To change or Not to change
Let’s start with this fun contradiction:
- Marketing consultants are generally keen to make us think that customers have changed. That in this social media era everything is different from what it used to be before. To be successful in commerce, one should quickly adopt new policies, create communities, etc.
- Change Management consultants on the other hand generally advocate the opposite. In change management it is a common perception that the majority of people are not keen to change. People have a need to see the new thing as a continuation of the past.
What does this contradiction mean for the expectations of today’s customer? Does a person really change his expectations because social media supply him new tools? Or does he have the same expectations, dressed in a new costume?
Mass media era
The customer experience we saw as normal till 2006, is actually quite young. It was only created about a hundred years ago, due to the up rise of mass media: newspapers, magazines, radio and above all TV. That brought mass advertising and broadcasting. These mass media created a divide between us and the customer. The communication was one directional. Our companies became big anonymous institutes that were hard to approach. It was getting normal, but never accepted, to let the customer wait for 15 minutes or more to communicate his issue via the telephone.
Social Media Era
Then, in 2006, Twitter was launched and Facebook opened up to people outside the college world. People started using social media to complain about bad service and some of these messages really went viral. The video song of Dave Carroll in 2009 – who sang and showed how his guitar got destroyed by the United Airlines personnel – is the famous example. The video had 150.000 views in a day, and 5 million in a month. The reputation of a multi billion company was badly damaged by just one incident. Stock prices fell instantly by 10%, costing stock owners $ 180 million. This caused an explosion in top management, and not just at United Airlines. People had not anticipated that this could happen.
Mark Schaefer shows us that the impact of this incident was in fact nothing new. For decades it was normal that one terrible incident would ruin your business, but we just forgot about it. You should really watch his presentation “The Ultimate Customer Experience was Created 1,000 Years Ago“. Using the medieval market as a parallel, he paints the picture very strongly. In those small encapsulated societies blaming and shaming was killing. But also more recently, it was normal that customers’ bad word of mouth would immediately impact a vendor. A company had to take care of his customers.
Now social media have turned the world again into a tight community. The expectations of the social media customer are very much alike the expectations of medieval customers. These are:
- personal interaction, because people want to buy from people they know. They want to know you and your personnel.
- complete transparency, because customers want you to deliver to what you promised. They want to be able to trust you. This get’s even stronger as the millennium generation is the least trusting generation. They don’t trust authority, they don’t trust big companies, but they do trust the communication on the web.
- immediacy, because people want a company to give direct follow up on issues. You promised quality, so you do everything possible to deliver quality. And please deliver it now.
- word of mouth reputation is the most powerful marketing instrument. People are going to be watching what you do, more than your advertising. Research of Ed Keller shows that at this moment word of mouth is 5 times more influential than advertisement. For more complex products this even rises to being 100 times more influential.
- primal need for connection, because shopping always has been an interaction activity. People love talking about themselves and their purchases. They create emotional connections to companies and brands. That’s why customers feel badly treated when they are led down.
The expectations are the same. What changed is that social media gave consumers the tools to express their expectations with great impact. The challenge is ours. Can we use social media to satisfy these customer expectations? Can we use social media to demonstrate that we really care for our customers?