Authority of the Social Customer

“Social media is much more than self-promotion. It is a two-way street, a set of tools that allow you to reach out to people and become the bringer of positive things and experiences. In turn, these people will not just support you. They will be there to help you increase your reach and audience – and turn your business into a viable endeavour.” – Cendrine Marrouat

From the current scenario of digital dominance and the mind-boggling growth of social media has risen the new ‘social customer’. So great is the authority of the social customer that even the largest and most reputed brands are very diligent in managing them. This new type of customer has the capacity to make super-stars of small businesses and raze well-established businesses if displeased. The social customer has changed the customer service and experience game, on its head. Customers first seek opinions from their friends and associates via discussions and posts on social media often leaving out the company or brand in these discussions. This proves to be a rather significant challenge for the companies since they are unable to control the reactions and discussions, either talking positively or a negative trend.

The main thing to consider for companies is however, that they must do something about it since letting discussions about them become a massive revolution could be detrimental. When customers are able to manage their social customers well, not only do they continue to do business, they also spread and influence the other social customers to buy as well. This in turn lowers costs for companies to promote their products and also attract new customers. However, no company is in a position to ever get the managing of the social customer wrong. One wrong move can and will have severe repercussions.

The social customer figure is increasing surely and steadily and includes any person who is active on social media – age notwithstanding. Every customer has an opinion that they will voice and this proves to be extremely powerful and authoritative when it is a matter of endorsing or putting a company down. For example even a burger selling cart vendor can become famous when customers begin talking positively about how great the burgers are. A large fast food chain on the other hand could realize the hard way how not to take customers for granted. Everyone is waking up to the authority of the social customer – from the largest to the smallest businesses – and for many good reasons.

– A social customer is more likely to be influenced by their friends and associates and not so much by the company. Only when companies are constantly mindful of the needs and wants of every one of their customers will be able to rest easy. Then online discussions and reviews will not bother them or give them sleepless nights. These online positive comments are powerful instruments of publicity and have acquired a heavyweight status in the realm of influencing others, companies and their level of customer service. The authority of the social customer is the new dealer maker or breaker.

– The worst part about negative comments from the social customer is that not only do their friends read it, the comments are further shared with other friends and also a large number of other people also get to ready them. This happens in a matter of minutes leaving very little reaction time from companies. No customer experience will go untold and unheard and according to The 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer, every social customer will tell at least 42 people about their experiences – good and bad – with a company. Unfortunately most experiences shared are mostly negative or critical. The significant aspect of this in addition is that prospective customers are more likely to read and listen to these comments to influence their buying decisions. Any number of attractive offers from companies would then fall on deaf ears. Terrifying but true – the authority of the social customer is here to stay.

– Businesses and customer relationships are built on trust and this is true even for the relationship via social media. If a company ignores a complaint or even a query sent via social media, customers treat it as a breach of trust. This tells them that the company is uninterested in them or their problems. However, customers do not just sit around and wait for answers, instead they harness the power of technology and information and find themselves new companies and ones that will listen and respond to them. The social customer is quicker and more adept at moving on to the next service provider – it’s that simple.

– Companies just have to make the necessary adjustments to meet the ever increasing demands of the customers. Customers know that technology and the internet have made it possible for instant connectivity and solutions and basis that expect responses almost instantly. They expect that irrespective of the day or time of day or night, the company will respond to them, especially if the company has customers from different countries and time zones.

– While phone lines and emails may still be used, the rise of the social customer seems to outweigh all the other communication channels. Customers are more actively seeking customer service through social media sites and those companies that are consistently and promptly delivering, are able to see positive results for their endeavors. The effort these companies exert is seen as exceptional customer service leading to customer satisfaction, brand ambassadors and customer loyalty in the long run. Customers must be kept constantly engaged via social media as such customers tend to spend at least 20-40% more on companies that engage with them so. Customers seek quick responses and efficient handling of their expectations, and companies that use the power of social media are able to service their customers in the way the customers want. This is an open acknowledgement of the authority of the social customer, which is highly appreciated by this new age customer.

Instead of fearing the social customer, companies must quickly adapt and learn techniques to harness this ‘tidal wave’ and thus gain positive, long term and sustainable rewards for their company. Even an understanding will not suffice if companies do not constantly seek to better their standards of customer service for these customers. The social media environment is one of instant reactions and responses. Customers do not need to wait before they can convey their displeasure to and about a company. The power of social media is recognized and being used to the fullest by the social customer and companies are being forced to keep pace.

Earlier, the power to make or break was with the company and depended on their products and rapport building. However, this power has now, and permanently it seems, shifted to the customer raising the authority of the social customer enormously. It is strange then that some companies still are unable to see this changing face of power. The kind of customer service being provided will not match up to the expectations of this new aggressive kind of customer. It is impossible to censor negative comments or tough questions since once these are on, some percentage of social customers has already seen them. It would be simpler to adapt and change the company’s social media management and customer service levels to match the expectations of the social customer.

Is your company actively listening to what they want and are you responding in the way and time that they want? If not, get cracking on a team that would carry out this function – it will soon prove to be the most critical team you have ever had. Undermining or ignoring the authority of the social customer is just not a good or business enhancing idea. The rise of the social customer is a fantastic reminder to all companies that they are newbies, even if they were earlier considered experts in the field of customer service. There are always more and better ways to learn to service the social customer.

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