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Social Media and Business – The Customer is King Again!

Posted on the 07 May 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

Social Media and business – The Customer is King again!

Giving good customer service ought to be one of the first objectives and priorities of any business that provides goods or services, in order to sell more products and thus thrive.

No matter which way you look at it – businesses exist for one thing and one thing only – to make money! There are the ‘peripherals’ which are also important such as social responsibility and ethics but the if the business isn’t making money, they will not have the opportunity to focus on anything else but dat-to-day survival.

How many times have you, as a consumer, encountered the frustrating feeling that poor customer service gives? The feeling that you are up against a brick wall when trying to get at least a minimum of service when you are on the receiving end of poor service or faulty products.

Well the good news is that since 2005, the time when social media was effectively born, the level of customer service that companies offer has been condemned to improve.

Pre 2005, any company that provided poor products or services risked very little – the odd letter of complaint or at worst bad press – the shock waves were virtually insignificant.

It’s what I call the ‘bad restaurant syndrome’ – if you eat in a good restaurant with good service and you were satisfied – you will tell a few friends and acquaintances who are likely to go out to dine in a restaurant. If you had a bad meal or bad service – you will tell anyone who is willing to listen that it was bad – the same can be said for particular brands. The ‘reach’ that individuals had was fairly limited to a relatively small group of people – the chances of things going ‘viral’ was virtually impossible with real concerted efforts.

One can imagine companies being concerned with the few complaints that they got – but, hey – that’s business, you can’t please everyone … so why bother trying!

The advent of social media has meant a sea change in the way that businesses view their clients and especially the loyalty and opinions of their clients – customers have suddenly attained a lot of clout.

Businesses who trivialise or ignore this – do so at their peril.

There is now a whole new set of rules on how businesses interact, ‘recruit’, sell to and satisfy their clients – it is now more of a matter of “seller beware ” than the traditional “buyer beware”.

A single client, who, in the past was a small voice shouting in the desert can now bring down a brand, harnessing the power and omnipotence of social media.

If you think this is an exaggeration just look at the complaints against some of the big players that appear daily on Twitter and Facebook – check out the hastag of British Telecom, or France Telecom to see what people are saying about the services that they are getting (France Telecom has many negative Tweets about the H.R. policies – would you want to work there?)

Many people use social media as a way of testing the temperature before making a buying decision – the influence of social media is huge and can mean make or break for companies in the future – but we are already in the future as far as brands and social media are concerned.

Businesses need to take decisions on where they are to focus their efforts – do they hire more sales staff or more customer services staff?

The question would appear as a no brainer – of course they need more customer services – as this is what will sell their services and products, and more importantly will ensure repeat sales – are we seeing the end of the sales person here?

The equation is a pretty simple one – the cost of more engagement with customers and potential customers versus the costs and long-term implications of the loss of good will – people who vote very effectively with their feet either towards or away from certain brands.

Businesses can no longer wait with fingers crossed until issues hit the mainstream media – social media has changed those rules and the way in which businesses manage their brands and their interaction with their customers.

No business goes out with the intention of providing poor customer service – but if that does happen for any reason they know how they can manage it – keep the customers happy and your business with survive and thrive – create and encourage a loyal base of happy customers.

Communication today in business is proactive and not reactive – if a business communicates reactively, they have lost the fight – information needs to be communicated clearly and in time.

Customer services issues are not that complicated really and fall into a relatively small grouping:

1. Delivery problems – lateness, non-delivery or damage in transit.

2. Compatibility  problems – the product is not compatible with the needs.

3. Customer difficulties - experiencing difficulties or malfunction of the product

4. Customer suggestions – improvements or innovation of products or services

5. Marketing innovations – better ways to sell or market the product or service

Businesses that listen to their customers and interact with them, are not only able to short-circuit customer dissatisfaction and thus build brand loyalty, but are also able to tap into the huge resources for improving their business that the customers provide.

When clients help a business improve their products and services they are then implicated in some small way in the success of the business – this is a golden opportunity that social media provides for businesses.

I recently had an experience with a company called Satchi, who sell electronic items from San Diego. I bought an accessory for my camera, which didn’t work – I wrote an email to find out how I could get a replacement and return the faulty item. The company asked me to give a time when the tech staff could call – I live in France so the time difference poses some problems. I gave some time slots and heard nothing for a couple of days, wrote another mail asking when they would call and finished my mail by enquiring if they were present on Twitter. They immediately wrote back, told me to bin the item I had and they sent me another free of charge which worked. I then went to find them on Twitter to let others know about my great experience with the customer services and the product.

I only wish that social media was around a few years ago when I bought one of the first ultra-compact notebook computers by Medion from Carrefour in Toulouse, France. The screen just melted after about 3 weeks of normal use. Carrefour and Medion shirked any responsibility saying that the screen wasn’t covered under the guarantee – after a series of exchanges of letters over a few months, that resulted in Carrefour saying that I should sue them – if I had the money ….

I really felt let down by Carrefour and Medion but apart from spreading the word around close friends and family – I couldn’t do much else …

Needless to say I have never set foot inside any Carrefour since, nor bought another Medion product since – nor has any of my family.

At least I may have had a voice with social media – me along with how many other people who have felt that they have been sold short in the past.

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