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Application Software
Ragy Thomas  |  October 11, 2014
A New Age of Social, A New Age of Business

We have all seen what happens when people around the world find that they have a voice. They use it. Movements like the Arab Spring protests have been enabled, organized, and amplified through the power of social technologies. If these forces are powerful enough to shake the foundations of governments, surely they are strong
enough to affect the world of enterprise business.

But many large businesses continue to interact with customers in the same old ways, not acknowledging that we are in a new age of social connectedness, facilitated by ubiquitous Internet access and cellphone penetration. I call it simply “the new age of social.” Consider:

  • Anyone with access to a phone or computer can communicate with the entire world;
  • Customers know as much (or more) about a product and its manufacturer today than the people who sell it;
  • Customers now trust information from their global peers, and with help from the Internet, they can always select the best product or service available to them.

Large businesses can’t keep doing the same old thing in the new age of social. The world is changing and companies must keep up. They must put the focus on customer experience.

Moving from Efficiency to Experience

RagyPhotoA few years ago, Bain Consulting conducted a study that reveals the heart of the problem. They discovered that while 80% of companies believe they deliver ‘superior’ customer experiences to their customers, just 8% of their customers agree. This suggests a fundamental problem in how enterprises function. Businesses are not focused on consumer experience, yet it is the subjective experiences of consumers that determine who will become a brand loyalist or a brand detractor.

And it’s the subjective experiences of consumers that will either help (or hurt) your bottom line. Take a look at this story from Sprint:

In the summer of 2007, Sprint fired about 1,000 of its customers – yes, customers, that’s not a typo – for excessive calls to its service center. The “Sprint 1000” set off a firestorm of bad publicity and consumer rage. That same year, Sprint’s ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) score of 61 was the lowest in the industry, and the company was struggling to keep pace with competitors. To put it simply: Things were bad. Fast forward five years and Sprint’s ACSI score climbed 10 points to a competitive 71 – the biggest jump for any company in any industry. Sprint was even named “best in purchase experience” by J.D. Power and Associates. What caused such a monumental shift? Simply, Dan Hesse, Sprint’s CEO at the time, made customer experience a corporate priority.

That’s the power of customer experiences.

A customer is influenced by every single interaction they will have with a business.  A brand is no longer what a company tells people about itself. A brand is the sum of the experiences that a consumer has with that company at every single touch point.

In the Age of Social, Experience Is What Matters

Customers take note when they are treated well, remembered, cared for, communicated with, and made to feel like they matter as people. They also take note when they are not. But the holistic management of these experiences in the age of social is an astoundingly difficult problem for companies.

Large businesses are struggling to manage consumer experiences at every single touch point – and understandably so, because there are now innumerable touch points. But there is no other option. If large businesses are to survive this new age, they will have to change how they do business.

It won’t be an easy transition, but the path is clear…

You Start With the Voice of the Customer

There are 1.97 billion users of social networks today. They make up one third of the world’s population, and they all have one thing in common: They are consumers. Their actions on digital social platforms are more than just tweets and likes.

These actions represent their voice.

Hearing the “voice of the customer” in the context of business is the first step toward building a social business.

Listening to the voice of your customer can be mean different things to different brands… maybe it’s doing whatever you can to avoid flight cancellations because that’s what your customers tell you they hate most, as in the case of Delta. Maybe it’s crafting personalized experiences for hotel guests who’ve reached out to you on social media, like our friends at Kimpton. Maybe it’s offering helpful resources for those in need or simply letting people know you’re there for them, like the team at American Heart Association.

Whatever the voice of the customer means to you, integrating it deep inside your business is more important now than ever.

Not Every Brand Will Survive

We’ve seen what happens to brands that ignore the voices of their customers. They drift away from their most important audience. They lose the goodwill of their defenders. They suffer, and sometimes they die.

It is not easy to transform a large complex business from focusing on efficiency to focusing on the voice of the customer. But it has to be done.

 Ragy Thomas is the CEO of social-media management platform Sprinklr.

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