[Originally posted on Serengeti's Endless Plain blog on 9/16/10. I have edited some of the contents for this post.]
A post by Dawn Westerberg, “Social Media, Customer-Centric, and #IMCchat,” prompted a long response from me, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here too.
If you read THoM, you might already know that every Wednesday night I co-moderate a chat on Twitter called #IMCchat (that’s the Twitter hashtag, if you want to search Twitter), which stands for integrated marketing communications chat. If you are new to Twitter or if you haven’t been on a Twitter chat yet, I highly recommend checking them out (here’s a list of Twitter chats that Meryl Evans keeps up-to-date). Chats are a wonderful way to ask questions or engage in conversation around a topic that is of interest. It’s also great to learn, get advice and share information.
Dawn asked two main questions in her post:
- Regarding the music industry… If the notion of customer-centric is that the customer drives the product or service delivered is that always a good thing?
- Regarding social media… Is there a danger of “listening” too closely to social media if those participating are only a tiny percentage of your total customer base?
Here’s my response:
Clarifying Customer-Focused vs. Customer-Centric
As Anna Barcelos (IMC chat co-moderator) mentioned, in a ‘customer-focused’ organization, they provide products and/or services that customers want but do not drive ALL operations around the customer. For example, Apple. They build products that customers love, but the customers don’t get a say in the functionality of those products.
A customer-centric organization puts the customer at the center of the organization (think of a circle with the customer in the middle, then the next circle surrounding the customer circle is the company. It’s not the top-down management chart we are used to). From that perspective, all operations are focused on the customer. An example here would be Fiskars. Through their community, the Fisk-a-teers, Fiskars taps into the community for new product ideas (Engineers call themselves “Fiskaneers”) and allows key members of the community to test products before they are manufactured or even are considered for the market.
[NOTE: To read an in-depth case study on Fiskars, I highly suggest reading Brains on Fire’s new book, aptly titled, Brains on Fire.]
See the difference?
Being Customer-Centric in the Music Industry
Regarding the music industry, being customer-centric would revolve more around the music producers and less around the musicians. For example, if I were a customer-centric music producer I would make sure (based on data) that I was producing artists my customers wanted to buy (vs. pushing a product), but more importantly, making that music available the way customers want to buy it (convenience vs. distribution) and at a cost (versus price) they are willing to pay.
For example, I love Putumayo (a producer of world music) and I used to buy a ton of their CDs. But all of these years later they still only sell offline at shops and boutiques or via their site. Because neither are convenient for me these days (I buy via iTunes), I am no longer a customer.
Using Social Media to be Customer-Centric
As for listening via social media, it’s correct to assume it’s too limiting. Especially if an organization (B2B or B2C) isn’t engaged. However, we need to consider social media beyond Twitter and Facebook. We can’t forget about communities (private or public), like Fiskars’.
Also, it’s important to understand that social media allows for the collection of data organizations were never privy to in the past. And I don’t mean collecting Twitter handles and putting them into the CRM system. I mean analyzing the collected social data for trends, connections, preferences, etc. (i.e. Audience Research. Something the team at Serengeti specializes in from a social media perspective).
For example, when organizations use that “social” data (whether it’s on Twitter via a blog post or a conversation with customer service) to “hear” the same complaints over and over about how a product or service works, it’s an opportunity to tap into those customers, get their feedback and fix the problem. That’s being customer-centric.
Do you own or work for a customer-centric organization? Do you have any samples of organizations you think are customer-centric? Which type of organization would you rather do business with?
Feel free to join into #IMCchat. It’s every Wednesday night at 8pm ET.
[Image Source: respectalliance.com]