This Post Is NOT About Michael Jackson

Customers Are Social, Now What About Vendors?

Two weeks ago I told you that I took one of the most interesting steps in my career. I said goodbye to my role as business unit manager, and I am trying to start a brand new business in our company. It's a project that completely rewired my work, my life and my brain. In fact, it's the type of change that might happen just One Day In Your Life.

Let me tell you something about that new project…

As a consumer I often notice that customer service sucks. It sucks everywhere. Some examples: I recently noticed that I was not receiving any emails from Amazon anymore. I first blamed Amazon, but then it turned out that my email provider was the culprit. For six days they had problems with forwarding (some) emails. And they never told me. Why not? They knew my email address, didn't they? And if that didn't work, why not send me a tweet? It's very easy to find me on Twitter.

And why didn't Amazon reply to my vicious messages when I told 1500 followers (unjustly) that their service sucked? Why wait responding until I fill out some deeply hidden customer contact form on their site? And couldn't I just tweet my complaint to @amazon? (Of course, I publicly apologized for my false accusations. Next time I will Blame It On The Boogie.)

Note: I wanted to link to those particular tweets, but Twitter Search doesn't work for me. It can't find any tweets of me about Amazon, not even when using "Advanced" Search and specifically entering my own name: "No results for amazon from:jurgenappelo". And Google, Yahoo and Bing didn't give me any results either. I am assuming a global search boycott against me. So I gave up.

But that's not all…

  • Why am I still required to fill out my personal details (city, birth date, job title) while registering on web sites, when all they need to do is fetch that data from my LinkedIn page?
  • Why does my new Internet provider give me a new email address (which I won't use), requiring me to read that mailbox regularly for service updates? Why not send me tweets?
  • Why do I have to go to the web site of my vendor of contact lenses to re-order my monthly set of lenses? Why not enable me to send a "reorder" message through Facebook?
  • Why does the agile 2009 conference require that I upload my presentation to their site, in PDF form with maximum size of 5 MB? Why not integrate with the much more advanced SlideShare where I already have an account?
  • Why do I get offers for products that I clearly don't want or that I already own, which can be easily deduced from my reviews, ratings, and rantings on various social sites?

I'm sure you understand where this is going. Can You Feel It?

As a customer and consumer I have many questions and requests for better information and communication. I understand that not all of this may be reasonable. It's not all Black Or White. But I'm sure many things in the world can be improved, at little cost. In the 21st century it's not businesses that make the economy work. It's the People That Make The World Go Round.

And that's what our new project will be all about: connecting vendors with their customers through social media, with the aim of improving information and communication for both sides. As a vendor you must initiate those conversations with your consumers. And you Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough.

I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do in the next few months. I am starting from scratch, with big ideas, little resources, and many questions from our own customers about social media and how to use it to connect with their consumers. The only thing I do know is that this new business is going to be very exciting. And that my accusations should be more accurate in the future. (Well, you can't blame me for being wrong every now and then. It's Human Nature.)

And now I'm back to work, because I Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.

(image by Sister72)

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  • Ruud Cox

    The need for a Customer Service might be identified as a measure to an identified risk e.g. customers not buying your products.
    The quality of Customer Service might not be identified as a risk. The effect might be… customers not buying your products anymore.
    Bottom line; it’s all about risk management. As long as the impact on the business for having a worthless Customer Service is low or not there, a manager won’t do anything about it.
    I’m very interested in how your new project/solution is going to change that.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Ruud, I believe you’re right. And we have many ideas but no definitive direction yet, while customers are already asking for advice. But most think with an “old-fashioned” marketers mindset. I think that needs to change first.

  • Patrick Verheij

    I am also (a bit) tired of providing data to services manually over and over again. But then again, I am not as socially integrated as you are, Jurgen. Still I am living at the digital edge compared to many other people: I’m linked in, plaxoed, hyved, facebooked, etc.
    What should be the ultimate solution? A digital GBA? Well, it already exists and it’s called .tel. Take a look at http://patrickverheij.tel/ for example. Not much info from me there yet but I have no reason (yet) to make it available anyway.
    Looking forward to hear more about your plans ’cause You’ve Got To Make That Change oh Once In Your Life.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Patrick, if .tel is able to supply data about customers then it is just one other source of information, like all the others (hyves, facebook, etc.) I am not on .tel, I’m on LinkedIn. Other people are elsewhere. I think that distributedness requires a new solution.

  • Patrick Verheij

    The number of internet personal information sources keeps expanding. Some sources will stay, others will go and just about every source that stays will evolve into something different, slightly or not. It’s not mature yet or standardized in any way. That makes me even more curious about your plans.

  • http://www.negrean.ro Ovidiu Negrean

    So this is what you’re working on..
    Sounds great! I wish you a lot of success and I can’t wait to hear more! 🙂

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