In the industrial age, companies mass produced goods and promoted their products and services through mass media in order to sell them. Customers had little involvement in product creation (other than occasional feedback they provided through marketing research). And if customers had any problem, they contacted a support agent via mail or telephone.
Social media have radically changed this equation between companies and their customers by empowering customers like never before. Customers can discuss about products on social media channels and companies have no control over what customers are saying about their brands.
But instead of engaging customers on social media, most companies still rely on marketing the old fashioned way – a vestige from the industrial age! Marketing processes being followed today by most companies are still very similar to what was done in the industrial age.
Companies need to realize that when it comes to creation and delivery of products and services, expectation of “Social” customers are vastly different from that of customers in industrial age. “Social” customers expect companies to “listen” to them and take appropriate action on their comments regarding products and services they purchase and pay for.
Social media have provided tools for customers to express their opinion and customers are using Twitter and Facebook for the purpose. We see comments about brands/products on Twitter and Facebook all the time. For example, delayed flight or bad experience at a restaurant. But instead of listening to customers’ feedback on Social Media channels and engaging them, companies still expect them to call or write to them if they need any help. In a nut shell, companies are still living in the industrial age when customers have moved on into the social age.
In fact, I wrote about this almost two years’ back in a blog post titled “How Customer Engagement will determine winning brands in Social Era” In this post, I explained that level of customer engagement will determine mind-share and market-share for a brand. ONLY those companies that effectively engage their customers and prospects will emerge as winners and those that are not good in customer engagement will lose market share.
Unlike in industrial age, not involving customers during product/service creation and delivery, and very limited after-sale support via phone is not going to work any more. Companies need to use social media channels and collaborate with their customers at every step of product or service creation and delivery.
To survive and grow in the age of social media, companies will have to re-engineer their product design, manufacturing, delivery and support processes, and not just their marketing processes, in order to involve customers at every stage of product/service creation and delivery.
Companies that succeed in involving customers at every step of product/service creation and delivery will thrive and grow. Rest will become history. Question is how many senior executive realize the challenge that is in front of them and are prepared to make this transition?