The Social Customer vs The Jobs People Do


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I think we’ve come to a critical juncture in the discussion about the Social Customer. It seems that we keep focusing on the customer directly, and not in the context of the jobs people do to make the customer experience and outcome the best it can be. Just engaging in social conversation using social media, does not make a customer centric business, or person. It simply makes you someone who is distracted by shiny new things. That can be dangerous, because you still have to get the rest of your job done – and this distraction is invariably making that job harder to do.

What is the job to do done? Is a job sharpening pencils? Or is that only part of a bigger job? Is the job data entry? Or is that part of a bigger job. Is the job fork lift operator, or is that part of a bigger job? In my extremely mind-blowingly simple diagram below, I’ve depicted…

  • At least six different jobs, or
  • A Managers job, or
  • One of the jobs of a business, or
  • All of the above

The fork lift operator is employed to perform one or more tasks. In this case let’s keep it simple by suggesting he goes back and forth all day and does nothing but picks up boxes and puts them into a truck. I’m sure he considers that a job. But to the business, the job to be done is delivering a product to a customer. The entire job goes from ordering parts all the way to getting the final product in a consumers hands.

Sure, this is overly simple. And from a business’s perspective, we can certainly identify more jobs to be done. But in this simple example, is there one product that can be optimized to bring innovation to this complete job? Let’s look at the forklift. How can the forklift manufacturer optimize the job, or make the job move faster? Maybe they could make the fork lifts faster! Or maybe the company just needs a deal so they can buy more forklifts.

The answer could be an innovation, either for the forklift manufacturer (doubtful), or a competing company. Let’s say a new company started making a automated conveyance system that could eliminate the packaging step, optimize the inspection step and take the product right to the box truck?

So, if you simply focused on a product, you might miss out on the real potential for innovation.

So How Does This Relate To The Social Customer?

There is only the customer and the job to do for the customer – the social piece is irrelevant unless you just like to make up new words. Smart businesses who are gathering information and adapting already understand that their customers are influenced by others in social communities just as they are still influenced by the more traditional social channels. They realize this, and they adapt. Has their business changed? Has the job to be done changed? When we go to cocktail parties, will we ask someone we meet “So, what kind of social business are you in?” or “How the heck do you manage to keep your social customers coming back?”

Factors surrounding the job to be done have basically expanded the canvas, so to speak. The expansion could be something about the environment the operate in, or a problem some companies begin to have getting the job done, or maybe a competitor that has innovated and put them at a disadvantage. If they focus on the products they use, they will miss the real problem, an expanded or slightly changed playing field. They still have to get the old job done. The more nimble companies will realize that something has changed and begin understanding what it is.

The social customer is posing that challenge to us today. Do we design a social solution around the social customer? Well, go ahead if you want. But you will be completely off the mark, in my opinion. Still, the job to be done now has to incorporate different engagement channels. If you design solutions that don’t work with the rest of the tools and channels already in place, have you moved the ball forward?

In reality, we are not going to throw the canvas away and start over again. We will expand our notion of engagement, collaboration or communication while leaving the old notions in place. The innovation will be bringing them all together in a way that allows us to continue the jobs that we have to do, while extending our capabilities to understand customer needs and reduce friction in customer processes. Sure, the old vendors that don’t get it will certainly be replaced with fresh ideas, but not at the expense of the jobs the have been done, and we will continue to do. You simply have to get the entire picture (job), not just the latest cutesy buzzword and the imaginary world it occupies.

The social customer is the customer. The social business is the business. Social CRM is CRM. The canvas has expanded, it hasn’t been thrown away.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Mike, I think you’re reacting too much against the use of the expression the social customer. It simply is an indicator of changed customer behaviors and expectations. We’re not dealing with some mutation of the human species into a new form. Humans are clearly inherently social which is why we survive and have things like institutions and civilizations. But how humans behave changes with time, circumstance and evolution, so to speak and we have to account for that change. The social customer is a way of accounting for the change. Social customers are not the bulk of the world per se but there 3.3 billion mobile devices which means the opportunity to potentially be a customer who trusts a bit differently, converses a lot differently and conducts their lives in a new way is there for the bulk of the globe. Plus those who are active carry a disproportionate amount of weight in buying decisions precisely because they are vocal. However, the point still is that if providing a great customer experience is the hallmark of your strategy then you can call the customer whatever you want and he/she can call you whatever he/she wants and it’ll all be good. The customer experience is still the essential piece of the customer puzzle to solve. What social customer recognizes as a term is simply that customer behaviors have changed in the past 6-7 years and have to be accounted for when developing a strategy to engage customers. The results will speak well.

  2. Paul,

    The thing I struggle with is how new terms tend to shift the focus from what’s important, to what’s new and shiny. I know I don’t come across as a huge Social CRM advocate, but that’s actually not the case at all. It’s just at the end of the day, the customer experience is what it’s about, as you said, and businesses that are focused on it don’t need new terms to get the job done.

    The real question, for me, knowing that this isn’t the focus of all businesses, is whether these terms will have any impact in changing the way strategies are designed for the average business. Which do they understand better? The jobs they are doing – which is specific, or the term social – which is hugely broad?

    While talking about a job that may not be getting done well, for whatever reason, it could certainly be appropriate to ask them if they’ve noticed that their customers have changed. Then, it’s in context. Doesn’t that make the “A ha” moment easier to come by?

    I guess I’m term-averse after so many years of “my CRM” and “we just got a new CRM” and things like that. Terms can be abused. A job is a job and I think a clear picture of how a customer has changed can be painted in terms of that job.

    At the end of the day, you’ve all got me using the term social this and social that in all my posts 😉

    K. Gotta run to a horse show and be social with my wife 🙂

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  3. While definitions are necessary, I will say that in the discussion going on around social CRM, they’ve been beaten beyond recognition and to death and thus, the value of the definitions have been diminished. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the company calls it, what the customer calls it, what we pundit types call it; what matters is that the experience was good and the goals were met – and that the goals to begin with were reasonable and appropriate for the company and benefited the customer.

    That’s about the long and short of it.

    Have a lovely equestrian experience!!


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