Axel Schultze got my attention over at Social Media Today. We were discussing the Forrester report on sponsored conversations and as comment to my post he quoted his post "Not the Internet but the business model killed industrial media."
Of course, if he were a reader of my blog, he would know that I've written about that here in my Sunday series on new media and mainstream media.
Which goes to show that even though we're having these conversations on content and may make instant friends online, we do not really know each other or the whole of how we think and operate until we take the time to talk, listen, experience, and maintain a dialogue.
That is valid for companies as well. And although businesses constantly talk about scale and critical mass, they very much win or lose in the marketplace on the basis of single relationships. We're customers one at a time. Try telling that customer on the phone with you that you treat thousands of people that way, and see what happens.
In a post that addresses the topic of Recession 2.0 Axel shares observations on the current economic situation. As a linguist, I find his title interesting:
There is little of the usual in business today, and I'm increasingly intrigued by the fact that many an organization still thinks it can optimize and contract its way to greatness. The social web has changed not just the way we consume news - it has also changed how we want to contribute to creating that experience and the expectation we have of the companies that are in the business of delivering it.
To create a better business experience for your customers, prospects and partners, you need to (building on Axel's points):
(1.) Re-architect your every impression
Although it is the first impression that is often the only impression a customer will get of your service, every interaction counts. Impressions are the currency in social interaction, the equivalent of ad exposure and a much better metric with engagement.
- Put your best people on customers - “I don’t want to talk to a sales rep, I’m not ready to buy,” a customer told me on the phone. This is what happens as a result of compensation tied exclusively to a sale made and not a long-term account or customer relationship. There are experts in an organization we are willing to talk with because we know they will put forth an informed opinion and advice without trying to sell us something we don’t want right now. Ironically, we may end up buying as a result.
- Talk with customers differently - You speak the language of efficiency and scarcity, your customers think in terms of collaboration and story - most likely their story/experience with you and other providers. You hear what they say as a problem, when you could be listening for the opportunity it comes with. An ad can be the tipping point.
(2.) Rethink your product / service / pricing model
This is where re-engineering will come in handy, not when you're going to have layoffs to preserve the core. At that point, your business is already in a coma and will be on life support until someone comes along and pulls the plug. I've long believed that a business needs to stay calibrated and aligned with market demands, thus rendering drastic measures unnecessary.
- Reinvent the customer relationship - Today it's our responsibility to start rebuilding and refocusing, not just to do more with less, but to really get a sense of exactly what makes a difference. Making meaning with our customers is one way to growth. Part of it depends on our product and services - are they innovative, do they keep up with the needs/wants, do they help customers in substantial ways?
- Amazon's secret to online dominance - It's in the many micro-interactions that we have throughout the site that we end up spending time and eventually money. Amazon has price transparency and helps you choose more products by presenting the information in a certain way.
(3.) Redefine your corporate values
I like the suggestion of managing and measuring customer experience by tangible activities in the ecosystem. Do you elevate your customers to the role of advisers? Today at Fast Company expert blog we discuss how to build the tangible activities that make customer contact the relationship sport it should be.
Those who want to put on a white lab coat and analyze customers in a vacuum, perhaps, aren't interested in having a frank conversation with a customer who thinks your ad sucks, it doesn't speak to them, and you don't get it. That would be a lost opportunity.
Value in the marketplace is determined by your customers. Do they think you're relevant and trustworthy?