Digital Darwinism is a real threat to businesses today. Technology and society are evolving faster than most businesses ability to adapt. Nowadays, no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed.

This Monday and Tuesday, I’m hosting the Pivot Conference in New York to help organizations learn how to beat Digital Darwinism to thrive in the evolving social economy.

Over the course of two days, over 60 leading experts and visionaries will take the stage to explore how to embrace change and help transform organizations from the inside out and the outside in. Attendees are anxious to learn how technology is not only disrupting business, but also how to adopt technology and create supporting cultures and processes to become more adaptive. The reality is that customer behavior and expectations are advancing. To lead a new era of customer engagement takes leadership for without it, businesses will get caught in a vicious cycle of having to react to changes and trends while competitors lead the way.

One key area of focus at Pivot is customer engagement. A growing genre of customers no longer behaves according to plan. They don’t enjoy call centers. They refute web forms and email. Instead, they take to their devices and the social web to help one another with or without the help of the business in question.

For the past three years, good friend Brent Leary and the folks at Social Media Today have produced The Social Customer Engagement Index. We will release the full report live at the conference (reserve it here.)  The in-depth report examines how companies are using social tools for customer service and, more importantly, how customers are responding.

At a high level, the Index uncovered that while intentions to improve customer engagement and relationships via social run high among executives, the reality is that businesses aren’t putting their investments where their aspirations are.

It’s Time to Shift from Lip Service to Social Customer Service

As a preview of the report, SAP, Social Media Today, and the team at Pivot collaborated on a new infographic to visualize the latest index. Almost immediately, you can see that there’s a disconnect between engagement ideals in social media and the market reality. (See full chart in image above).

The study found that 71% of businesses claim to use social media for customer service and 87.5% have realized a positive impact. Looking at these numbers would almost be enough to convince executives that they’re on the right path. But as customers become increasingly connected, the investments that businesses make, or the lack there of, in social customer service, are not keeping up with customer expectations.

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Only a small percentage of all businesses surveyed have put their money where there intentions are with 7% investing over a quarter of a million dollars and 5% investing between $100,000 and $250,000.

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Of all social service cases, most businesses in the survey (41.2%) handle just under 5% of what transpires in the social egosystem. And, only 17.5% handle 25% of the issues that surface is social networks. If you think about it, that’s a tremendous opportunity to shift negative experiences into positive outcomes. Peer-to-peer influence, not to mention social proof, sways impressions and decisions in either direction. As a business, making an investment in social customer service not only improves sentiment, but also how people perceive your brand. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”