It started like many of these things do, with…

  • A futile search through a poorly-architected website;
  • An endless trudge through a labyrinthine voice mail system;
  • An unsatisfying conversation with a poorly trained customer service representative.

And it ended as expected too, with an issue unresolved and these words from the woman on the other end of the phone…

“I know. The policy makes no sense. But I’m sorry ma’am, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

And I got off the phone and thought…

That’s not going to cut it anymore.

There once was a time when it was perfectly acceptable for it to be difficult for clients or customers to talk to actual humans at a company and to be told that this is “just how it is” when they finally managed to do so.

That time is over.

Every day, people have experiences like the one I described above and, more and more, they are deciding to take some action. They…

  • Post, tweet or in some other way mention to their online network (be it personal or professional in nature) that something a company did annoyed them.
  • Actively reach out to people in their network in the future who happen to mention that company or ask for a recommendation and say, “Hey, I had a bad experience with them, don’t shop/dine/bank/etc. there.”
  • Change vendors, suppliers or shopping preferences and publicly applaud the times when those new companies succeed where the previous one had failed.

I’m talking about grandmothers, business people, college kids and farmers here, not social media mavens.

screengrab from the movie Network

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

These people are not anomalies. They are canaries in your corporate coalmine.

Want me to put it in gentle terms?

There has been a radical paradigm shift in how people communicate with each other and how they communicate with the businesses who serve them and from which they buy products and services.

(Most people say this shift is because of “social media.” My guess is that, ten years from now, we’ll realize that this was the name we gave to the spark, but it doesn’t describe the fire it became.)

To put it more directly….yes, a revolution — one that Jay Baer and Amber Naslund call The Now Revolution – is occurring.

More than half of Internet users ages 45 to 64 will be regular social network users in 2011. And behind those canaries is a flock of millenials — millions of them who will be your clients and customers of tomorrow (90% of internet users in that age group will use social networks this year).

In short, if your company continues to keep its head in the sand about the social web, your customers or clients will have no other recourse than to kick you in the ass to get you to notice them.

The revolution will be verbalized.

The “Now Revolution” is a reminder that clients and customers count. They have a voice, and they they expect you to listen to it.

If you choose not to, they’ll talk louder. And social media will amplify and extend that voice.

Companies who are still sitting around insisting that this is just “how it is” are going to start making people angry. And that anger, combined with access and amplification, will get attention.

I can think of no better illustration of the concept in action than the (the strangely prescient) movie Network, in which aging news anchor Howard Beale slowly unravels in front of the camera, culminating in the — now iconic — scene in which Beale walks into the studio, sits down at the anchor desk and delivers the mother of all newscasts, concluding with these words:

All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

(It’s a powerful scene. Do yourself a favor and take five minutes and watch it.)

In the movie, people do what Beale says…all over the country.

They do it because one, angry ill-treated human in front of a camera asked them to. They do it because they know that, in spite of his rantings, this guy has made the choice to ignore what “they” want them to hear and has opted instead to simply tell them the truth.

Corporations, let me be clear — the voices you hear being yelled out the window in this scene? That is what the “social web” sounded like before it had a web to live on.

The time is now.

The Now Revolution is what happens when you give millions of people a window to yell out of and democratize a million mediums with which to capture and broadcast the words they choose to shout.

The time has passed for you to contemplate “if” social media is going to take off. (Cluetrain report…the web isn’t going to become “unsocialized” anytime soon. Seen any Facebook statistics lately?)

If your customers or clients are using social media, the time for you to join them is now.

Because if you don’t and you…

  • Continue to deny them a seat at the table,
  • Choose not to listen when they speak,
  • Engage only in the way that you like, not in the way they like…

…mark this canary’s words — sooner or later they’ll be mad as hell, and they won’t take it anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12
Comments
  1. Thanks very much Jen for the kind words about the book. You are spot-on. Network is a terrific example. Scary how much that’s come to pass, isn’t it?

    The thing about the NOW Revolution is that while the inflection point is a moment in time, the response is not. Once a company gets involved in real-time business, they can NEVER get uninvolved. You cannot disconnect the social media telephone, so you better make damn sure you have enough operators on hand.

    • Yes it’s spooky how well that movie holds up today.

      I agree, the never being uninvolved thing is pretty scary. It’s like agreeing to an arranged marriage with someone you’ve just met. I totally feel for my clients who are having a hard time getting used to the idea (heck, I signed on long ago and I still get freaked out by it sometimes). Glad to have books like NOW to help them along the way.

      Thanks for your thought leadership, overall awesomeness and stopping by to comment.

  2. These situations I do not get from corporation and or companies that are offering online tools to do the shouting. This one puzzles me even more. You offer a mobile app or a cloud application and it breaks or the customer is not happy and tweets or status updates your fan page and CRICKETS…..

    My stance is I have pretty much given up on most companies and just taken my business elsewhere. I think until the Customer Attrition and Subsequently the Customer Acquisition numbers really punish the bottom line not much happens. I think major changes happen when leadership inside the company really start to really looking into the numbers around Customer Development and Retention they would truly change their behaviors towards customers.

    The same correlation can be drawn to these same leaders and the way they treat and acquire talent also…..

    • Sad that’s you’ve given up the good fight Keith. You sure shook things up while it lasted. 🙂 And you can still pull off the suit and tie thing which forever makes you “translator of the corporate spin” in my books.

      I agree, the numbers are the key. Money talks. And right now it’s talking louder than the chatter. Only a matter of time though before the metrics catch up to the promises. I think the next year is going to be an interesting transition time.

      • Oh don’t get me wrong I have not given up the fight, I have just aligned my actions with companies that seek out building those customer development activities. I still will keep on challenging the companies that have not woke yet both on the customer front and the employee front. Just choosing to focus energy to those that want to jump in and try.

        I totally dig “translator of the corporate spin” I will wear that badge with honor! May even put into twitter bio!

  3. Wow. I’d never seen that scene before. It was so powerful it has me tearing up at my desk. I’m officially inspired. Or ignited. Or enraged. Something like that.

    Frankly, I don’t care much about corporate labyrinths. Lousy customer service is frustrating but doesn’t cut deep enough to create the emotions in that scene. Those voices are railing against oppressors, and there are so many things in our current world that are designed to keep the masses powerless – news media, economy, poverty cycles, various “ism”s, etc. The scene really struck a chord.

    If it’s OK with you, I might hijack your premise and use it for an Unsummit session. I’d call it, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Clearly.)

    Interested in co-leading it? Not sure if you’re into Unsummit, but if you are, hit me up.

    • The scene makes me goosebumpy too. You should watch the movie sometime. It’s not only dead on about that, but also in forecasting the future of reality TV (the only reason why the network gives him the air time is because they realize watching him unravel is good for ratings.)

      Yeah, I stretched the metaphor a bit to serve my purposes (cause I really, really wanted to use the clip :). The whole “mad as hell” thing is probably better suited to illustrate the bigger issue of voices needing to be heard and how that leads to social change. All you have to do is change a few words in that scene and he could be talking about the news today. And the “mad as hell” domino affect is totally something that has been a factor with all the change in the Middle East lately.

      You may hijack away, my dear. I am but a curator of content 🙂 And I’m not opposed to the Unsummit idea. Let’s trade some emails and discuss.

  4. Jen, thanks for a great post & the kind of thinking that I’d love more companies to take to heart. Much of my business is centered in radio, and broadcast media have been especially slow to come around to the notion of dealing the audience in.

    You might want to check out “The Backchannel” on Twitter (#backchannel) if you haven’t already seen it. It’s the creation of TV anchorman, Stephen Clark, and it’s a great example of a conversation between a real-time web audience and a legacy broadcast outlet.

    Your piece has just the right tone, AND it contains my hero, Howard Beale, who I also quoted in a recent blog. Thanks again.

    And thanks to Jay Baer for tweeting about it.

    Fred

    • Nice to meet you Fred. Any fan of Howard Beale is a friend of mine 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the post (and retweeting too).

      I have not heard of The Backchannel. I will check it out. Sounds very interesting.

      Can you send me a link to your Beale post? I’d love to check it out.

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