Andrew Teman

Social Media Customer Service - The Entitlement Age

Yesterday evening I posted out to Twitter, the following:

Social media has created an unrealistic sense of entitlement amongst customers, who are quick to use economic threats to get their way.

To go a bit beyond my 140 character allotment, what I mean here is this.

There is no denying that over the past several years, that social media has materially changed the dynamic between consumers and corporations. The net effect of this shift (in my opinion) has been an overwhelmingly positive thing. Consumers are now more adequately armed with the tools needed to fight back against companies that mistreat them or poorly service them, and this is a good thing. 

But with this newfound power, comes some sense of responsibility that seems to have been lost on most of us. 

Emboldened by this ability to wield our social networks as weapons, we have become bloodthirsty, and quick to shoot when we feel the slightest bit wronged.

Proper service, expected results, and a timely response are no longer enough. We want to be catered to. We DEMAND to be catered to. And if we are not personally satisfied, if our individual needs are not fully met, we are quick to use the stick and dole out social media punishment to those we feel have wronged us.

This punishment tends to come most often, in the form of economic threats. You changed the logo on my cereal box? I’m switching brands. You charged me a bank fee? I’m going to find a new bank. New design on my orange juice container? Never buying it again.

And though threats like these are generally representative of an extremely small minority, when well placed, they can send the most seasoned marketing professionals into a tailspin, and force them to become irrational.

I’ve seen it dozens of times with colleagues and I’ve been there myself. One pointed, nasty threat to stop doing business with a brand, dropped haphazardly onto a Facebook page, can upend months of thinking and millions of dollars worth of work. The second-guessing begins so easily on the back of a statistically insignificant number of negative comments. 

I love this quote from Markus Frind, creator of dating site PlentyOfFish. When asked how he has resisted adding commonly requested features, such as chatrooms and video profiles, he responded

“I don’t listen to the users,” he says. “The people who suggest things are the vocal minority who have stupid ideas that only apply to their little niches.”

While this may read as harsh, it’s an admirable position, if not an extremely tough one to stick to as a corporate entity.

And while most big brands would never dare say what Markus has, I’m sure most of them would love to. Either way, I think it’s an interesting piece of commentary that reveals how adversarial the relationship between consumer and corporation has become in the social customer service space.

As brands, we need to understand that the evolution of social media has put is in a position where simply providing adequate service is no longer enough. Providing amazing service is now table-stakes.

As consumers, we need to remember that often times, each party simply knowing that the other is armed, will cause everyone to behave a bit better. And that the more we use our influence as a weapon, the weaker it will become over time.