How Social Media Has Changed The Customer Experience Forever

Ten years ago we had no Facebook, no LinkedIn and no TripAdvisor. You didn’t have to worry too much about customers sharing a negative experience. Yes, they might tell the standard 9-15 people we tend to share such things with, but that number was manageable.

Fast-forward to 2014 where social media has changed the customer experience game. Customers now have social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TripAdvisor, review sites and blog posts through which they can share their positive or negative experiences with an endless number of readers.

Think about how much reach your customers now have.

Companies now have an invested interest in the customer experience – some with a hope of mitigating poor experiences and bad word-of-mouth, while others aim to empower and encourage happy customers to share their positive experiences and become advocates.

Either way, focusing on customer experience is a big trend. Take a look at how many more people have searched for customer experience on Google thus far in 2014 compared to 2005:

Let’s explore three ways social media has changed the customer experience.


1. Your company can’t hide anywhere

Social media has opened up customer support channels. Your customers can publically ask questions and leave feedback directly via your social media profiles – all of which other customers can use to see how you interact with your customers and take into consideration for future purchases.

The expectation is that you’ll respond quickly and offer a solution. A study by The Social Habit found that 42% of customers expect a response in less than an hour. What this means is if you do not respond or acknowledge the feedback quickly, you risk not meeting expectations by the individual customer and everyone else who sees the message.

So what used to be a private interaction with your customer is now viewable by everyone. Your response is on display, meaning you need to have efficient systems in place to create a consistent customer experience across all support channels.

One company that can’t hide from negative feedback posted on social media is cable company Xfinity. Take a look at a few of these posts on their Facebook page:


Those are just three of hundreds of unanswered posts. As a potential customer, what does that tell you about the company?

For me, it says that their service doesn’t live up to expectations and they don’t even respond to questions and feedback!

Before social media, companies like Xfinity could get away with neglecting the customer experience, but now it’s on show for millions of people to see.

Think about how this experience might damage the Xfinity brand. Now imagine how your customers would perceive your experience if you did a something similar? You’d probably be losing customers pretty quickly!


2. Customers reach has increased 25x

How many people do you think your customers can tell about the experience that they had with your company?

In a world before social media, happy customers might tell 1-3 people while research suggests a dissatisfied customer might tell between 9-15 people.

Nowadays, things are totally different. Your customers are connected to hundreds of their friends and colleagues via social media. A report by Edison Research and Triton Digital has found that on average, Facebook users have 350 friends. According to data journalist Jon Bruner, the average Twitter user has 61 followers. If we add a conservative 100 connections on LinkedIn, your customers have a total reach of 511 on just those three sites.

Pete Blackshaw, author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, says, “In today’s Internet-driven world, customers have more power than ever.”

He’s certainly right. A single disgruntled customer can broadcast his complaint to all his direct connections. That one message can then be shared and potentially reach an audience of millions.

Take a second to picture one million people hearing about a negative experience that one of your customers had with your company. Wouldn’t be pretty, right?

Let’s look at an example of just how much reach your customers have in today’s world. Do you remember that famous video about how United Airlines broke a guitar? Here it is if you missed it:


In this scenario, United Airlines broke Dave Carrol’s $3K guitar while in transit. The company had the opportunity to fix the problem – Dave reached out to United in plenty of time – but after nine months of unanswered calls and emails, he took matters into his very talented hands and wrote “United Breaks Guitars.” The video and song has amassed 14 million views on Youtube! Combine with thousands of blog posts and mentions online, you can easily see how much power your customers have.

The lesson here is that one bad customer experience could cause millions of dollars of damage. If United had better systems in place that could identify these situations and handle them in a proactive and consistent manner, do you think Dave would have wrote that song? No. And guess what. Fourteen million people would not have been made aware of United’s poor handling of luggage and even poorer handling of customer service.


3. Customer advocacy is now more important than ever

It isn’t all bad news. The power of the customer can also be used to grow your business. You can harness your customer advocates to spread the positive experiences and extend your reach like never before.

Instead of your customers telling a couple of their friends about a great experience with your company, they can now tell hundreds and thousands via a social media post. This post can again be shared and reposted to thousands more.

Companies right now are harnessing the power of advocates to do their marketing for them. You only have to look at modern companies like Uber, Dropbox and Airbnb. You’ve probably seen the raving reviews and recommendations of these services in your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Customers love these products because they exceed their expectations. Customers want to tell their friends about their experiences and instead of just telling one or two, they’re using social media to tell world! Let’s look at how Dropbox encourages sharing of positive experiences using referral marketing. Here’s a screenshot of their campaign:


It was nothing fancy and they didn’t even have to spend cash – they rewarded users by giving them more storage. This one initiative that was spread virally via social media helped Dropbox grow from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in just 15 months.


Can you embrace social media?

The customer experience is no longer limited to your customers and their close friends. Social media has given your customers the ability to tell 500 of their friends online and share that same message virally to millions of people around the globe. One mistake or one bad experience and you find yourself in damage control and your company’s reputation is put at risk.

On the flip side, there are plenty of opportunities to harness social media and encourage customer advocates to tell share their experiences which can extend your reach.

Social media has given the power to your customers. You can’t fight it anymore. I challenge you to embrace social media and recognize how it affects the customer experience – both positively and negatively. If you can that, you will be able to capitalize on this trend and swoop in on new business.

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Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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