What is a social customer?
We refer to that portion of your customers and prospects that are socially connected and saavy as the “social customer”. They’ve earned a separate classification by being dramatically different from your ‘traditional’ customers in the key ways that we discuss below. This assessment is borne out by the recently released 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer study.
The social customer is different than a traditional customer in three key ways:
#1 The level of service they demand
#2 The actions they will take if they don’t get that service
#3 Their williness and ability to influence other buyers -- driven by good or bad service experiences
The social customer demands more:
There are a number of psychological and business theories about why social customers are harder to please. Whether it’s because they’re emboldened by their social collective or they’re just more aware of their right to expect what they were promised, the fact is social customers will force your company to deliver what it has promised and/or what should be reasonably expected with the purchase of your product or service.
Social customers will walk:
Customer apathy is a major friend to a lot of companies that provide below par service. Personal experience has shown that customers are often so reluctant to take action when they don’t get what they ‘deserve’, that companies can really get away with a lot But the social customer is conditioned differently — to walk away when problems arise and are unaddressed. What this does is it eliminates the leeway that below average service providers enjoy.
Social customers are influential:
As shown by the American Express study, social customers are more vocal in both directions: when they’re happy and when they’re not. The numbers show that they will tell more people about good or bad service. That means ignoring them will mean your company is either:
- leaving a tremendous viral marketing opportunity untapped OR
- exposing itself to a severe negative viral impact
Neither one makes sense and that means taking action is the only right course.
Why this should matter to companies NOW.
A. The social customers is already a big part of your customer base.
For most businesses, the cliff is coming close — that point at which the social customer can no longer be ignored and a company still have viable long term business model. The demanding, decisive and influential social customer can now make or break your company's overall business performance.
B. Eventually (in the very near future) the vast majority of your customers will be social customers.
That means adjusting across multiple areas of your business model. Whether its a predatory pricing tactic (like hidden bank fees) or ignoring hard to handle customer complaints, behaviors that only work outside the spotlight have to go.
C. Change now and go on the offensive or be on the defensive for the long term.
The power shift is here to stay and its continue to accelerate. Companies can no longer benefit from the scale advantage as the individual consumer is part of a larger network that witnesses and shares their experiences with your company.