I was reading the Social CRM Pioneers Group on Google, owned and operated, if that is such a thing in the social media world, by the Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang). Jive Software’s Mike Fraietta (@MikeFraietta) made an interesting point in referring to Twitter’s dealing with some hacker issues which resulted in all users’ follower and following counts being held at zero for a short time.

Mike asked: How do we prioritize our social media responses if we have no clue about the influence clout of the source? (paraphrased)

Great question – on so many levels. I mean, isn’t customer service supposed to be blind? Shouldn’t we be treating all of our customers the same? meaning – treating each one as if they were the most important?

But it sadly has shifted away from that notion of “the customer is always right” and into a more jaded “the customer who makes the most noise wins.” Through sites like Twitter – if you have a huge following and make a stink about a product or service – you will get a faster response and a little more love. But what about the loyal, high profit customer who does not play the social game? Does he or she simply lose out in the age of social?

So, does social CRM play to the hand of your worst customers? Or, at least the most whiny? (Thanks to Mitch Lieberman for putting me down this path…)

I think the answer is yes, and no. On the one hand, yes, squeaky wheels get the grease. But, squeaky wheels in the social media sense can also be early indicators – allowing you to avoid potentially huge problems before they become just that. Also, providing service through social channels is a new challenge and opportunity – while we may cater to the squeaky wheels, once that wheel is oiled they may go from whiner to evangelist – letting many more people know just how well they were treated.

In time, I think we will get to a sort of balancing point – where influence is better calculated and we are not operating in such a reactive mode via social media. Instead, we will be leveraging social channels to provide proactive service, or simply leveraging it as another channel in our support arsenal.

Again, the goal is not just to avoid potential PR nightmares – it is to provide great experiences for your customers.