The Digital Customer is always right, even when they are wrong, unless you don’t mind it going viral.


Every business has them. You can usually tell them from a distance. It’s those customers you wish would go elsewhere but you need them, right, and those in customer facing roles are brainwashed into believing the customer is always right. Even when they are irritating, irrational, immoral and/or ignorant. The Basil Fawlty approach to Customer Service simply cannot survive in the 21st century.

I believe that it is not a question of what we believe about our customers but rather a strategy of how we handle them. In the 21st century, the power has shifted towards any potential conflict going viral.

Example: A poppy seller, a war veteran, was asked to move outside into the cold weather from the relative warmth of a UK Supermarket in a small provincial town in the UK, . The story went viral with a backlash nationally against the supermarket chain. The action of one store manager upset one passing customer who did not stay quiet.

Of course, in the past, businesses could get away with losing the odd customers. With a seemingly small sphere of influence, the consumer had little opportunity for recourse. Put up or shut up. Therefore if the product or service was desirable enough, consumers would simply put up with a poor customer experience. The balance of power was not with the customer. How times have changed. In this Digital world, organisations are now increasingly aware of the need to ensure that the customer is always seen to be right, aware that even one negative customer experience could have a major impact

Example: a disgruntled bank customer tweeted that his banks incompetence in processing his mortgage application had lost him his new house. Fortunately, that bank noticed the tweet and within 30 minutes responded to the customer asking him to send a Direct Message. By the end of the day, his loan had been approved. That story also went viral earning the bank much quodos having turned a potentially damaging incident into a “look how we care” story. Thank goodness for Social Listening.


However, this introduces another 21st century conundrum for organisations. If we are to be proactive in providing excellent customer experiences across all channels, how do we ensure that we provide a consistent response across all channels? Why should a customer get a resolution in 24 hours because they tweeted about it whereas other customers may have to wait several days? It highlights process inefficiencies whereby organisations are reacting to the need to be kept honest by their customers. The omnichannel experience that is so desired can also highlight inconsistencies in service delivery.

It is this that is one of the great challenges being faced by Digital organisations who have realised that the customer must always be seen to be right but that all channels on inbound and outbound communication must deliver a consistent customer experience.

Until then, organisations may strive to deliver amazing customer experiences but the opportunity for something negative to go viral remains. As an example of the viral threat, how would I otherwise have got to hear about this

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