It’s expected that when you do any sort of online shopping, you look at reviews of whatever you’re buying. From computers to furniture and even socks, you can find a review of the product. (The thought of a review of a pair of socks is pretty funny.) Look on Amazon, any social media platform or a customer-review site such as Yelp. I dare you. There is even a website that can tell you where the best seats on a plane are located (hint: They’re next to the doors and right behind the galley).
The result of this is that any company offering any sort of product or service has become more or less customer-obsessed. This means that they are solely focused on making the customer happy (sometimes to the exception of all else). I was never a fan of this sort of thing. Airing dirty laundry or singing the high praises of a given business – This always seemed to be something you kept to yourself and only shared when asked about a specific product. But when we decided to take a family vacation, I fell into the trap.
About a year ago I was looking at flights for the said family vacation. I found a few reasonably priced flights, but something was gnawing at me: The fact that most of my experiences flying were really negative. Forget the fact that I really don’t like to travel in the first place. I’m talking about meals being lost, meals that were inedible, flights delayed for way too long and no offer of accommodations or compensation. So, I decided to take a gamble and see what people were saying on Facebook and other social media sites. Suffice it to say that my impressions of more than one airline were proven right. We ended up just going with the airlines we had positive experiences with in the past.
Ignore social media – at your own risk
Until recently (or whenever that first ticked off customer decided to rip a service provider apart on Facebook for a lousy experience), social media was considered the domain of the 20-30 year-olds, not something to be taken seriously. Definitely not something to be used by a respectable business for marketing or any other regular business venture. I remember Facebook when it was just for college kids and you had to register using a university email address. It was a platform that was basically used to connect with classmates, schedule study groups, show off your girlfriend/boyfriend and post pictures that no one in their right mind would post online today. Those days are gone.
Today, social media outlets are an integral part of a functioning business. Facebook itself can be used to process customer inquiries, take orders, and other functions that are typically done over the phone or the back-office staff. In fact, marketing departments are to a certain degree completely fixated on it in their efforts to market their company’s products to the widest audience possible, from Juneau, Alaska to Auckland, New Zealand and even to places like Vladivostok, Poconé and Tataouine (Yes, that’s a real town in Tunisia, not just a desert planet with two suns). There are even dedicated platforms for getting your message or products out to the public through the various social media outlets, be it via Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitters, LinkedIn, et cetera. Ignoring this marketing strategy of reach is perilous in the modern economy, as is ignoring what people say about you online.
Viral negativity and bad customers
Social media in essence is a platform which connects people. There are few safeguards or limits in place (and those that exist are seldom or selectively enforced), which in essence gives people license to say
When I was looking at various airline Facebook pages, I noticed that the reviews fit into one of two categories: complimentary or negative bordering whatever they want with no accountability or guilt and with a good degree of anonymity. Good citizenship is expected but often is not the case, especially when it comes to dealing with businesses. on the vindictive. The negative posts (which were much more numerous in a ration of at least 2:1) have been labeled by some as the equivalent of “bullying” while the positive posts are described as “product advocates”.
But it isn’t just bad customers and people behaving inappropriately because they can. Some companies tend ignore their customers’ demands or requests, which leads to the viral posts that cause losses and the humiliating mea culpas. It’s this combination of companies ignoring customers or not providing the proper amount of service, a platform that pretty much allows anyone say anything with no oversight or consequences and customer willingness to air their grievances to the public in a forum that broadcasts it to the entire planet that has led to the customer-obsessed services and industries that exist in the modern world.
So what is customer-obsessed commerce and how can a company achieve that standard? According to an article from Inc. Magazine, there are five habits that essential to it: (1) learning about customers at all times and innovation, (2) eliminating risk to the utmost, (3) give your customers a lot of attention – especially your major customers, (4) study the competition and learn everything about them, (5) make sure your concept works before investing money towards its construction.
However, this doesn’t include the social media aspect. The social media aspect involves being proactive about responding to customer comments on the Facebook page, responding on Twitter and even countering reviews on Yelp and other review sites.
Social media and the future of customer-obsessed commerce
Social media has affected communication with customers akin to how of like how Amazon completely revolutionized online shopping and e-commerce in general. With the expansion of the internet and the ability to instantly share grievances and triumphs, the trend towards customer-obsessed commerce will likely continue. According to Forrester analyst George Colony, it will probably continue for at least the next 20 years. The trend will also very likely affect technology in other ways, such as by rapidly expanding the use of mobile devices and increasing the flexibility of e-commerce platforms to be used on basically any device of the customer’s choosing.