they prove their worthiness to their bosses.

User generated layoffs...

Companies are also using social media to replace employees because of volunteers among their customers. Intuit is a good example of what could be termed "user generated layoffs."

Here is a video I took from last year's Brainstorm conference of Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit talking about the potential job savings.

Here is a recent BusinessWeek article:

How Intuit Makes a Social Network Pay - BusinessWeek

For the company, this volunteer army means less need for paid technicians.
...Customers were not only asking technical questions, they were often outshining Intuit's own tech support staff by answering 40% of the queries themselves.
...In early June the company said it is laying off 4% of its 8,000 employees. Executives say the job cuts didn't stem directly from Live Community's success, but Wilder points out that since Intuit's community outreach began, "the number of calls to our customer service lines has been reduced. We don't give out numbers, but there have been cost savings."

This is great for Intuit but for how long? If its customers realize that their enthusiastic participation in answering questions results in job losses will they continue to be as enthusiastic?

Also, volunteers do it because they feel like it and then they generally move on to something else. Relying on a fly-by-night army of volunteers could become a problem.

This is the same difference as between bloggers and journalists. Bloggers (citizen journalists) have a day job and they don't have to do it every day. Journalists do it every day (that would make a great bumper sticker :)

What happens to Intuit, and to other companies emulating its example, when their volunteer army doesn't show up for work?