Note: This is a guest post from Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly, a company that helps businesses (including Yelp, 37 Signals, Pandora and Vimeo) improve their customer service through an online platform. We're honored to have him on our blog. In today’s social Web, more than ever, the customer is always right. At least in their mind. And they will let you and everybody else know it. In about 30 seconds on their smart phone or browser, using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, they can tell all of their friends and followers about why they are right or how they’ve been wronged. The game has changed. Your company needs to change too. Many companies struggle with providing awesome customer service. That’s because the playing field has changed. It’s no longer good enough to get back to a customer in 24 or 48 hours. Customer service is no longer a 9-to-5 job; it’s 24/7. It’s social. It’s mobile. It’s global. And it’s in real time and in public. And guess what? You no longer get to dictate the terms of customer service. Today your customer is in control. You may want them to email, but what if they want to tweet? You already know the answer: the customer will tweet and the old system you have in place may no longer work in today’s environment. Today’s environment, with its ever-present social media, mobile devices, and global competition, is giving rise to a new breed of customer with a new set of expectations. This is putting unprecedented pressure on companies to adapt, especially small and medium-sized companies with limited support staff. If you’re not yet feeling that pressure, consider yourself lucky because it’s coming. So how do you keep up? Revolutionize your customer service philosophy If you want to meet the demands of this new social customer, you need to rethink your customer service philosophy. You need to demote the old way of thinking of customer service — as a cost center — and start thinking about it as an “opportunity center.” When customer service is a cost center, you used financial metrics to measure customer service success. This translates into tracking things like “average call time” – which fosters a culture of trying to get the customer off the phone as fast as possible. Today’s metric of success should be customer satisfaction. A great example of a company that has fully integrated this into its business model is 37signals, which publishes the results of a customer service rating that is offered after every customer interaction. Anyone can see in real time how the company is doing in terms of serving its customers. The company uses the constant stream of feedback to make improvements to its service. When customer service is done right (think Zappos), it can become a brand’s strongest differentiator. Embrace the three pillars of awesome customer service There are three pillars of awesome customer service, and a company must commit to them to deliver world-class service in today’s environment: 1. Invest in intuitive web-based tools. \t You can’t let any customer communications fall through the cracks. But you’re not superhuman. You need help to capture and manage the thousands of customer communications that are coming at you from everywhere at any time. The right tools can help you create smart workflows to be more efficient and give you a centralized knowledge base to power all of your customer responses. 2. Cultivate genuine passion for your customers. Make customer service core to the company culture and structure. For example, in our company, in addition to a fantastic customer support manager, we have a VP of Customer Wow, Dan Stern. Dan runs an entire department dedicated to proactively reaching out to our customers to figure out how we can make them more successful. Their job is to perform random acts of kindness that make our customers say, “wow, I didn’t expect that.” 3. Practice “whole company support.” Customer service should not be isolated in a single department; it should be a company-wide philosophy. You will always need your front-line service staff, but in a company focused on providing awesome customer service, it should be everyone’s job to “touch” the customer, from marketing to engineering to product management. This way, everyone is invested and the customer gets the support they need from the person who can help them best. At Assistly, we take these three pillars to heart and help our clients do the same. With the right technology to support your awesome customer service philosophy, customers can request support from anywhere — website, email, phone, live chat, Twitter, and Facebook — and your company (even if small or mid-sized) can deliver that support instantly, and in real time. Lendio's mission is to empower your business by making small business loans simple through options, speed, and trust. It is through this mission that we try and get our clients the best possible loan for any situation. We pride ourselves in supporting our customers throughout the entire process. Alex Bard is the CEO of Assistly, the company that provides the all-in-one social CRM and customer support cloud solution that powers some of the world's most powerful Internet brands including Yelp, Etsy, 37signals, Pandora, Vimeo, Spotify, One Kings Lane, and many others. For more tips, check out Assistly’s free ebook, Customer Service at the Speed of Twitter.