Thursday, March 10, 2011

Online Customer Service and Corporate Social Responsibility

What role does a strong customer orientation play in Corporate Social Responsibility? When I saw Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in Silicon Valley last year, I appreciated his passionate concern for the customer, but I wasn't convinced that a customer-orientation alone accounts for a solid CSR orientation, as it almost seemed like he was suggesting. Nonetheless, our customers are people of course, and making them happy does make the world a better place. By looking at the effects of technology on customer service, we can start to imagine what it would take to address the needs of all stakeholders, including those who are not currently customers.

Technology enables some people:

The low cost of producing and distributing digital messages and the relative anonymity that comes with them will invite some passives to become more active complainers, particularly those who have high "customer technology readiness." We see this with the viral spreading of the United Breaks Guitars video and the Yours is a Very Bad Hotel Powerpoint presentation. Cyberbullying, online dating and blog comments all elicit behavior that is different from their face-to-face equivalents. However, as I discuss in an article I wrote about online community, there is much debate as to whether digital content about social issues enables behavior that wouldn't have otherwise taken place (such as protests in Burma, or more recently in Egypt) or whether it becomes just another form of passive consumption and distraction.

Technology use changes:

While banner ads had grown to a $9 billion per year business in 2004, by that time click-through rates had already dropped in effectiveness from 10% to .025% over the years (Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm, Ziethaml, Bitner and Gremler, 498). There were similar changes in the decreased effectiveness of telemarketing. New media makes it easier to reach more people at a lower cost, but the ability to instigate action may become diluted with time. The virality of online complaints and their detriment to sales will most likely fluctuate as both technology and our use of it change and adapt.

Implications for digital service recovery:

From the side of the firm, we need to create effective online venues that invite and respond to feedback from customers who are digitally oriented (just like we provide telephone venues for those who are phone-oriented). By providing a pressure valve that gives them voice, we channel them to share their complaints with us instead of complaining about them to others. We see a similar phenomenon is society at large. As Samuel Huntington points out in Political Order in Changing Societies, it is necessary for a democratic society to provide a legitimate arena within which to redress grievances in order to avoid violence, rebellion and revolution.

Conclusion

It is important for a company to be responsive to our customers just as it is for a democratic government. But what would it mean to apply the same type of responsiveness to other stakeholders who are not currently customers?

7 comments:

nakedminded said...

While I agree with the new passiveness due to technology on the half of companies and businesses in regards to customers, I wanted to point out something else have seen... I have actually noticed companies(everyday companies such as electric, telephone, etc) customer service getting drastically worse.I have also noticed that many times the worst is in an area where there is a monopoly, and no competitors... thoughts? Does technology and competition make for a brighter tomorrow? I have to believe it does!!!

lin said...
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Malenadu said...
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Catherine Meyers said...

Hi Ari, great post! I do agree, the biggest teh company, the less they care abour customers, you become nothing but a number.
Also, I want to point out, you have a great blog. Would you be interested in a link exchange? Let me know to send you info on my site ^^

Cathy

Alex21 said...

It's really great post!I saw a documentary(on http://www.usemeplz.com ) about similar situation with a big company...

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

thomaru said...
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