The Disinterested Customer

| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

The Disinterested Customer

For all the "chatter" (my apologies, about enabling customers reaching to firms and reaching to them in kind via Social CRM, SMS and the web, and about building customer loyalty, turning customers into enthusiastic unpaid marketers, firms should sit back and realize that most customers: consumers and organizations are not really interested in such engagements. They don't want to be "fans". That they turn off after so much blather on their screen and in their ears.

Moreover, customer loyalty is fickle. A product or service that shines in the first instance may stink in the second either in the manufacturing, delivery or price, which means bye-bye buyer. 

Yet while much has been made of customer choice for many items true choice i.e. like deciding which brand of beans to buy when there's a dozen or so is an illusion. How many broadband carriers and operating systems are available? What is the cost of changing? To truly get out of Windows you need to spend $$$ or more likely $$$$ to buy a Mac. And what is the hassle versus the actual benefits of making the switch?

I call this the "disinterested customer". Customers who are empowered thanks to social media will not hesitate to rip into a firm that has annoyed them or less like to praise an outfit but for the most they tolerate most products and services because their value outweighs their downsides including those of switching so they ignore them. After all, goods and services are "infrastructure"; they enable but are not key to their existence.

And despite the waves of multichannel media people place limits on what they engage in, in hours of day or messages receive. For example I have separate e-mail accounts and phone lines accordingly and my TMC blogs plus a LinkedIn presence. I rely on social media sites like TripAdvisor or comments pages on companies' sites when I'm checking out services and products. Yet I don't do Facebook or Twitter businesswise or privately. The cellphone gets turned on, and for voice only, only when I go out. I keep my opinions outside of the above channels and my outside involvements to private i.e. "off line" communications. Those who need to know do know.

In a delightful interview I had with CRM authority Paul Greenberg the other day for an article on Social CRM in the July issue of Customer Interaction Solutions I asked him about that. People only have so many hours in a day, I said, they have to make a living, study, and otherwise get on with their lives. They can't be on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. or on countless websites or watching TV or receive or transmit a multitude of messages 24/7. He guesstimates that individuals receive some 3,000 messages every day.

"People tend to zone messages out," says Greenberg. "There are studies done that show that it is in the double-digits of the messages they actually pay attention to, out of the 3,000. People say, let's use an arbitrary number 'these 14 or so messages are of interest to me, the others ones I'll look at them and in a second I'll ignore them.'"

Ironically these new channels risk annoying customers just like the old ones did. Just as companies, entrepreneurs and executives damaged outbound telemarketing and e-mail as tools by greed-driven overuse and abuse they are falling in the same trap with these sites. Witness the controversy over Facebook's new de facto impossible-to-opt-out privacy marketing policy. The New York Times reports that Facebook's privacy policy is 5,830 words long while an unamended U.S. Constitution "is a concise 4,543 words....To opt out of full disclosure of most information, it is necessary to click through more than 50 privacy buttons, which then require choosing among a total of more than 170 options." 

"Facebook's "Help Center" is available to assist users, but the word count for the privacy-related FAQ adds up to more than 45,000 words," says the Times.

Sooner, in hyperspeed rather than later, Facebook and the like are going to realize that when its members get bombarded with more messages to zone out of--and they will figure out soon enough that these are coming from Facebook via, you guessed it, social networking--they will zone out Facebook et al too. 

There are still a large number of social and other channels and channel providers to pick from. The smart ones will make enough but are not so greedy so as to drive away the very source of their profits while satisfying or at least not annoying the customers. For while fans are nice it is best to have disinterested customers than ticked off ones.

(TMC is holding a new event on Social CRM, The Social Customer Summit. Co-located with TMC's ITEXPO in Los Angeles, Calif. Oct.4-6, The Social Customer Summit is a two-day conference that will cover this dynamic new channel, including integration with the contact center. Check back often at ITEXPO West 2010 for more details)


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