A recent Ad Age article brought home the changes that are being forced on marketers these days.
A JetBlue passenger recently blogged about being unfairly slapped with a $50 charge for checking a box containing a bicycle (had the box contained anything but a bicycle, it would have been free). Then tweeters got involved. Within a few days JetBlue were groveling to him.
Michael Bush of Ad Age asks, “Are Major Marketers Training John Q. Public to Whine on Web?”
More important, by rewarding public complaints with exceptions, are companies becoming two-faced – showing a strict personality to most individuals but a cooperative one to those who scream the loudest?
It might well be that the quiet phone call to the 800 number is being replaced by the angry tweet. But what interests me more is that the incident illustrates how companies – and their marketing departments – need to evolve. You could say that companies go through three stages as they learn to deal with the power of customers in the online age.
- Stage 1 – Reactive. The company reacts when it has to, i.e. when the costs are high enough. One angry customer might not be costly, but an angry customer who knows how to tweet might be very high
- Stage 2 – Proactive. Rather than waiting for customers to scream, the company begins to engage the customer in a community and make them feel valued and listened to
- Stage 3 – Strategic. Marketing takes the lead to develop a cohesive listening strategy that knits together internal and external conversations to gain insight and co-create with customers new solutions that define competitive advantage
The lesson from all this isn’t that whining and moaning are what pay off. It’s that marketing owns the customer relationship in ways it never did before. Companies who realize are the ones who will thrive.