The internet has opened up a whole new world for consumers; we can now compare products and services, pricing and features in a matter of minutes. In the UK alone, the Office of Fair Trading recently stated that £240 million a year is collectively saved by the population through price and product comparison websites.
This ‘anywhere, anytime’ world means consumers are more informed than ever before. Informed consumers are powerful consumers. If consumers have access to more information and can search around for better products, cheaper pricing and better customer service – they’re not going to want to settle for anything less. On top of this, it’s now also very easy for consumers to share their experiences with others via social media communication channels – a quick Google search quickly reveals reviews or complaints that contribute to the decision making process.
Once upon a time, businesses were revered and treated like authority figures. This was reflected in the statements they made about their products and services. These days, consumers often won’t accept advice from a company if they believe they’re trying to sell them something. Even organisations like Apple and Microsoft – who have largely loyal customer bases – face growing clusters of naysayers overtaking blogs and chat forums with their negative opinions, refusing to accept that life is enhanced through the click of an iPad.
In the past, the result of a less than satisfactory service experience resulted in the customer sharing the poor interaction with friends or family. Or, if you were really aggravated, you’d pen an old fashioned letter and put it in the post (and probably never get a reply).
The communication revolution, fueled by the internet and the rise of smartphone and mobility devices has changed this completely. In a MarketTools survey, 34% of companies said consumers use social media to make a comment or complain about their products and services. The voice of the customer can be heard across millions of tweets and Facebook posts, instantly accessed by millions of people.
What this means for business is that in order to maintain a good reputation and compete successfully in today’s ‘information anywhere’ society they need to keep customers happy. This means listening to what the customers are saying they want, and changing the way they implement and develop customer service strategies in order to succeed in this new paradigm.
The future of customer service will be determined by today’s consumers, not dictated by business. Is your business prepared for this shift of power? I’d love to hear your views.