For the past five years, during the first weekend in August, I have participated in a fund raiser (the Pan Mass Challenge) where approximately 5,000 cyclists pedal a 192 miles over two days and raise $34M for cancer research. As a resident of New England, USA, August is the perfect time for long bike rides following the longer training rides during the warming Spring and Summer weather.

This year I’ve added an event in June and number of friends and I will pedal 148 miles in one day, riding (mostly up hill) from Boston Harbor to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Given that there is snow on the ground here in Boston at the moment, the morning temperatures are routinely in the 20s degrees F and you need at least 12 weeks training before the event, a full and powerful panic has set in!

As a result, I have been spending more and more quality time on my trainer, in my basement, in front of my TV. During my last business trip, a long one during which I was fortunate enough to spend some time with our customer City of Brisbane, my kids staged an uprising, seized control of the family DVR and vaporized my planned work out programme.  My chosen line up -History Channel, Six Nations Rugby, NFL combine – had all been replaced by fashion shows, reality TV, MTV based dramas, the occasional vampire, teenage angst (with the occasional vampire) and food programming, which my progeny obviously felt was more important than “Dad’s shows”! Time for the back-up plan…

However, my usual back-up of catching up on TV Series on Netflix that I’ve missed during the week -Downton Abbey, Modern Family, etc.- had all been run through on my flight back from Australia SO I was stuck with watching live, commercial interrupted TV. No ability to fast forward, skip commercials, just TV at it’s broadcast live, something I’ve not done for a long, long time.  A mode of TV I have come to detest.

Whilst watching the despised live TV on a cold and blustery Saturday morning, I was struck by the number of large consumer brands still dependent on TV advertising. Their ad messaging seems to be based largely on the quality of their Customer Service as well as their presence on Facebook and Twitter. It strikes me to be especially pervasive when selling insurance.

Insurance ads tout and feature call centers, with glamorized representations of happy agents helping their customers procure policies, navigate the complex maze of medical benefits or, in the case of auto insurance, helping customers get their cars fixed instantly and painlessly. Each ad ends with a call to action of  ‘liking us’ on Facebook or ‘follow us’ on Twitter.

While some advertisers even go so as far as to extol “look what our customers are saying about us”, the messages are often vague and relatively one-sided. What’s the benefit to me, the consumer, of  ‘liking’ or ‘following’?  How will these proposed interactions help me do business with or be supported by the company doing the advertising?  Taking Twitter as an example, in his recent blog post Vikas Nehru cites that ‘71% of all customer complaints on Twitter meet with no response.’

Isn’t it time that the two channels of Customer Service and Social converged? Putting aside the more strategic question of the ownership of the social channels by Marketing or Customer Service, surely someone should be listening and reacting? As customers, we demand it and can now truly influence the success of a business by voicing our opinions, dissatisfaction, approval etc.

At KANA, we understand this and are passionate about helping our customers provide real help and value for their customers engaged in social media. We do this not only by analyzing the customer experience through social media but also by making social media actionable. Through a combination of our solutions, including agent desktops and social listening, we can help our customers answer their customers’ questions of ‘what’s in it for me?’ and fully utilize social media as a two-way street.

(Chip Greer is Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales, KANA)