Winning Business Means Knowing What Customers Are Saying

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  November 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions

The relationship between customer and vendor… it’s the key to a successful business. In fact, most successful companies spend significant effort and budget dollars engaging their customers, ensuring their customer relationships are well-managed, and coaching and training staff on best practices for ensuring customer satisfaction.

It’s smart business. That is, until other relationships begin to overstep their bounds, like that between vendor and supplier. Then, it becomes a balancing act for the vendor, who has is suddenly being pulled in two, typically distinctly opposite directions.

Many of you in the greater New York area know what I’m talking about, since you, too, missed the first two games of the World Series this year, along with a few Giants football games, when Cablevision and News Corp (News - Alert). found themselves at an impasse over retransmission fees for several FOX channels from October 16-30.

Time will tell how this and other retransmission negotiations on the part of Cablevision will play out – remember, it also saw Disney and Scripps Networks pull their programming for short periods earlier this year. But, while the cable operator has made every effort to convince its subscribers it has sought to act in their best interests, and despite the resounding message that content is king, the monthly bill will certainly play a key role. To that end, Cablevision has already stated its “customers will pay more than they should the Fox programming,” though it also claims the amount will be less than the original News. Corp. demand.

While reports suggest Cablevision may have only lost around 8,000 subscribers due to this latest dispute and blackout, as AT&T and other alternative providers beef up their service offerings, Cablevision may be in for a rough road, especially given the preponderance of tweets, Facebook (News - Alert) posts, and other social media updates, making it very easy for consumers to quickly voice both their displeasure and their alternative arrangements. And if one thing has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, humans are pack animals, and are very likely to not only listen to their pack mates, but to follow them.

Case study 1: I have two acquaintances who have recently told me they have or are on the verge of canceling their cable service in favor of a cheaper ISP and Hulu (News - Alert) Plus (which is partially owned by News Corp. subsidiary Fox). These same individuals have long since stopped using a landline phone service, opting for only the cell service, noting not only cost for both changes, but also recommendations from friends.

Case study 2: I surveyed a number of friends and business associates about their video, phone, and Internet service, as read countless conversations about various service offerings. Finally, I concluded that my best course of action would be to switch my phone and cable service to Cablevision, which already delivers my cable service. But, despite now having my business for its entire triple play offering, Cablevision has a long way to go in earning my loyalty. It may be the best option now, but as we all know, in this competitive market, subscribers are as apt as ever to switch to a new provider with a better offer.

For the time being, AT&T cannot match Cablevision’s service, and DIRECTV only offers New York local programming, despite service being delivered to a Connecticut residence. But, as these and perhaps other providers enhance their services, many in Cablevision’s service area will be following the social media updates from their friends and followers, looking for that elusive holy grail combining service quality and cost effectiveness.

Rich Tehrani already pointed out one Social CRM 2.0 possibility that Cablevision and every other provider may be very interested in as it evolves (see his Publisher’s Outlook). Aside from the chatbot idea, however, there are already myriad social media monitoring solutions developed specifically to track and respond to what has quickly become the most prevalent form of disseminating information among friends, family, and colleagues.

You have certainly noticed the preponderance of social media related content in this magazine over the past year – that trend will continue well into 2011, starting with a major feature on handling the social customer in the January issue. In conjunction, we are also preparing for the second Social CRM Expo, which will again be collocated with ITEXPO, taking place in Miami, February 2-4, 2011 (www.scrmexpo.com for more information). The inaugural event, the past October in Los Angeles, was a resounding success with social media experts from both traditional providers like Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) and SugarCRM as well as entrepreneurial startups like Nimble began a discussion of social media’s presence in business that will be continued and extended in Miami.

It’s a challenging environment – not only in the service provider space, but in any line of business – and the only way to ensure your business is fully equipped to meet that challenge is to listen to your customers and those of your competitors, which means you have no choice but to engage them where they interact – social media.

See you in Miami!

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi