A few weeks back I referenced some major changes in the consumer-company relationship brought on by the internet. In the digital age, there are a number of things that consumers expect now that they did not just a decade or two ago. One of those things is increased transparency.
Consumers have a new sense of identity and importance, partially because we’ve given it to them as companies, and partially because transparency is just one of those things that comes with an online lifestyle. With less privacy than ever before, consumers come to expect more from a company before doing business with them.
Forums, blogs, social networks, and new online media means that there is a wealth of information available to your customers. There is more information out there now about any one company than ever before. And people are going to find it. You may recall that I recommend hiring or appointing someone to respond to and curate it.
But that also means that you have to be truthful and forth giving as a company. Allow customers to see detailed product info, only make guarantees that you know you can deliver on, be fair and honest with potential customers. Because if you miss the boat in any of these areas, people will let you know about it. And they’ll do it in the public forum where all consumers have access to the negative feedback.
Some companies exist solely for the purpose of helping consumers find a company that will treat them right. Angie’s List, Yelp, and the BBB are examples of organizations who promote fair business practices using real customer feedback. Everyone in the company should be aware that negative feedback is not acceptable (though some negative feedback cannot be avoided). Strive for perfection in all facets of customer interactions, and come through when a promise is made.
Like it or not, the sense of self-entitlement that now comes with being a consumer (The “I”) is not going away any time soon. And the faster your organization can adapt, the better off you’ll be in the digital market.