Does Influence Matter in Customer Service?


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No.  My opinion of that was solidified last week thanks to a band of wikid smat (translated: “really smart” for you non-Bostonians) people led by Wim Rampen.  Wim tossed some tweet chum out there last week with this: 

This whole search for influencers and influence doesn’t sit right with me…what are your thoughts?

I took the bait.  And, this started a fascinating twitter chat about this complex, multi-dimensional issue.  My response was: 

I’m in customer service. I don’t care about influence. Customer has a problem, gotta fix it.

Do we ask callers who they know before we provide service?  Do we respond to emails with “I’d be happy to help you if you could first tell me how many twitter followers you have and how many people subscribe to your RSS feed”.  Of course not.  Being a bottom line kind of person, this is where I jumped to.  But, as others like Prem Kumar, Brian Vellmure and Mitch Lieberman pointed out, it’s complicated.

While I think we are all in agreement, each of these folks came at the topic from slightly different angles.  And there are many.  Case in point:  based on a recent article about Delta Airline’s use of Twitter for customer service, Mitch saw it this way.  Wim pondered the validity of influencers in general in a post that stimulated a great discussion.  Eric Jacques also weighed in.

So you can clearly see, it’s an issue with many moving parts.

My point is this.  Customers need service.  That part is simple.  So, I stand by my assertion that I don’t care about influence.  That is not to say, however, that every customer gets the same white glove level of service treatment every time, all the time.  Economic realities and scarcity of resources dictate that, in order to deliver a superior service experience, many organizations have a need to segment their customers for treatment.  But, what possible value is created by making those segmentation decisions based on influence?  According to Wim, he’s already witnessing this practice.  It’s even more insane in my mind to use this criteria over or in place of other measures like CLV, profitability or loyalty.

So, as I commented to Wim over on CustomerThink, picture this scenario:

Average Joe Consultant, who’s a Delta million miler and flies them exclusively, gets bumped from a flight, is disconnected from hold after 15 minutes or is charged cancellation fees or made to swipe his credit card to use the head because special treatment is being given instead to someone who tweets his request instead of calls, has 5 million followers but has never flown Delta before.

What if that was you, Joe?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


  1. It depends. If you are an intelligent & reasonable individual, that’s all the influence I need to take care of your issue properly.

    On the other hand, if you’re going to start name dropping and trying to pull the “Do You Know Who I Am?” Card, then my willingness quotient just dropped by half or more depending on how you’ve been treating me up to that point.

    And really, it’s a rather moot point in my experience. If a company has ID’d a client/customer as a VIP (or a person of influence, to stay on topic), those accounts are generally handled by a special subset of agent who are trained to handle those types of accounts.


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