If your products and services are perfect, and every customer of yours is completely satisfied, then stop reading this now. For the rest of us, we need to be embrace the fact that consumers have never before had more power. Social media and online communities are something that we as marketers should view as an unprecedented opportunity rather than another channel to contend with.
In their book Groundswell, authors Charlene Li and John Bernoff explain it this way:
“Right now, your customers are writing about your products on blogs and re-cutting your commercials on YouTube. They’re defining you on Wikipedia and ganging up on you in social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomenon â€” the groundswell â€” that has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works. Most companies see it as a threat. You can see it as an opportunity.”
Our DockMaster business had a “close call” with this type of negative customer sentiment. Over the past five years we’ve been upgrading our 250 clients, some of them with 10 or more physical locations from a legacy “text-based” version of DockMaster to our Windows platform. I am happy to say that we have completed this task and I want to thank our customers for sticking with us through the transition. It was difficult for both them and us. Some of our customers had been using our text-based system for over 10-years. It is very difficult to transition from one way of doing things (keyboard entry) to another (mouse-driven navigation).
One of our customers was struggling with not only a DockMaster change, but also a change to their network infrastructure. The transition was painful for this customer and in the midst of the transition, the owner e-mailed me an image one of his employees created that mocked the DockMaster logo.
What struck me was the fact that someone took the time to create this image and pass it around their company as a show of their frustration. I envisioned it hanging on a wall with a bunch of darts stuck in it. This image was a painful, but insightful wake up call for me at two levels:
1. It gave me some insight into how difficult a system transition can be and our team needed to be more sensitive of this.
2. I thought to myself what if this gets out on the internet? How would this tarnish our brand?
The owner did me a great service by sending it to me. Back in 2007 when I received this feedback, I would never have imagined that I would be publishing this story. After all, I am the CEO of the company that makes DockMaster. Shouldn’t we always try to paint a rosy picture for the world to read or spin a story to our advantage? To all the other company managers reading this post: you can’t do that anymore. The world doesn’t want “rosy” or “spin”. They want the truth. This includes open, honest, engaging “conversations” with customers, suppliers and the public at large.