Guest Post by Ted Coiné

“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”

—Jan Carlzon

When Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS, said those words, social hadn’t been invented yet. In fact, most of us had never heard of the Internet then. But the sentiment behind those words has never been truer than in the Social Age.

Social amplifies every voice, for good and ill. Social can also make or break a brand—and often the tipping point is customer experience.

Social: Make or Break in an Instant

Customer ExperienceIn a matter of a few days, social can launch an entire brand focused on delivery and service—Dollar Shave Club, for instance, a company that rode a YouTube video to nearly instant success. (Although the privately held company doesn’t disclose financials, it was expected that revenue was at or near $10 million for 2013.)

Social can take a company almost no one ever heard of and make it infamous—Amy’s Bakery, for example, which in 2013 suffered as the result of an epic meltdown by its owners on Facebook. (This Scottsdale, Arizona, small business soon became known as the poster child for how not to respond to social criticism).

Social can take a revered company—one like Ben & Jerry’s—and, for the cost of one press release about a new ice cream, create an international media frenzy. (The February 2014 article on Huffington Post about the new Core ice cream products: over 800,000 Facebook likes in three days!)

Without a doubt, nothing can make or break your company’s reputation faster than social.

That can be a very scary thing for socially-timid companies. But it can be a tremendous opportunity for socially savvy companies that master this one fundamental truth of the modern era:

In the Social Age Everyone Serves the Customer

As we point out in A World Gone Social, the new book by myself and Mark Babbitt: In the Social Age everyone—sales, engineering, public relations, administration, marketing—has the opportunity to listen, engage, and serve.

Which means that in the Social Age, “internal” functions (accounting, inventory, etc.) that have no contact with customers do not—and perhaps should not—exist. Opportunities to serve the customer thus multiply. With each opportunity comes the chance to differentiate your brand from the competition. And with each moment of differentiation—when customers are served beyond expectations—there is the potential that those customers, already predisposed to social, are going to jump on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and tell the world how well they were just served by your brand.

Jan Carlzon’s Vision Has Come to Life

Front-facing or not, everyone at your organization now has the same single function: to serve the customer.

Every team member makes a difference not just to the company, but to the customer. Which is why wise leaders understand, and have always understood, this one fundamental truth of business:

Customer service is a leadership issue, not a department.

Are you ready to lead in the Social Age? Or are you ready to step into retirement? Because if you don’t embrace social—if you as a leader do not deliberately put the customer experience first—your replacement most certainly will.

Guest Author

Ted CoineTed Coiné is the Chairman and Founder of, which works with leadership to focus on the human side of business, and he is host of The Human Side TV, where he interviews the most fascinating minds in business each week. One of the most influential business experts on the Web, Ted has been top-ranked by Forbes, Inc., SAP Business Innovation, and Huffington Post as a top mind in the fields of business leadership, customer experience, and social media. Ted is a three-time CEO and a popular keynote speaker with over 350,000 followers on Twitter – and growing rapidly.

Together with Mark Babbitt they released their book A World Gone Social on September 22, 2014.