Reading all the recent chatter about Facebook‘s redesign issues got me thinking. When did Facebook become the enemy? For that matter when did Google? Or AOL? And is it just a byproduct of success that you end up alienating (atleast some of your) core users?
Apple has got a famously loyal customerbase. But it’s definitely a far cry from the glory days of Guy Kawasaki and the other “brand evangelists”. Sure, a lot of us wait for the WWDC announcements and slobber over sexy new tech. But does anyone think that Apple is on their side anymore? Has the success of the iPod and the iPhone put them in a mass market space that makes them seem a little less like “one of us” than before?
This type of thinking was brought home to me even more this week when we conducted an Innovation Session for a partner of ours. They were working with a banking client and we conducted an “Attitudinal Analysis” on the banking industry in general. The results? Almost overwhelmingly negative responses with statements like “I don’t trust them.” and “They’re always charging me for things that I don’t want.”
These experiences were emphasized even more as I watched two different colleagues struggle with Apple’s customer service department and another big bank’s call center. The overall impression was no one (or at least very few companies) was on our side.
How can companies fix this? At Zemoga, we’ve got Client Strategy Managers whose job is to be the champion for our clients within the agency. We’re a service based company so it’s only natural for us to have staff who are dedicated to putting our clients’ needs first. But why don’t more companies do this?
When I attended a recent book launch for David Meerman Scott‘s WORLD WIDE RAVE, one of the featured speakers was Henry Posner, Director of Corporate Communications for B & H Photo Video (an amazing camera store in New York City). Henry is an active player in social media, participating in numerous blogs and user groups, constantly joining conversations about B & H and the products it sells. Henry is not a customer service guy. But he often addresses customer service issues in his communications.
Hearing his approach to B & H’s problems made me wonder, why doesn’t every company have a Henry? Or a whole bunch of Henrys? Wouldn’t we feel better if there was a Facebook rep for our town or city that we could complain to directly about the redesign instead of just venting too the entire internet? Wouldn’t it be great if there was an Apple evangelist for Brooklyn, who got in touch with all the local bloggers and let them know how iLife ’09 could make their lives easier? Heck companies like Apple and Facebook probably wouldn’t even have to pay these people. Isn’t this how user groups got started in the first place?
The internet is a truly powerful tool for bringing people together. Possibly the most powerful tool of it’s kind ever invented. But ultimately, person to person communication remains the richest transactional experience any business can conduct. It’s what makes social media so powerful and it’s the type of connection big companies need to make consumers feel like the people selling them are actually on their side.
What are you doing to directly engage your customers? Who is your Henry Posner?