Digital Disruption and the Rise of the Empowered Customer


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digital disruption

“There is no school for customer support or community management.”

~ Richard Wright, CEO, UserVoice, #userconf

We’re experiencing a revolution in customer support and service. Cute names pop up every day to clue in the clueless, but the reality is this: If those on the front lines of customer service have the tools and authority to do their jobs well, then we don’t have to label our employees with terms, like “Customer Hero.”

Or so said Mathew Patterson at the recent UserConf held in Chicago.

The ultimate value proposition is to empower people with the tools that help them do their job better, like Raven software does for online marketers and agencies.

Successful Internet-based companies, like Amazon, were built on self-service; and automation has increased the self-help aspect of all online communication. Customers’ expectations are higher than ever, as a result.

UserVoice CEO, Richard White, stated in his UserConf keynote, “Social media has changed the math on all customer service.”

A new survey concludes that, while a growing number of people are going on social media sites to complain about products and service, more than 50 percent of companies and brands are operating without strategies in place to deal with unhappy customers.

More than 21 percent of companies rarely, if ever, respond to complaints on social media, according to Social Media Marketing University (@SMMagic). Brands who offer a process for gathering feedback (not just on social, but on their website too) and who embrace customer care, will continue to win share of voice.

Those companies that are investing in new business models and embracing digital disruption are very likely winning the hearts and minds of customers because of their relentless focus on the customer experience.

Altimeter Group defines digital disruption as:

“The re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

Getting It Right

Every company presenting at UserConf demonstrated ways in which they are adapting for the digital customer experience.

Campaign Monitor – Support and product people have the opportunity to take things directly to the engineering team to be the catalyst of a product change for the better.

The makers of Wunderlist, Instacart and Buffer – In a crisis, communicate often, be transparent, and host all updates on your blog as “Mission Control.” Not all customers open every email or are active on social media.

Olark – Conduct outreach to understand how customers are feeling about the product. They even extend their appreciation with hand-packed boxes of candy and toys when the mood strikes.

Kixeye – Help community and product marketing work together through shared responsibilities and goals.

Basecamp – As online educators, Raven’s Customer Education Specialists were happy to hear @ChaseClemmons tell us to banish the term “webinar.” Name them what they are — online classes — to avoid any confusion by your customer base.

Hubspot – Brian McMullin talked about the importance of getting a seat at the product table and making feedback from customer support part of product development.

Atlassian – Holly Goldin talked about going above and beyond to make and keep customers happy with incentives that convey status, like badges or perks, like free tickets. They take it one step further with their “Kudos” program which allows any employee, not just customer support, to send gifts to customers at the company’s expense.

Freshbooks and Coursera – Both companies shared their insights on the value of data (“Know Thyself”) to get buy-in (“Know Thy Stakeholders”), such as collecting and sharing customer feedback and using data to make your case.

Squarespace – They are fully invested in creating a culture of mutual respect, trust and empowerment to arm their customer support team with both the confidence and tools to make fantastic decisions. These values drive the entire customer experience.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

~ Steve Martin

Adapting to digital disruption is more important than ever because it’s getting harder to get your product into the hands of your visitor or your message into the mind of your customer.

Customers wield unprecedented power and companies that can articulate their value proposition clearly and concisely will become part of the Golden Age of great customer experience.

What We’re Doing At Raven

Since returning from UserConf in Chicago, the entire education and marketing teams are detailing things we can change and improve upon ourselves.

From our revisiting and rewriting our extensive Knowledge Base to conducting regular online training classes to our drive toward continuous product improvement (which includes an soon-to-be released alternative to Google Analytics with an improved GA interface), we’re committed to mapping and understanding the customer experience to guide us, and our customers, through this era of digital disruption.

Check out UserConf. They’re heading to San Francisco in November.

Photo by Robert Saucier

Nicolette Beard
As a former publisher and editor, I'm passionate about the written word. I craft content to help drive the autonomous customer experience (CX) revolution. My goal is to show call center leaders how to reduce the increasing complexity of the customer journey.


  1. I’m shocked that 50% are operating without strategies to deal with unhappy customers. Seems like gambling with bad odds. The number of platforms that can be used by customers to spread a bad or good word has got to be scary for companies not participating! Good read – thanks!

  2. I frequently use TripAdvisor and have contributed close to forty reviews. I confess to be annoyed at businesses that respond to all reviews to say thank you to the good ones and to give an answer/excuse for even the smallest complaints. I once commented that the hotel wouldn’t cash any traveler’s checks. The hotel responded that doing so was against their policy and that a bank was down the street. I don’t consider that to be useful information. Such responses don’t reassure me but instead make me think that the business is very thin skinned and lacks confidence.

    I can accept responding to extremely harsh comments where the company has important information to mitigate the negative viewpoint (We were short staffed because of a major snowstorm.) or those that may have been made in error (We don’t sell the product that the customer is complaining about).

    Perhaps others feel differently than I do, but commenting on everything does not sit well with me.

  3. Hi Bob,

    I agree. You are an example of the highly engaged consumer. It’s interesting that you can sense the insincerity. Many brands still have a long way to go in balancing diplomacy with brutal honesty. Sometimes, a simple ‘we’re trying to do better’ make more sense.

    @Stephanie – It’s surprised me to learn companies fail to understand that customers are in the driver’s seat and that brand loyalty must be earned. PS – I didn’t realize I needed to sign in to comment, otherwise I would have responded sooner 😉

    Thanks for reading!


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