Customers Are Now Social Customers

The nature of customers has changed and companies need to keep pace with these new “social customers” by changing their interaction style and properly utilizing social media, says Paul Greenberg today in his keynote address—“Voice of the (Social) Customer”—at SpeechTEK 2009 at the New York Marriot Marquis.

“Not only do you have customers, you are customers,” Greenberg says.  “And you are social customers.”

Greenberg says the revolution in customer relationship management (CRM) has not been a business revolution, but a social revolution—one that has changed the way people communicate.  And, as a result, customers have become social customers.

Greenberg points to the Edelman Trust Barometer as indication of this shift. In 2003, 22 percent of respondents indicated they would trust “someone like me” over an expert’s opinion. In 2008, that number jumped to 60 percent, a shift that stresses the importance and power of customer peer trust, the internet, and social media tools.

In order to maintain positive customer relationships, Greenberg, says companies must maintain a high level of trust with customers and work to capture their attention.

“Your ability to keep that customer, your ability to capture [their] attention is paramount,” Greenberg says.  “Your customer insight becomes mission critical.”

According to Greenberg, social customers want accelerated and enhanced interactions and expect institutions to respond to them via the communication channel of their choice.

“This is, in fact, the way the social customer thinks,” Greenberg adds.

The good news, he says, is that social customers are always willing to talk with people they trust and will interact with companies if provided with the information and services they need.

Greenberg stresses that because social customers have well established channels they have the power to either help or hurt companies.  And because of this power, it is imperative for businesses to understand, work with, and respect customers,

“Customers are right at the center of the business ecosystem.  It’s not a corporate ecosystem anymore,” Greenberg says.  “And that’s the reality that every business has to deal with and it’s not an easy one to deal with.”

Greenberg says that sales, marketing, and customer services have been the three historic pillars of CRM.  But he notes that while sales used to be the driver, now customer service is becoming the driving force.

The challenge for businesses, Greenberg says, is figuring out how to create the kind of customer experience that will make customers advocates for businesses.

Greenberg says companies that effectively turn customers into advocates provide tools that enable customers to create their own experiences. He stresses that a multi-channel approach—one that includes the telephone—is key to appealing to a variety of customers. 

“We cannot underestimate the value of the telephone,” says Greenberg, noting that 77 percent of people feel the telephone is the best way to deal with an enterprise.

“What we have to be engaged in…is figuring out what the conversations customers are having about us is from a broad level and from an individual and personal level,” Greenberg says.  “And we have to get to know those customers.”

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