Forrester talks about this as an "empowering" of the customer. And companies are scrambling to find ways to keep these customers satisfied.Twitter hasn't replaced the telephone for customer support yet, but the list of companies using it as a customer support channel is growing. Social media has given the customer an unprecedented soap box for venting about companies that do them wrong.
But what I haven't heard much about is what happens to those customers that don't have many Twitter followers or Facebook friends, or who don't use social media at all. Most social media monitoring and engagement software we're seeing has some sort of support for Klout scores, follower counts, etc. in an effort to help companies prioritize who should be answered first.
Does that mean your level of customer support will be tied to your Klout score in the future?
I've complained about companies on Twitter before when customer service couldn't help me, or were taking too long. The issues were resolved pretty quickly. In one case, the CEO of a company replied to me directly. This didn't make me feel special. It made me feel a uncomfortable. Was I able to jump the queue just because I have a relatively high Twitter following? What if I didn't have a Twitter account? Would my issues have ever been addressed?
I can understand the use of sentiment analysis, if the technology gets to the level that it's practical, to let the most angry people jump the queue. But even here, I question the strategy. Will people fake being angry to get priority service? What will that mean for all the calm, well behaved customers? Will they remain calm if they keep being ignored? Turning some customers into second class citizens is a bad strategy.
Here's an example from the book Empowered by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. Josh Korin was unhappy with his experience at Best Buy, and he tweeted about it. He had 596 followers, which is sizable but not massive. Best Buy responded to his tweets and solved his issue.
It turns out his wife is Amy Ravit Korin, a social media marketing consultant who had over 3,000 followers at the time. She tweeted about how Bust Buy helped her husband, and her followers ended up also tweeting about Korin's good experience. But it could have ended with her tweeting about how unhappy her husband was with his Best Buy experience if he hadn't had a Twitter account.
You can't tell by how many followers someone has how influential they are. Maybe a customer only has two dozen followers. But if that person happens to be Robert Scoble's aunt, she may have more online influence than you expect. And don't forget about private Facebook accounts and protected tweets. You could have hundreds of angry customers venting to thousands of potential customers about how slow your customer service is to respond to issues. And you won't even know it.
"Influence" aside, all customers count (not to mention the fact that influencers are overrated). A business' job is to keep its customers happy. Responding to complaints on Twitter and other social media can be a great way to do that, but don't forget: those greasy wheels aren't you only customers.
Photo by Tudor