Social Media Busts the Pseudo Customer Centric


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It is hard to find a corporate web site that doesn’t tout the company as being customer-centric. It is equally difficult to call find a company call center that doesn’t promise to take excellent care of you. As we know, there can a big gap between rhetoric and reality.
Blogs, peer reviews and other forms of social media are exposing this gap. Customers are not shy about expressing their opinions about their customer experiences with companies. What’s more, other people are listening and taking heed.
A new study, Customer Experience Index 2007, from Forrester Research asked 4,700 consumers about their experiences with 112 brands in various industries. They wanted to know how the consumers rated the companies in three areas: usefulness, ease of use and enjoyability of their interactions with the brands.
Only 10% of the firms wound up with excellent rating and 21% were poor or very poor. Retailers like Costco, Borders and Barnes and Noble were near the top of the rankings. Telecoms, banks and medical insurance providers rank at the bottom.
This is not surprising since the companies at the bottom still act like the plan is to trick or confuse the customer.
I wonder how much negative customer commentary it will take to make them wake-up? Add this blog to the list.
As for the companies in the middle of the pack, every day customer voice their opinion online, the bar gets raised.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. John

    I haven’t seen the particular Forrester report. What I have seen from Forrester is biased towards the on-line customer experience, rather than the true end-to-end customer experience, including long periods of the product in use.

    My doubts about Forrester’s analysis notwithstanding, your post points out the difficulty today of hiding the ‘dirty laundry’ of a lack of operational customer-centricity, broken customer-facing processes and sometimes downright rude staff. Having spent much of the last 20 years helping companies of all types and sizes improve their customer-centricity in deed as well as word, I find it hard to believe that some of the abject service failures we have seen reported recently (Dell, ComCast, Sprint, Apple, British Telecom, the list is endless) are not due to the failure of said companies to deliver the busines basics that customers expect and which customers thought they had already paid for.

    The internet, social media and the coming mobile social media should be a wake-up call for companies that don’t deliver the goods. They can no longer assume that their failures won’t reach the light of day, or that they won’t become newsworthy. And they can’t assume that they won’t loose satisfaction ratings, customers and their profits if they don’t fix their problems at source. And the executives who have managed to keep their dirty laundry hidden all these years can’t assume that they will come out of all this looking whiter than white either. Or with a job.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. Graham,

    Your comments made me think about an earlier post of yours where you discribed the anger of the women when you approached her door to deliver a package.

    As customers we have had it with what we perceive to be one-sided agendas. When possible we avoid such situations. When they are intrusive we get annoyed, anger or worse.

    Certainly social media can be abused also, but the hope is that it will air the “dirty laundry”. And, by airing the “dirty laundry” of other customers with a one-sided agenda, will police itself.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

  3. John

    I fully concur. But I am not getting my hopes up too much. Not yet.

    The vast majority of companies talks about their increasing customer-centricity and indeed, most are becoming more customer-centric. But often from a low base and from the companies’ inside-out perspective. At the same time, customers’ expectations are increasing and their willingness to accept anything less than perfection is decreasing. But again from their outside-in perspective. It would appear that companies are from Mars, whilst customers are from Venus.

    The key challenge for companies is to understand what customers want, to get their delivery business basics fixed, to remove waste and variation from the business system (using lean and six sigma tools) and to deliver profitable value to customers throughout the customer experience. And then to improve all aspects of the business system continuously. The complementary key challenges for customers are to get involved in co-creating value with customers through customer-driven innovation, to set their expectations at a reasonable level, to approach companies responsibly when they have a problem (without just letting them of the hook), and to reward companies who treat them well with more business in the future. Note how these challenges match each other; as they should in co-evolving complex adaptive business system.

    Customers only win when companies win. And vice versa. Perhaps it is time that they worked together more in partnership. (Service catastrophies like BT’s treatment of Patrick Askins notwithstanding.) As Toyota’s experience has shown, this leads to more value exchange for all parties. And an unassailable competitive position.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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