The 2016 Customer Election

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by Teresa Allen

While watching the never ending media commentary on the the 2016 election, it occurred to me that the political arena is not the only place where a new reality has emerged.

The fight for customers in this year’s consumer election is also now totally in the hands of the disgruntled or delighted individual. Just as it seems that the power of multi-million dollar campaign spend by super pacs has little effect, the investment of millions in product advertising campaigns now pales against the screaming voice of the customer. Whether it be a United Breaks Guitars song or the audio of the Comcast employee who kept a disgruntled customer on the phone for 45 minutes, the single customer service close encounter on the front lines has repercussions in today’s marketplace louder than even a Super Bowl ad campaign.

So why has the landscape changed in such a profound way, and what is the message for those involved in the fight for customers? The power of social media in every channel is now indisputable. Companies who strive for customer success and market position cannot afford to ignore the voice of the customer as heard via social. Sitting on the sidelines with only a passing interest may be just as dangerous. The pulse of the customer must be monitored consistently and constantly. But simply monitoring the customer’s heartbeat is not enough. Engaging in social media with two-way communication is necessary to keep the heart pumping. Giving a jolt from the paddles in the ER when a bad customer service close encounter goes viral just won’t guarantee that the ailing patient lives!

Do you have to be a corporation with a Chief Customer Officer and a team of hundreds to compete? If you are a large corporation, the simple answer is yes. If you are a small business, the answer is obviously “I can’t do that!”, so what do you do? First and foremost, listen to your customers where they are talking EVERY DAY. Find out what they are saying and respond quickly whether the feedback is positive or negative. What if you are a small hotel or B&B and not Hilton? You can still monitor Trip Advisor customer feedback and respond to complaints and compliments. Let customers know how you are going to make it better for the next guest. What if you are a mom and pop printing business? Take interest in your Yelp profile; pay attention to what customers are saying about your quality, responsiveness, and delivery time and make business adjustments with those in mind. The scale may be different but the truth is, it now actually may be EASIER and obviously less expensive for a small business to respond to customer input than for their counterparts in high ivory towers. There lies the small business competitive advantage in today’s world!

I am your customer. Hear me ROAR…. If you want my vote in this year’s customer election, you better be not only listening, but responding with a common sense customer service strategy that keeps my heart pumping and my wallet spending!