Companies still firmly believe that they are the architects of their own brand. But let’s face it, it’s not how things work anymore. At least, not entirely. Brands are, today, more negotiated than declared. From the products we sell to the training we provide our customer service representatives, we’ve started to shape almost every aspect of our brand around customer’s input. Some may even say that we’ve swung the pendulum too far in the “customer comes first” direction that we, as brands, have lost our footing in a seemingly endless (and hapless) effort to keep our customers involved.
A perfect example of this scenario is Facebook’s recent announcement that it will soon introduce the “dislike” button as part of its evolving user experience. I’ve got mixed feelings about whether or not this will be a good thing for Facebook and its users — in fact, I’ve said that adding it into the social platform’s user experience could actually lead to more bad behavior than good. But it’s a solid proof point either way for how even the biggest brands eventually give in to public pressure. Facebook’s users have been clamoring for a “dislike” button for years, much to Zuck’s better judgment. But even he capitulated, — and now consumers are seeing their wish granted. This might be one of those situations where “Be careful what you wish for!”
Now the purpose of this isn’t to extoll the virtues (or impending doom) of the soon-to-be “dislike” button. There will be plenty of time to discuss that in depth once we see how consumers actually respond to and embrace its arrival. That promises to be intriguing!
I’ve always believed in the importance of listening closely to what customers say within social communities and using those insights to help create a better overall customer experience. Ultimately, this engenders long-term brand loyalty and helps deliver on meeting their increasingly extreme expectations. As brands, we must constantly be on the hunt for quality feedback, tapping into not only our very own branded communities, but also other social channels where our customers flock to make their voice heard.
However, what I see happening all too often are knee-jerk reactions that operate on the blind faith that “the customer is always right.” Yet, there is a fine line between “responding” and “reacting” – and, at the end of the day, we have do what’s right for all customers (and our brand), not just a vocal minority. Just because someone shares an idea — and opens it up for discussion within a social community — it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea, even if that idea somehow managed to drum up a lot of support within the community.
Our role, therefore, as brand stewards, is to cull, curate, and take action on real-time insights that, when weighed against our own goals and priorities, have the potential to influence the ways in which our brands evolve, and equally impact how our brands are perceived by both existing and new customers. And if we don’t act on a customer idea or feedback, brands should say why. Providing answers and being transparent is critical to the customer experience. Customers can be vocal, but generally not unreasonable.
It’s important to listen, actively. It’s important to be mindful of our customers’ wants and needs. It’s also important to do what’s right for everyone involved. Customers are becoming much more vocal in telling us about what’s important to them. How (and when) we respond to that feedback as well as how we deliver an enhanced experience based on those customer insights is truly the defining factor of a savvy and successful brand. It took years for Facebook to finally pave the way for the “dislike” button. Whether it’s a good or bad idea is yet to be seen; however, what we can learn from this situation is that “listening closely” is not necessarily a synonym for “delivering quickly.” I suppose it gives entirely new meaning to “slow and steady wins the race.”