This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 11, 2012. To see the original post click here.
So often I hear these words regarding so many topics in business, and they always make me cringe. Although there are some things a company must do, such as pay taxes, not violate laws or regulations, and if they are a for profit entity, hopefully make a profit. Beyond these key things, everything else is simply someones view and may not hold true to business realities. They come from a variety of sources, including talking heads who have interest in the topic (or to show how smart they are), companies that are selling tools to meet the need identified, or partners such as agencies or businesses that often also have an ulterior motive. But let’s face facts leadership is not following anothers view but creating the right path for your business and your shareholders.
I am a Customer service guy, and I tend to look at everything through this lens. I do not hide this bias, in fact it is present in everything I do. In my book @YourService I talk about the failures businesses have had over the years, and what they need to fix in order to win in a socially connected world. I believe that many companies and people will find advice in that book that will help their business and themselves. At the same time I recognize that not every company must be service oriented and that is okay.
The challenge is that many brands like to say they are service oriented but at the end of the day the actual Customer experience fails to live up to the message that the brand is striving for. In a socially connected world, Customer and employee perception is your over arching message, which usually is the culture of your business. One key point in @YourService is to know who your business is, its culture and the message you want the world to know. Does your Customer believe you live up to your message?
This leads me to an example that I think can be helpful for any business. About a month ago Conversocial put out a blog post stating “RyanAir’s Neglect Proves Social Customer Service is No Longer an Option.” For those of you who do not know Conversocial, they are a tool to help companies provide social Customer Service. I like the tool and the ideas of social Customer Service, although I think most companies do not do it well. They tend to provide better Customer experience to their loud Customers which then sends a message to their Customers that the best way to get help is to publicly blast their brand. The key to doing social service right is to drive change in the organization to fix what is currently broken within your Customer experience. About a year ago I wrote a post for Brian Solis’ blog regarding this.
Back to Ryan Air. The author of the post points out that Ryan Air does not have a Facebook presence, and people have set up fake pages blasting the brand and their Customer experience. I hear so often that brands need to be on Facebook, yet I have watched very successful brands with very limited social presence. As an example Apple is one of the most discussed brands in social, usually positive discussion with the exception of those immediately following the launch of a new phone, which tend to skew a little negative. Ryan Air may not have a Facebook page, but would doing so add to their brand? The brand is often discussed in social media, usually for trying to add new fees such as when they were rumored to want to charge a fee for using the bathroom on the plane. Then there are the quotes from the CEO over the years that have not always been Customer centric, such as when he recently refered to a Customer or group of Customers as being “Stupid.” The quote came from a story where a woman was upset at paying $380 to print boarding tickets at the airport. With Ryan Air it would be free to print at home, but there are fees to do so in the airport. I could not believe a CEO would ever refer to a Customer in that manner, but isn’t the quote fitting of their brand? As an airline their slogan is “Cheap Flights – Lowest European Fares, Low Cost Airline.” You do not hear a message about service. Their goal is cheap. I would make the case that they know precisely who they are as a company, and the negative conversation you find on the fake Facebook pages completely lives up to the brand’s image. The top complaint for Ryan Air is the added fees for everything. I also doubt the negative commentary would change the view of their actual Customer who is looking for a seat on the plane. Their Customer knows that everything else will cost them. Like Apple, people are taking the company’s message to social for them. Although I personally may not be a fan of their approach, I am not their Customer and they should not care about my view.
I do not think that every brand should be doing everything via social. In fact I find online discussion typically highlights the percieved culture of your brand, whether you as a business are there or not. At times the message may be different based on a loud few, but should those message change your approach? Maybe not. I am a big fan of listening to your Customers through all means, including social, but even that does not mean that your approach should be altered. I will leave you today with a quote from Steve Jobs that was part of a Q&A with Newsweek back in 1985 shortly after leaving Apple.
“My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that’s my perspective, that everything starts with a great product. And that has its flaws. Ihave certainly been accused of not listening to the customers enough. And I think there is probably a certain amount of that that’s valid.”
Be careful of the “Must Do’s!” You know your Customer and your business, so you must decide what must do’s, if any even apply to you. Focus on your business and your Customer, and you will have success. This is part of leading the way instead of following.
What do you think?