“The customer is always right” is a term that is taking on new meaning in the increasingly connected consumer world. Why? Because a bad experience can be advertised around the Internet within minutes by a disgruntled consumer using their connections on various social networks they are a member of, doing damage to a brand that could take months to repair.
Consumers have never before had such power to reach literally thousands of like-minded individuals with their opinions of a product or service. Where before a bad experience would have been told of to a handful of people, usually family and friends, today those same family and friends too will have hundreds of connections that they can pass the news on to instantly.
Even worse for businesses, anyone can now create a concerted campaign using a cheap video camera and the power of services like YouTube. Ann Minch started a ‘Debtors Revolt’ in exactly this way against the Bank of America when they raised the interest on her credit card. She created a short, 5 minute video stating her case to Bank of America and made the video publicly available to view. The campaign took off rapidly as the link to the video started appearing on blogs, social networks and Twitter. The video, below, has had over 240,000 views since September.
The bank reacted the only way it could without the publicity getting worse – it reversed the hike after attempting to negotiate another rate – Ann Minch refused and made the bank reinstate the original interest rate.
Such stories are going to become mainstream as more and more consumers realise the power they have at their fingertips. Businesses have only ever had to worry about a small percentage of customers coming back to them with returns and complaints, A small customer service department would suffice in dealing with the low rate of complaints. Feedback involved polling the customer base where typically only a small percentage would respond, never providing a true picture of what customers felt.
Now, a business needs to be more on the ball with how their customers perceive the service or product. They need to feel the real-time pulse of the marketplace in order to prevent a small number of customers from negatively influencing a larger number of potential customers.
Customer service departments need to become more involved in the marketplace by becoming part of the conversations their customers are having. This will not only enable gathering of real, emotional feedback but allow the business to gauge the direction the marketplace is moving in to give them an advantage over competitors who are not involved in the social media space. If a business engages with it’s customer base where they are most active they have the ability to influence perception in a positive way and increase business as a result.