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.
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.)
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.
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.