Wired and dangerous is the picture of today’s new normal customer. We refer to customers as wired and dangerous because they are edgy as well as connected with the Internet-enabled capacity to rapidly gain insight on a particular product or service and to quickly do great harm to the reputation of service providers. A power blogger with over a million followers, Heather Armstrong (http://dooce.com), cut a sizeable dent into Maytag’s reputation (and likely their bottom line) simply by advising her followers to “boycott Maytag.”
That’s not to say that all customers are technologically wired. Neither of our 86- and 94-year-old mothers is computer savvy––but they are still wired and potentially dangerous. How’s that? Our mothers are personally connected with many who are wired. An unpleasant experience at the grocery store can trigger a disparaging comment to a neighbor who has a social network and a proclivity for pinging Internet-savvy friends. Overnight, a casual comment like “Their meat made me kinda sick” can trigger a social media–driven boycott that makes a sizable dent in the grocery store’s profits. So, even the technologically unskilled customer is dangerous.
Now don’t get us wrong! We love customers. We truly believe most customers are without malice and possess a keen sense of fairness. However, with more and more companies taking the relationship out of the service transaction through boxed-in self-service and no-back-door automation, far too many customers have been left with a sense of mistrust, disappointment and, given the right circumstances, even anger. Peter Drucker wrote years ago, “The purpose of an organization is to create and retain a customer.” The bottom line metrics are simply how we keep score. Are you playing the game on behalf of your customers are you just watching the scoreboard?