Thursday, April 24, 2008

Consumers, Social Media, and Customer Care

Today’s consumers gain more and more power, and marketers have to adapt. As the new technologies are evolving at a great speed, companies have to constantly look for new opportunities and change their marketing strategies accordingly. There was a time when having a successful website was enough, but not anymore.

Word-of-mouth has always been important, and its importance is growing now as social media gives the opportunity for happy and unhappy customers to speak up. They can convey their messages about long queues and high prices in the Nokia Care Center not only to their best friend, mum and a bunch of co-workers (the number of people depends on how long they had to queue) but to much larger audiences. Social media is free, convenient and enabling. It allows one to influence the others, and sometimes we don’t even realize how big this influence is. That is why so many brands are turning to relationship marketing now, trying to establish a dialogue with consumers.

A lot of people use social media not only for self-expression, but for research. The Society for New Communications Research is conducting a study “Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media”. The initial findings allow to state that a vast amount of consumers use social media to share customer care experiences and research companies’ customer service reputations.

More than 300 people participated in survey in February-March. The results show that 72% of respondents research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes, 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer care experiences shared online, 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care. When customers were asked which companies have used social media better than others, Dell and Amazon were the winners.

I see these findings as very important for the companies to look at. Brands can’t avoid listening to consumers. In order to have a better reputation, they need to provide better support to customers, communicate with them and understand their needs – both online and offline. Otherwise they risk not only losing a few customers in a short term, but possibly undermining consumers’ trust in their brand in a long term.

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