Socially Empowered Customers Are Taking Control

August 22, 2017

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It’s never been a good idea to drag an airline passenger out of a plane, but it’s unlikely such an incident would have been caught on video and broadcast to millions through social media had it happened 15 years ago.

American consumers never have had much patience for poor service. But the stakes now are so much higher than in the days when a dissatisfied customer’s best recourse was a complaint to a local TV station or a letter to the Better Business Bureau.

A pleasantly surprised customer sharing her experience to friends and family on Facebook can be as powerful as a slick marketing campaign. A Twitterstorm about a rude waiter can do as much damage as a bad review from a trusted restaurant critic.

These days, a passive consumer is a rare find. Three hundred ninety million people visit TripAdvisor websites each month to read the 500 million reviews and opinions of others. Facebook claims 2 billion messages are exchanged each month between people and businesses on its Messenger Platform. And yet, a 2017 25-country study by IBM examining the customer experiences of retail brands found a subpar performance across the board with an average rating of 33 on a scale of 0 to 100.

This suggests that most businesses haven’t yet realized that empowered customer-facing representatives are de facto members of their PR teams, and have the same needs for a spokesperson training session or a public communications plan as those in the corporate communications office.

The savviest and best-trained, customer-facing response teams must be prepared to engage on another level. And they can’t do that from closed-door offices or conference rooms.

What about the ROI? Recent events continue to reinforce that investing upfront the time and the resources to ensure customers are treated with respect and consideration is far cheaper than paying the consequences for an interaction gone awry.