Monday, January 17, 2011

The case for ignoring your customer

I quite often hear of organisations which take the quite deliberate action of ignoring what their customers say about them online.

They reason that either:
1) They tried engaging and a group of antis came to dominate the conversation, (many brands gather themselves some long-term enemies)

2) There are only ever negative comments - and they 'already know' what customers don't like (think utilities - stuff that you take for granted until something goes wrong).

Both of the above represent a door closed on innovation.

Imagine, if you will, that all those complaining about your org or brand are in reception at HQ. In their hundreds or thousands. Would you ignore them, their feedback and their ideas?

Why then, when they have taken the time and trouble to tell you (and their peers) what they think of your products and services, would you ignore this crowd at your online door?

If thousands of newspapers and magazines had published negative comments, would you ignore them? Why ignore all those published online - collectively delivering huge reach and much greater trust.

And if a cohort of angry antis seek to dominate the conversation, think again about their concerns. Why are they so angry? How has your connection with your customer broken down so badly? Could you fix the damage of decades of mass broadcast comms with some human-scale peer to peer conversation? Could you show a brand is just a representation of the activities of people? Good interactions with people shift perceptions about brands.

It may be tempting to ignore the lone-but-noisey anti-fan - but something makes that person do what they do. No one sets up websites, twitter accounts etc and keeps building them over sustained periods without a pretty strong set of reasons. Are they reasons that matter? You'd best find out.

Further - disengaging with all your online customers as a result harms you, not them. All you leave behind is anger and a record revealing your ignorance which remains unchallenged and which stays on record for ever.

3) The third group who ignore are those who believe they know better than their customers. Some luxury brands take this view.

It comes from the belief that super premium brands are there to lead, not follow.

Those that believe this should take a look at their company history and ask themselves if they haven't at any point changed their products, servicing or marketing in response to customer usage, perception or complaint. Social media monitoring just writes that process fast and large.

In short I don't see a case for ignoring your customer. When you do so you are saying:

We know better than our customers - all of them, always.

And not even Steve Jobs would claim that.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?