I often go running in the early morning with my black Labrador, Cali. Cali is 10 years old, and I’m pushing 40, so it’s sometimes difficult to drag ourselves out of bed and onto the pavement at 5:30 in the morning. But, once we’re on the tear, we’re both happy to be there.

I use early morning jogs as a time to think, even meditate, before my day officially starts. On one particular morning, as Cali and I plodded down our usual route, I noticed something different up ahead. There was something in the irrigation ditch at the side of the rural farm road. The early morning light was dim enough that I couldn’t see it until I was within 10 feet or so, but it was definitely out of place among the fields and fences and occasional livestock. As I got closer my eyes focused on the words “Customer Service” formed by big, brushed-nickel letters across a large, wood and plastic structure that looked like the top portion of a mall kiosk.

The structure was cracked and contorted, as if it had been violently thrown into the ditch from the back of a pick-up truck. My mind envisioned an angry business owner metaphorically throwing his customer service into a ditch while colorfully vocalizing his disdain with wild profanities. This thought caught hold of many others, and meditation kicked in.

How many business owners today are kicking their customer service to the curb by ignoring, neglecting, or misusing online social engagement?

As a social media consultant, I often talk to my clients about the importance of managing social engagement effectively, due to its direct effect on customer service perception. Like any social relationship, effective engagement starts with listening. Experts will tell you that a good conversationalist listens 70% of the time, and then thoughtfully speaks 30% of the time.

Yet, how many of us follow that guideline in our social engagement or inbound marketing strategies, or do any kind of online listening? Unfortunately, we usually do most of the talking, and most of the time we’re talking about us –telling the market how great and interesting we are. Any relationship professional will tell you precisely how long that engagement is going to last.

Anyone truly interested in improving social engagement for their business will make an operational effort to listen to the market first, then join the conversation with interactions of value – valuable input and content, based on what you hear. We all know that everybody “likes” a good listener, right?

There are many great tools available for making the listening process simple. We’re particularly fond of using a combination of tools like Google Alerts, HootSuite, and socialmention to monitor the Web and Social Space for the Three C’s of Listening – Company Mentions, Competitor Mentions, and Category Key Phrases.

These days, more and more consumers are using the Web and its many social platforms for vocalizing complaints and publishing customer dissatisfaction. This isn’t like a tree in the woods. These conversations are happening whether you’re tuned in to hear them or not. So make it a practice to listen for customer service opportunities, then, be prepared to efficiently provide detailed, resolution-oriented responses. Now there’s a topic for another jog.

Need help strategically managing your online presence? Start with a FREE VISIBILITY ASSESSMENT.