“Nobody puts baby in a corner.” It’s one of the most-quoted lines from the now classic movie “Dirty Dancing.” Patrick Swayze’s character walks in and extends his hand to pull Jennifer Grey out of the shadow of her attention-seeking older sister, disapproving parents and all the fears and misconceptions that have been holding her back for her much-anticipated moment in the spotlight.

I keep waiting for a similar scene to unfold for social customer service. There’s so much potential there, and the audience wants it to happen, but somehow, the older sister (in this case, social marketing) keeps grabbing all the attention while social customer service remains sitting in the corner.

According to a new eMarketer report, 53% of surveyed marketers said they planned to make greater use of social analytics this year for more real-time outbound marketing efforts including optimizing ad messages, content marketing and aligning marketing with trending topics. Look at the success of social media marketing in combination with other communication channels – for example, the huge win for Oreo on Twitter during the Superbowl and then the Grammys.

Just think of the improvement in multi-channel customer service if more than half of all organizations prioritized greater use of social analytics to achieve a real-time, 360-degree view of the customer and respond to consumer questions and complaints. Forrester analyst Kate Leggett notes that the universal customer history record, improved use of analytics and changing channel preferences are three of the top trends customer service professionals should be focusing on in 2013.

There’s plenty of other prominent stars in the customer service space, too, extending their hand to bring social customer service into the spotlight:

And Brian Solis, Principal, Altimeter Group and author of The End of Business as Usual and the upcoming What’s the Future of Business? has consistently stressed that marketing strategy must be focused around the customer voice, and that brands and organizations shouldn’t necessarily be cultivating the social media champion, but rather the customer champion.

Said Solis, “What you need is a customer champion, an employee champion, a champion for change,” he said. “Social media must be viewed as an enabler of improving relationships and experiences. I don’t care how many hash tags you introduce, how many Twitter and Facebook icons you put on your marketing materials or e-blasts, none of that is improving the customer experience.”

“Why do people unfriend or unfollow you, or otherwise cut the tie? It’s because we used those channels as yet another marketing device,” Solis noted. “We’re still pushing things at people. But people are getting smart. These are their domains.”

The perfect example of this is JCPenney, recently called out for practically dismissing its millions of Facebook followers and social customers with one-way marketing posts, when it was sitting on a gold mine of valuable social customer feedback and a prime opportunity to engage with so many of its loyal fans.

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner…
The story’s building, the crowd’s cheering for the overlooked sibling; customer service experts are extending an inviting hand…. It’s time to pull social customer service out of the corner for its time to shine.