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The Social Customer

Anyone can claim to be an expert on social CRM these days.
Jul | 6 | 2010

Jul | 6 | 2010

I’m no an expert on social CRM and I suspect that I’m not alone out there. Much like social media, however, anyone can claim to be an expert on social CRM these days. For a few reasons, though, I’m intrigued by the term and do think that it’s here to stay. First, some of my future writing will involve this topic and I’m in research mode. Second, I’m no neophyte when it comes to customer service (more on that later).

As I survey the Social CRM landscape, it’s evident to me that customer now expects companies to listen and engage with them. And don’t wait too long, lest the vent on Twitter or sever the relationship altogether

As for me, when a product or service doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, I’d like a resolution—and soon. Yes, I know that large companies have tens of thousands of customers, if not more. Things fall between the cracks and mistakes are made. Nobody’s perfect. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But here’s the thing:

I don’t care.

When I have to deal with customer service, I want at least the illusion of movement on my issue. Don’t even think about insisting that I continue to call 1-800 numbers, playing “dial-a-rep” to find someone capable of helping me. That’s so ’90s. Ignore me at your own peril. I’ll quickly get angry and, at a minimum, move to a new vendor. Oh, and by the way, I’ll mention my bad experience to anyone in person, on my blog, via Twitter and Facebook, and the like.

For more on this, watch a 90-second video on the social customer.

1990s Customer Service

In 1994, I graduated college and began working in customer service at Sony Electronics. It was a decent job that involved a good deal of listening to upset customers. (No one calls customer service and waits on hold for fifteen minutes just to praise you.) Now, Sony wasn’t foolish. They weren’t about to put me on the phone with irate parents complaining that their camcorder didn’t work and their daughter’s second birthday was in three days. No, I had to attend training with other new hires. I remember one statistic from that class like it was yesterday. According to Sony research, the average dissatisfied customer told 60 people about his/her experience.


Anyone want to guess what that number is today?

I have no idea but I’d wager that it’s a great deal higher than that. Now, remember that, the Internet was technically around in 1994, but few people actually used it.

Fast forward to today. News Flash: More than a few people use the Internet.

Simon Says

At a bare minimum, companies need to understand that their customers are social, even if they’re not. What? You think that not having a website, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account means that your customers are not talking about you? Get real. On a different level, Social CRM isn’t new at all. To me, it’s about using available tools to take care of a business’ most important asset: it’s customers. Take away customers, and shareholders, board members, and employees all go away. The main difference between customer service in the 1990s and the 2010s is that there are more clubs in the bag. Make sure that you use them.


What’s your view of the social customer? Has the Internet and social media swung the pendulum back towards the customer?

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  1. Jill Wanless

    Totally agree!!  I consider myself to be a social customer both in my personal AND business life. In my personal life, I’m the same as you in that if I have a problem and I don’t receive a quick and satisfactory result, I’ll move on to a competitor without so much as blinking. It happens that fast. And I’ll tell anyone who will listen why they should not use the product/service.  And I imagine that we are not alone and I would love to know what it costs organizations in terms of loss of business.

    In the corporate world I’m the same. If I am a client, in that someone is trying to get my buy-in, or to provide me a service or product, they had better be prepared to:
    – respond quickly to my requests
    – be receptive and responsive to my feedback
    – be honest, open and transparent
    – do what they say they are going to do.
    If not, you can bet I will think less of them as a trusted partner, and I will certainly not recommend them as a resource for future projects, or for future promotions or job offers. 

    I believe these organizations and individuals who behave this way are not familiar with the current social media lanscape, including the need to be honest and transparent. They have no idea just how rapid fire the negative messages can spread when they do not provide the service that clients are asking for, and are oblivious to the impact their behaviors have on their future success.  

  2. Jim Harris

    What is this Internet you speak of? Is it The Series of Tubes invented by Al Gore to measure how global warming affects Stockholm, Sweden?

    Okay, on a more serious note, I definitely agree with you about “The Social Customer” and it continues to amaze me that companies aren’t taking this phenomenon more seriously.

    Companies: “We’re not afraid of The Social Customer

    Me (channeling Yoda, of course): “You will be, you will be.”

  3. philsimon

    It’s absolutely astonishing to me. As I write this, I’m having even more problems with Comcast. While they have a Twitter account, they just don’t know how to use it.

    • @comcastcares forwards my tweet to @comcastbill who asks a question.
    • of course, I can’t answer him directly because @comcastbill isn’t following me.

    This begs the question: Is it better to have a Twitter account if you don’t respond to it or use it properly?

  4. Rob Drysdale

    I totally agree with you here that companies learn to listen and pay attention especially if they want to keep customers.
    I was working for a company and a customer had a problem and by the time we looked into it in the morning there was a blog post out about it and all kinds of stuff circulating.  And this was before Twitter.
    I still follow things related to that company once in a while and every so often I’ll see someone complaining about them on Twitter, but they don’t actively engage and help the customer through this venue.  They know Twitter and things like that exist because I had coffee with a VP last year and he asked me about a comment we made online about their company.  I suspect they get this information through a service that searches for references to them.
    Too little.  Too late.  The customer won’t wait.

  5. Maria Ogneva

    Hi Phil,
    Thanks for the shoutout to my article and definition of the social customer. We all want and expect an expedient response that actually, ahem, resolves the issue. But executionally, that’s still difficult, and the more volume you have, the more difficult it is to respond. We are trying to solve that issue with text analytics technologies that enable routing and large scale analysis, and large scale engagement is going to remain the holy grail of enterprises. But before you can even talk about routing or analytics, you need to figure out if 1. you are organizationally ready, 2. customer-centric enough, and 3. have the right processes and people to actually do the engaging – you can automate up to a degree, but the actual engagement still has to be one-on-one. It’s hard. I see both sides of the fence, and as long as we keep working together, we’ll get there!
    Maria Ogneva


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