The Customer Is Sometimes Always Right

The customer is always right — except for, of course, when he or she isn’t.

When it’s inconvenient for the company, or when the customer asks for something that could negatively affect the company’s revenue streams or business model, the customer is never right — even when he or she is.

That’s why there are so many blogs devoted to customer outrage. By contrast, the number of blogs devoted to companies that actually get it right with a customer — aside from those written by the companies themselves — seems very small.

Free Pair of Shoes

Becky Carroll, a long-time customer advocate and founder ofPetra Consulting Group, has been lending her voice to these “good news” stories.

“I wanted to share stories on what customer service looks like when it is done right — and also share, from the customer point of view, what it feels like to have a great customer experience,” Carroll told CRM Buyer. Thus her blog,“Customers Rock,” was born.

In her latest post, Carroll — who gets her stories from readers, from news items and, of course, her own life — tells ofan experience her son had atUtility Board Supply, his favorite skateboarding shop.

“TheFallen rep quietly asked Mike a question … and then asked my son his shoe size. [He] then went out to his truck for a moment, came back with a new pair of Fallen shoes, in my son’s size, and handed them to him saying, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’ My son was floored, and he profusely thanked Mike and Rich. He has since told everyone he knows and everyone he can think of about his experience and the free shoes he got. I know the word has spread throughout his friends, as well as to the parents of those kids.

“A simple act of kindness. A free pair of shoes. A customer for life — and now an advocate for Utility and Fallen Shoes,” Carroll enthuses.

Speaking of good customer service stories …Trish Lambert, principal of4-R Marketing, discusses the value that word-of-mouth, or WOM, marketing can deliver to an organization in her post,“Maximize WOM in Your Services Marketing.”

“I am completely at the mercy of my car mechanic,” Lambert writes. “I don’t know the first thing about car engines, so it would be very easy for a mechanic to charge me for services I don’t actually need. In fact, it has happened. After being burned more times than I want to think about, these days I rely on trusted friends who know cars to refer me to someone who will take good and ethical care of my vehicle.

“This isn’t something that you as a service provider have direct control over. You can ask, invite, encourage — even offer to pay them for referrals — but when it gets right down to it, the only way WOM will make a big impact on a service business’s growth is if clients are so excited and thrilled about it that they proactively endorse it to their own networks,” she insists.

Social Networks

Carroll relates that her son was being pumped for product-related information by his favorite retailer and shoe designer. Yet most customers don’t actually need the incentive of free shoes to reveal all in order to make a product better.

They usually do want to know how their information is going to be used, though, or, if the data mining is a little more subtle — whether it’s being used at all. Social networks like Facebook and MySpace have been getting slammed by users and in the media for their questionable privacy policies.

These free sites, it appears, view customers’ data as their property — no matter how vigorously the customer may protest. This approach is not smart business, writes Dale Wolf in his blog post“Social Networks and Trust.”

“Now, here’s where I gotta think Facebook has it all wrong,” says Wolf. “Every customer experience is designed to endear customers to us. We give a perfect customer experience, even when it costs us to do so. We do this because it builds trust and people buy from companies they trust. If the conclusion is that you cannot trust Facebook, then you should either be very careful [about] what you share with them (follow my simple rule) or you should admit the customer experience they give you is not a good one and you should vote with your feet.”

Speaking of social networks, Jackie Huba takes great pains in theChurch of the Customer Blog to distinguish between this new medium and the decades-old discipline of designing programs to bring about social change using concepts from commercial marketing.

Social marketing “products” are big ideas meant to change attitudes or behaviors — such as getting kids to stop smoking, protecting the environment, or encouraging condom use. It’s agenda-based marketing often driven by nonprofits. It is a recognized marketing discipline that was popularized in the early 1970s by Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman.

“I’ve noticed numerous references on blogs and podcasts that mislabel ‘social media marketing’ as simply ‘social marketing,’ probably for reasons of shorthand,” Huba writes in a post entitled “Social marketing vs. social media marketing.”

“Let’s not shortchange the real social marketers who’ve been working hard for years to change the world by confusing the two disciplines with an incorrect shorthand,” she urges.

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