Eight Telling Changes in Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors
Factors such as loyalty programs and the use of technology are influencing consumers' decision to stay with or leave their providers.
Thanks to social media networks such as Twitter, customer service is becoming a real-time process.
Companies such as Dell and others have established social media command centers where they actively listen for comments on the company. When they discover negative commentary related to any of the company's products or brand, the company actually forwards those comments to customer service representatives who are charged with resolving those issues as quickly as possible, says Dell Chief Marketing Officer Karen Quintos.
For Dell, social media has emerged as a critical tool for repairing a brand image that suffered considerably in the wake of some highly publicized product quality and support issues. Now the company has even begun to classify certain social media influencers into people who are Dell "ravers" or "ranters" with an eye of turning those ranters into ravers by providing levels of customer service that exceed anything that was possible before the advent of social media made communicating with customers in real time possible.
In fact, a recent survey of 200 companies conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dell found that while only 20 percent use social media as part of their marketing strategies, a full 72 percent have plans in place to increase their social media investments. Obviously, most of those investments are going to be tied to lead-generation activities, but many of them are going to discover the critical role social media now plays in customer support.
Of course, providing this level of customer service can be costly. Many companies try to manage customer service calls down as part of an effort to maintain profitability since customer support costs go straight to the bottom line. But in an age when anyone who is unhappy with a product can simply start ranting in front of millions of customers on a network such as Twitter by simply putting a hash-tag mark in front of a company's name, the damage that those rants can do to a company brand are incalculable.
The degree to which companies need to be proactive about customer service on social networks will vary depending on how much they rely on selling products to a consumer versus a business. Today, every customer who is unhappy has easy access to a smartphone that allows them to share their frustrations with thousands of other people in a matter of minutes. That means instead of getting back to people over the phone in a couple of days, companies now need to respond in real time because customer service is becoming a critical component of the overall marketing equation.