I understand that social media is the hot new kid in town, with hundreds of blog posts per day, emerging stars like Gary Vaynerchuk, and Webinars and conferences springing up like wildflowers after a Spring rain.
Hell, I make my living as a social media consultant and trainer, so I’m certainly contributing to the boom.
But, let’s not forget that social media does not – and cannot – exist in a vacuum. It’s not as if your brand can overcome a litany of other deficiencies just because you’re engaging customers on Twitter, or blogging every day.
If your product or service is inadequate, social media won’t fix that, it will highlight it. And more importantly, if the way you treat your customers within the social media sphere is inherently different than how you treat them elsewhere, you’re playing with fire.
That’s one of the concerns I have with some of the brands that are using Twitter well. Comcast, for example. Frank Eliason and his team have doubtlessly helped thousands of customers in a very real and tangible way through their @comcastcares Twitter-based customer service program. People that have interacted with Frank and Co in that channel invariably rave. But, does the customer experience elsewhere meet the same standard? Do customers that access Comcast customer service via phone or email also rave?
(I’m not a Comcast customer, so that’s a semi-rhetorical question. If you have some insights, please comment)
Are we inadvertently creating a Customer Chasm, where those who are socially media active are receiving preferential treatment compared to those who are not? And not just in customer service, but in customer acquisition too?
Papa John’s gives discounts for online pizza ordering to their Facebook friends. The aforementioned Gary Vaynerchuk sends out periodic free wine shipping offers via Twitter. I’m working on a project where a company would provide priority appointment setting opportunities to friends and followers.
Is that great marketing and killer customer service, or is it unfair?
Are we disproportionately rewarding customers just because they are using the newest technology? Are customers that interact with companies by telephone and email not cool enough to matter?
I think there’s three possible approaches:
1. Equality: We should be treating all customers equally and ensuring a consistent experience with the brand
2. Segmentation: We are purposefully providing social media active customers a different experience, one that’s optimized for their preferred method of brand engagement, the same way that some mobile phone customers get their bills via, and some get them via postal mail
3. Relationship Value: We are intentionally providing customers using social media an enhanced experience. By doing so we will create profitable relationships that generate a higher lifetime customer value than would be generated by customers not using social media
Which of those is the best justification for creating a social media divide among your customers?
(photo by mio_please)