Why?Because We Like You and Trust You - Customer Relationship Management

Like and trust are a pair of terms not usually associated with the company-customer relationship, now are they? Well, sorry to say (though not really), the social customer says they have to be—and these are requirements that can’t be ignored.But neither like and especially not trust are very easy to establish anywhere, especially in an enterprise.

Want proof?Let’s start with this list.Tell me, metaphorically of course, who do you trust on it?

  • Mom and/or Dad and/or siblings?
  • The press or a part of the press in particular?
  • The ads you see on TV or hear on the radio?
  • The pop-up banners you see on the Web?
  • Google ads?
  • Your best friend? All the time?
  • Your not-as-good-a-friend? All the time?
  • A total stranger you meet on the street whom you ask for instructions on how to get somewhere in their town?
  • A person you know well whom you ask for instructions on how to get somewhere who has visited the town?
  • Commentary on Epinions or Amazon about a product from a total stranger named rabiddog@comcast.net who knows you as whatever your handle is?

That’s the point.You’re as likely to trust the latter as much or more than the former when it comes to a buying decision because of the elements that go into what is considered a trusted relationship.For example, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to trust your best friend on what he thinks of a product he never used, because his knowledge of the product isn’t direct.But you will trust rabid dog on it, because he used it.Yet, if you think back to the ’60s and ’70s, whom did you have to trust when it came to a product?

  • The ad you read about the product
  • The company that produced the product
  • The advertising agencies (a.k.a. Madison Avenue) that produced the ads
  • The salesperson who wanted to sell you the product
  • The brochure you read about the product
  • If you were lucky, a neighbor who used the product

All were concerned with one thing, making sure you buy the product—with the exception perhaps of the neighbor, who actually had a vested interest in making sure you thought their decision to buy it before you did was a smart one.Read the literature of the ’50s and ’60s, such as the The Organization Man by William Whyte, and you’ll get an idea of how trusting and not-volatile the customer and employee of the post–World War II era were.Your trusted sources were pretty much those who had every reason to exaggerate the truth if they had no particular moral compunctions or a strong reason for spinning their product perspective.

But obviously, that’s changed.One of the most significant studies, done in late 2005/early 2006 by Carnegie Mellon, was on the Facebook member students from Carnegie Mellon.I’m presuming you know what Facebook was before what it is now, but just in case, it was a social networking website where college students hung out to meet each other.As they do now, the members were perfectly willing to provide personal information about themselves and socialize online.Their likes, dislikes, and personal follies and foibles were exposed for the world to see.What’s amazing is that the Carnegie Mellon study showed when sampling those college student members back in 2005 that 52 percent of the Carnegie Mellon students registered on Facebook didn’t want their immediate families or dearest friends to know what they posted publicly on the site.

Think about that for a minute because this really hasn’t changed that much.The trusted recipient of this really personal info back then was riverrat@northwestern.edu, not mom, dad, best boyfriend or girlfriend.This tells you that the existing business logic needs to be fixed or replaced fast.The only difference is that BFFs are now allowed to see the information—but still not mom or dad.Trust is at the core of the change we’re seeing and that we’re all involved in, and the world of trust has turned upside down.

Edelman Trust Barometer:Left-Brained Confirmation
I’m sure you remember the discussion of the Edelman Trust Barometer in previous Chapter.From 2004 to the present, Edelman found that in North America and most of Europe, the most trusted source was“someone like me.”

  • In Brazil, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United States, “a person like me” is the most trusted source.A person like me is someone who shares my interests and my political beliefs.
  • In France, India, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, South Korea, and theUnited Kingdom, a financial or industry expert is the most trusted source.

There are two important inferences here.First, I should move to France or India immediately. Second, if the most trusted source in much of Europe and almost all of North America is “a person like me, ” that sets a unique standard for all institutions on how to interact with the individual We will get into that.

But there are three other conclusions that bear strongly on a Social CRM strategy:

  • By 2006, “a person like me” was the most credible spokesperson for companies.That year, people trusted employees significantly more than company CEOs.Equally as important, younger opinion elites, who are defined as college-educated, top 25 percent of their age group in income, and who spend time searching out news and politics, actually trust business more than the older elites do.To make that easier to digest, “never trust anyone over 30” is not the mantra of Gen Y.That was our (my) generation’s mantra, which if you’re to believe gray-hair highlight dye commercials, is now “never trust anyone over 90.”
  • Edelman 2008 added what they called “TrustHolder” profiles, which looked at communication and activity styles.Of the four Trust- Holder profiles, it is social networkers, representing 39 percent of the “global elites, ” who trust business the most.Their primary trust criteria are marketing practices, financial performance, safety record, and environmental concerns.This is a very important group because they are defined by their interest in peer-to-peer.This is the most influential group with friends, family, professional networks, communities, and groups—both physical and online.Sixty-one percent of them trust business.
  • The most trusted industry is technology (79 percent).Number 3 is, oddly, banks (67 percent).Least trusted? Media companies, the same traditional media and advertising agencies that are insuch tumult now, at 44 percent.These results have a very strong impact on how you have to craftyour Social CRM business model and strategy.

Someone Like Me and Business Liked by Me
Spend some time reading the above and drawing conclusions.Two have serious impact on your Social CRM strategy:

  • Customers want to trust the company the way they trust their peers.
  • They have no problem trusting the company, despite the general distrust that exists for the denizens of the corporate world—if their criteria for trust are met.In fact, the most influential movers and shakers among them are happy to trust the company for the most part.

That means you have to earn their trust and give them reasons to continue to trust you once you do.If you do that, and you’re not Enron, they will.But there are a number of changes you’re going to have to effect to make sure you can earn and keep their confidence.

One of the most significant comes from the recognition that the most trusted spokesperson is “someone like me.”This person is the perceived face of the company and, like it or not, represents the customer’s perception of the corporate image, as do the employees in sales and customer service.The spokesperson is also the only person visible to people with little interaction with the company—like future prospects.Their entire interaction with your business might be no more than seeing this spokesperson on TV or via the Web talking about your business and its plans.Maybe it’s your CEO being interviewed by Brian Williams of NBC News, or by Chris Brogan of Chrisbrogan.com, or Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.I hope not, because Edelman found that one of the least trusted sources is the CEO.It could be your VP of Marketing or a public relations representative you hired—though given the 44 percent trust rating they have, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Customers are not only attempting to personalize their experiences with the company, they are attempting to create a human face for the company, to see if that company fits a model of a “company like me.”The humanization of the company is the new Holy Grail for Social CRM.At this stage, it is achievable only in part most of the time.It has been fully achieved in a very small number of instances.

We know how we act and think as customers, don’t we? With businesses we interact with frequently, we usually also have a favorite salesperson, or a friend we’ve made in customer service, or we can point to great experiences with the company that we speak of warmly—in other words, with emotions that we reserve primarily for other people.But the issue that has to be addressed isn’t “Do we have great sales or customer service people?” It’s “How do we institutionalize the kinds of practices, culture, and technologies to provide a customer with the kind of experience that makes him or her think of us as the ‘company like me’?” Which has a corollary:“When that great customer service person leaves us, how do we institutionalize all those practices, culture, and technologies so that we can easily replicate those capabilities?”

That institutionalization has the effect of humanizing the company in ways that were almost unheard of twenty years ago.The interesting thing is that customers may not be thrilled that you’re trying to meet these service standards and emotional values, but they expect that you will to continue to engage them.

Customers want to and expect to interact with a company the same way they interact with a friend or peer they trust.That means they expect a personal relationship with the company, not just with a person in the company, though that may be how the relationship manifests itself most of the time.It also means they expect that the attributes of a deeply personal connection they have to a peer will be part of the way the company interacts with them.Trust and transparency have to permeate the company’s DNA.The company has to have something distinct about it.The customer is expecting the company to converse with them, not just push corporate hype.It’s why you see contemporary marketing so geared toward buzz, word of mouth, or engaging customers in conversation through use of social media like blogs or wikis.The customers expect it.

It’s also why coolness and style are now factors in that conversation between customer and company—because they are intimate parts of the conversation between friends.

This level of humanization is important, but not necessarily defining for all companies.While customers have a much more demanding level of expectation, they still simply purchase things in a utilitarian fashion from at least a plurality of companies they deal with, if not a majority.They don’t have that level of expectation from every company they interact with.They treat the company as the object of a purchase.Turnabout is fair play because the company treats them as the object of a sale often enough.

Even though most customers don’t have an intimate relationship with a company, the company still has to aspire to create not just a repeat purchaser, but an advocate who is going to say, “This company loves me the way I love it.”They have to gear their strategies toward getting that kind of customer (whether B2C or B2B) while attending to the customer who merely returns to buy.

Customers are unique, and they expect unique interactions that are appropriate to them.Yet to a large degree they are not willing to accept companies as more than institutions.They want to deal with individual humans when necessary, but otherwise be left alone to craft a personal approach to their interactions with you that fits their desires—not yours.They buy your products, services, and experiences to meet that unique need.

I ran across an ad in the August 31, 2008 issue of Wine Spectator, for Raymond James Financial Services (whom I use, BTW, in a fit of full disclosure), that I thought encapsulated exactly what personalization is in a relationship between a company and its customers.Here’s how it goes:

A picture of an attractive, over-55 smiling woman riding a bike with a totally cute Jack Russell terrier in a basket on the front handlebars appears across three quarters of the ad, with some lavender, green, gray, and purple stripes between the picture and the main text:

picture of an attractive

“There is no one exactly like you.Raymond James financial advisors understand that.The interests you have, the people you care about, and the causes you support make you an individual with your own set of goals.By listening to you and understanding your history of giving and plans for the future, your advisor can help guide you through financial planning in a personal way. . . .”

It goes on like that for a bit, but you get the idea.This is a really good representation of the expectation (I’m an individual), the problem (businesses have to personalize how they treat a customer), and the first step in the solution (“By listening to you. . .”).

But it also points out the dilemma that companies trying to connect to customers have.How do you humanize a company when a customer is looking for a highly personalized, unique experience with that company and what they individually require for “a company like me” is exactly that—different with each individual?

Why a New Business Model Is Necessary
This calls for a new business model that is aimed at customer participation in the commercial life of the company.We talked up a few reasons why this is necessary in first Chapter, but before we get into the meat of the model, I want you to hear the take of Anthony Lye, the SVP of Oracle CRM (and also a member of online chapter, “Social CRM Leaders Speak from Out There, ” Social CRM elite)I asked him why he thought a new business model is called for.Here’s what he said:

I think what’s happened is a reduction or elimination of the middle class.Markets have had to move to either end.Vendors need to offer more consumer mass offering generic products or high end consumables.Macy’s, Sears, Ford—all midmarket brands—had to reply with low cost, low end brand offerings or high end.Ford, for example, has been disintermediated by Toyota on the one end and BMW and Mercedes on the other.

The world has become richer all told and the middle is no longer satisfactory to many.People’s requirements have fallen below or gone above the line.What can I get at a low cost at the easiest place? [Author’s note:A utilitarian purchase.] Or if I have to spend at a premium, I’m going to research it and try to understand the company at a really detailed level.

Some companies, like Amazon, have a business model that optimizes the two-minute relationship—in fact, they invented it.Boeing is the master of the 10-year relationship.They have optimized their model around build-to-order in small numbers like 10s and 100s.

But there is risk inherent in any new business model.For example, Amazon runs the risk of being superseded by social sites that allow buyer participation.Amazon is retail with a touch of social.The next generation is social with a touch of retail.

Whether or not this resonates with you, Anthony’s key premise—that a new business model is required because of economic and social changes—is dead on, so pay attention!

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