Image by ma.r.c.
I really thought it was clear by now. For ages the satisfaction of consumer needs has been the main purpose of market-oriented corporate management. In theory, at least. Yet, one could come to the conclusion that there still are companies that don’t take satisfying their customers too seriously.
Here’s a little example: Recently, I flew from Barcelona to Berlin with easyjet. As I got to the boarding area, the departures monitor said the flight was delayed for up to two hours. No further information given. An hour and 45 minutes later the plane finally arrived. After boarding, the head flight attendant apologized and offered each passenger a free plastic cup of what tasted like tap water as compensation.
Now I’m not a frequent flyer. Those folks would probably consider a two-hour delay trivial because they’re used to this stuff happening. Me on the other hand, I was worked up. Sure, there are cases much worse than mine. And yes, I know that delays can be caused by externalities beyond the airlines’ control. But come on, a sip of tap water?! Call me demanding, but I expected a little more effort than that. After all, the passengers’ perception of the easyJet brand was at stake.
On the flight, the incident got me pondering about how customer orientation apparently still doesn’t form part of some companies’ corporate culture. While brands like Zappos and Comcast receive massive praise for their success stemming from making customer satisfaction their top priority, others seem to ignore the fact that doing business as usual just isn’t going to cut it anymore in today’s demand economy.
[Check out Tom Fishburne's to the point cartoon broaching this issue.]
In this day and age, consumers wield more power than ever before, thanks to the web. The most popular example of said power is probably the “United Breaks Guitars” case: United Airlines ground staff damaged singer-songwriter Dave Carroll’s guitar by throwing his guitar case while loading the aircraft. After a long struggle, during which United denied liability and refused to compensate for the damage, Carroll wrote a song about the incident.
Also, a video to the song was shot and uploaded to YouTube. The video went viral and has been viewed on Carroll’s channel alone over 8.7 million times to date.The attention the video attracted – including extensive coverage from traditional media – eventually made United Airlines change its ways.
Carroll talks about the lessons from "United Breaks Guitars"]
But companies/brands don’t only have to worry about the creative singer-songwriter making his complaints heard online. Sites like Brandkarma, social networks and other outlets offer average consumers platforms for public criticism, too. That’s why companies/brands should be concerned about their perception amongst consumers. And they are.
More and more, they try to leverage social media to positively affect how consumers are viewing them. The problem is, though, that many companies still haven’t quite grasped the difference between traditional and social media. They still communicate the way they handle things offline: without really taking the consumer, his wants and needs, into account.
Things have changed. As creative strategist Alan Wolk puts it: “Traditional media is about what the brand wants to say. Social media is about what consumers want to hear”. The key is identifying what the consumers’ needs are and then figuring out how to meet those needs. Spewing content that’s chock-full of marketing speech won’t get you anywhere. Listening and responding in a human voice, adding value – that’s where it’s at.
Making consumers happy takes effort. Effort that some companies seemingly don’t deem worthwhile. Neither offline nor online. “Caring is massively underrated”, as Gary Vaynerchuk stated in his SXSW 2010 presentation. I have to agree on his point that companies need to start actually “giving a f***” about the consumer in order to succeed in today’s word-of-mouth world.
At the end of the day, consumers are the ones who make businesses flourish. That’s why they come first. That’s why they’re king. Whether you like it or not.
Filed under: Business
, Social media