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“Customers are today constantly connected to social networks and share their experience at once through selfies, twitter comments, “likes” or posts on Facebook. The question is how IT can enable social marketing and giving customer something interesting to write about.”

I am currently sitting in a café in Stockholm/Sweden writing this blog post. The fact is that I have been around to a great number of cafés in search for the ultimate working place – and found Espresso House. The reason is simple; they provide free Wi-Fi, power outlets, comfortable seats and great tea. I chat on Facebook about working here, “like” the place and creating a buzz in my network attracting friend and family to the café. The café is crowded with student, businessmen and tourist stopping by for a cup of coffee.

Customer behavior is rapidly changing reducing customer loyalty to traditional brands and products. Customer loyalty is a thing of the past. In fact, recent studies show that infrequent buys are increasing while frequent buys are declining. The main reason in that customers have much more information about their need and the market opportunities (probably more than the sales person), higher expectations, and demand great service and experience is every market interaction. We listen to trusted sources (friends and family) to find new great experience when shopping, travelling or dining. Loyalty is today not about another loyalty program and plastic cards but great customer expectations by blending physical, emotions and value elements of every experience.

What we see today is Social Marketing where a Great Customer Experience is communicated in social media in real time. Customers are constantly connected to social networks and share their experience at once through selfies, twitter comments, “likes” or posts on Facebook. The question is how to enable social marketing and giving customer something interesting to write about. It is giving me as a reader a trusted source and a taste in my mouth of how it is like to visit that restaurant, viewing a particular television-show or theme park. When was the last time you wrote something exciting on Facebook about a visit to the bank?

Question to ask:

  1. How to I enable customers to do social marketing about my business? Is the infrastructure in place?
  2. What is Great Customer Experience for my customers?
  3. How do I give the customer something “great” to communicate?

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Disney World Magic Kingdom in Florida. I must say that I was not fully looking forward the visit mainly because of the long queues to the attraction. Who wants to stand in line for 60 minutes to go on the Peter Pan ride? So, for many visitors, waiting time is the key obstacle for Great Customer Experience. Disney addressed this obstacle by the use of technology. First, they provided free Wi-Fi in the whole theme park for all visitors. So, when standing in line, we could go on Facebook showing pictures of happy kids at Disney World (social marketing) or watch YouTube clips to entertain ourselves. Secondly, they provided apps that displayed waiting time for all attractions in real time. We could actually select attraction with less waiting time. Great! Two simple innovations that raised Great Customer Experience and made my visit very enjoyable – and wanting my friends and family also want to go to Florida. Giving them a taste in their mouth about how a holiday in Florida and Disney World is like – in real time!

On the way to Florida, we travelled with American Airlines from Chicago to Orlando. In the departure hall (and on the ticket) the company bragged about available Wi-Fi. But when in the plane, it turned out that American Airlines charged for the Wi-Fi resulting in that nobody (my observation) used the service. Also, all inflight entertainment required Wi-Fi connection. I can honestly say that the airline did not live up to my expectations (No Great Customer Experience) and I will probably not recommend it to my friends and family. Most importantly, no social marketing came out of my travel– losing the opportunity to use the best source for marketing the company in the air – in real time. I have seen other airlines providing free Wi-Fi (for example Norwegian) and enabling travellers to chat with friends on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (free social marketing) to communicate the Great Customer Experience. Very successful!

So, what can we learn from these observations? Primarily, that customer behavior is rapidly changing, focusing on Great Customer Experience, giving rise to Social Marketing that need to be tightly connected to IT and technology. IT is the key enabler to giving customers a platform to express their experience in real-time but also providing something “great” to write about. Information, about for example waiting, supporting enhancing the experience need to be in place and updated momentarily. No room for old or irrelevant information.

Many companies have understood the changing role of IT in the “new normal”. I read more and more articles about IT collaborating with Marketing to support Great Customer Experience. That requires a completely different view of the role of IT, how IT needs to be managed and the shift in culture in the IT organization. With a focus on Operational Excellence, this “new” approach can never be achieved. Given that a majority of IT departments and CIOs focus on outsourcing basic services (long contracts with limited agility) and SAP platform implementation – how does this contribute to Great Customer Experience? The role of IT is not creating a Great IT Experience but a Great Customer Experience! There is a difference!

My recommendations:

  1. Let IT collaborate with Marketing to understand what Great Customer Experience actually means for our business.
  2. Ask yourself, how can IT support Great Customer Experience? What infrastructure needs to be in place for customers, in real time, to express their feelings and selfies from your locations or with your services/products?
  3. Ask yourself; can IT provide something “great” for customers to communicate?
  4. For more information – contact The Goodwind Company!

I have finished my cup of tea and will soon leave the café leaving footprints in social media. The footprints are valuable asset to the café in their marketing to create new loyal customers. They are based on small and cheap inventions that make a world of difference. But we should not view they as investments as investments demand a financial pay-back but rather natural enablers creating a buzz and a taste of the great experience in your business – building brand. It’s priceless!

– Hans Gillior

Hans Legend 1