Is there any doubt we're living in the golden era of the end user?
Think about it. Massive Fortune 500 companies will humbly prostrate themselves when lowly JimBob2825 complains about them in a blog or Twitter post. They'll overhaul policies when an angry mob dominates their Facebook page. Companies are paying mommy bloggers thousands of dollars, just for the chance to win the approval of the Internet's most powerful influencers.
We haven't even talked about Access' specialty, which is discounts, rewards and other loyalty program staples. Things are getting very busy here, which means a lot of companies are finally making the leap to building a loyal, two-way relationship with their customers.
The recession, and the scarcity of the consumer dollar, has caused many to finally realize the power of loyalty. Specifically, the lifetime value that a loyal customer provides, even when they're paying a discounted rate for goods and services.
They're also realizing the potential negatives that come from a customer hell bent on revenge after a sour experience. Referring to a classic saying, the angry customer no longer tells 10 people; they can tell millions, when you consider personal social media followings and eternal search engine results.
The other part of that saying is that a happy customer may not tell anyone, but that's not quite true anymore. Consumers are publicly singing the praises of their favorite brands.
Consider the social implications of one young couple's visit to a new restaurant. They used a special discount from Access on a hot new restaurant, and shared their plans to try the place on Facebook. They checked in with Foursquare/Gowalla, sharing their location with their networks. They snapped a photo of the main entree and posted it to Twitter via Twitpic. When they're done, they'll blog about the experience and even post a review on Yelp.
What happens at the restaurant can be viewed by the world in near-real time.
Obviously, the experience had better be good, from the bus boy cleaning up tables to the fluffiness of the soufflé. And this type of top-to-bottom experience should have always been pursued, but for years companies didn't invest proper customer service skills with frontline employees, relegating such things to call centers. Today we play by their rules or suffer the consequences.
The only answer is to create a customer-centric culture within your company. Invest in service functions and let their feedback inform every process, from product development to marketing. Give them something that is of real value and keeps up a positive interaction with your brand.
The average consumers are the new Illuminati, and it's wise to treat them as such.
Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter