Ear to the Ground


Ear to the Ground

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  February 12, 2013

This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.

It’s been about half a year since we launched CUSTOMER magazine, which continues TMC (News - Alert) on its 30-year journey of covering the customer service space.

As many of you know, TMC got its start covering the call center space with the launch of Telemarketing magazine. In January of 1996, we expanded the title to Telemarketing & Call Center Solutions. TMC dropped the telemarketing part in July 1998 and went with the broader handle: Call Center Solutions. Then, responding to the rise of CRM, TMC in January of 2000 officially broadened its coverage and title again to Call Center CRM Solutions. And the first issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine hit the street in December of 2000.

More recently, customer service has taken an interesting new – and even more dramatic – turn.

The wealth of online content, the popularity of the smartphone, and the widespread use and unpredictable possibilities of social media have turned marketing, sales and support upside-down, as Executive Editor Paula Bernier (News - Alert) wrote in the inaugural issue of CUSTOMER magazine.

That’s what led us to launch CUSTOMER.

The technological innovation, the new opportunities for businesses and customers to interact and engage, have also given customers unprecedented control and – in the case of the online experience – led many of them to expect nearly instant results and gratification. As one source recently told us, in the online world, everyone imagines himself at the front of the line.

So, businesses now have to expand beyond surveys and longer-term voice-of-the-customer activities and keep their ears to the ground on a daily basis. But, the new demands related to customer service go further still. Not only must businesses increasingly listen to what customers are saying via social media and other channels, but they should outfit themselves to be ready to move in an instant when a situation requires such action. And they surely need to be able to deliver, engage and target customers via a variety of in-person and online channels.

Building customer loyalty and driving financial growth is about more than simply being reactive. Businesses can also use the new trend toward connected lifestyles and big data to their advantage by leveraging customer data from one or many sources, and advanced tools that enable them to better understand their customers – down to an individual level – and cater to those customers with personalized offers and messaging.

This, in turn has resulted in a new breed of software and analytics platforms designed specifically to monitor, capture, track, analyze, and even respond to the multiple sources of social commentary, in an effort to capitalize on customer preferences, trends, and feedback. And, whereas traditionally, customer experience was a personal matter, today’s businesses are seeking more and more to build communities of experience – or have third-parties build and manage those communities for them – to capitalize on the always-on and always-connected customer.

Big data, social analytics, enterprise social software, social CRM, social media integration, social marketing, mobile marketing and LBS, and much more, are all part of the new world order of customer interaction, where the customer has a much louder megaphone than ever before. The businesses that equip themselves with the best multichannel listening tools – and tools to react appropriately as needed – will come out on top. 

Indeed, today’s customer wields much more power than his predecessors thanks to technology. But, businesses can harness the same technology to create a balance of power of sorts. If the customer is happy, he spends – and when he spends, the business succeeds.

As Henry Ford once noted, “It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages.”

Not every business has reacted to the changes in technology that have created the transfer of power in the customer-business relationship. But, any that has designs of remaining in business for any length of time, will need to make plans to address this new reality.

We at CUSTOMER magazine would love to hear what your company is doing with this new customer paradigm. If you have a story to tell, we’re all ears – as you should be too.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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