EUPHORIA vs. ACTUALITY
Photo courtesy of Oberazi
Much praise has been heaped on social networks for their ability to streamline customer connections, making it possible to hear the voice of customers much clearer, and serve as a means for everyone from CIOs and CEOs to interns to better listen to customers. I agree, social networks in general and Twitter specifically have opened up the floodgates of customer centricity and hopefully it will change company’s cultures for the better, fast.
THE HARD QUESTIONS
In the midst of all this euphoria however, I think it’s important ask the harder questions.
- Is all this great inbound customer data actually changing mindsets and philosophies?
- Is it changing how marketing and sales work together to define value propositions?
- Is it forcing companies to be more agile?
- Is it changing processes of how customers are brought into the new product development process?
- Or are social networks seen as the poor man’s PR Newswire?
How companies truthfully answer this question will determine if social networks bring lasting change or a just a fad.
Time will tell which companies actually transform who they are based on what customers are telling them on social networks. Right now however there are plenty standing in the aisles claiming to have social networking religion. Like any revival bordering on the spiritual, how many of these companies will stay strong in their conviction to be customer centered after the social media evangelists have rolled on to the next conference? Most likely not many, because change is painful, hard, comes at a high price, and most of all, requires leaders to put their credibility on the line and bet on the future.
That is where I see the credibility gap.
There are lots of CEOs, company founders, and industry celebrities lining up at social networking revivals, claiming to have customer centric religion yet not following through where it counts most, which is transforming their companies to be more customer-centric. They are not walking the talk.
THE GIVE TO GET VERSUS GET WHAT YOU GIVE ANSWER
The Give to Get philosophy is one where companies in social networks look to help you shorten your purchasing cycle before the figure out want your needs are, appeal to your ego needs and professional standing (the get thousands of followers approach) and are nearly ubiquitous with their public and private (DM) messaging. The Give to Get group of companies and people use social networks like a poor man’s PR Newswire and aren’t interested in building trust or relationships – just getting their message out to as many as possible hoping the law of averages kicks in. Yet you have to love the irony, being on a social network with this strategy, with social networks being predicated on building relationships and trust.
The Get What You Give philosophy is easy to spot. These are companies and individuals where the concerns, comments, interests, and values of customers has already begun to permeate how they operate across all areas of their business, social networks included.
GET WHAT YOU GIVE COMPANIES HAVE:
- A passion to educate customers and share their insights regardless whether a sale is immediately made or not. These are the companies on Twitter who open up and share vast amounts of information and data freely.
- Provide honest product comparisons and analysis. This is rare to find yet very powerful, and is an indicator that a company really is making changes in how they operate based on lessons learned.
- They work extremely hard to earn a reputation of being Easy to Buy From. Buying from Amazon.com, Expedia, Zappos, all easy, they get it, their cultures engrain the lessons learned from listening to customers quickly.
- A culture that cultivates the courage to be accountable for good and bad service. “Catch Me Doing Something Right” is an employee recognition program Embassy Suites has this summer. It’s aimed at giving employees motivation to be especially accountable and helful with many family whose members don’t travel all that much and as a result have many questions and needs beyond the typical business traveler. I have to say when they credited me for three nights parking due to a mix-up on a coupon I filled out a “Catch me Doing Something Right” form right then and there. And in a sense, that program is a form of immediate, real social networking. The desk attendant beamed as I filled it out and did we ever get excellent service after that! Kindness pays.
If you really believe that social networks can fundamentally re-order companies by bringing the voice of the customer alive, do something about it. Go beyond your daily routine in your job, tell your VPs and C-level execs it is time to change those areas getting in the way of serving customers.
Contribute to closing this credibility gap, and don’t let your C-level executives get away with saying how great social networking is and not changing their companies as a result. Be the change and make your company stronger for it.