15 years ago (a lifetime in business) there was some debate and even fear surrounding social media and its place in the customer experience. Now social media is an accepted norm (ho hum) and companies must establish repeatable ways to deliver meaningful experiences.
Look, the reality is that the customer – supplier relationship is just that, a relationship. And in all relationships, people want to be heard. Companies that avoid an open exchange resemble ostriches with their heads in the sand. Regardless, the topic begs some thought especially when you boil it down to a fundamental question a board member once asked me. “How do you control bad news when it’s available to everyone online?”
Social media brings:
- More Risk – In the customer experience realm this is a concern point because customers can say anything they want about any topic. This risk is offset by the sheer volume of junk transmitted over the internet… who can check everything?
- Less Control – Just as improved communications speed has changed the way the stock market behaves (faster up and faster down), improved communications have made it more difficult to stay on top of evolving issues to the point that you may not even know you have an erupting problem.
- Better Visibility – A two-way street. We now know if/when customers say negative things. And we have a way to respond. The response can be private to the individual buyer or to the community. The online community reacts favorably when companies make things “right.” And often those corrective actions are made public. So both successes and failures are visible. Interestingly, a once popular notion that recovering after a failing adds customer loyalty, has been largely debunked.
- Inevitability –We don’t have a choice. Companies that don’t have online communities are seen as trying to hide something.
The pivot point — social media is here to stay. Customers voice their opinions anyway. Social media just means that opinions can travel farther/faster/broader than before. Over time this faster and broader feedback mechanism will cause companies to act more prudently (with a longer time horizon) and will eventually lead to better products or at least a closer match between reality and expectations.