In 2011, Verizon proposed a $2 charge for online bill payment. Described as a ‘convenience fee’ to help support payment options, consumers were quick to express their displeasure and annoyance at the change. Online petitions started to emerge on social media, with one customer stating: ‘It is not just the money, but Verizon thinks it can do anything to its customers and we are powerless to stop it.’
The petition to remove the charge received over 100,000 signatures in a single day. Customers felt that the strategy was taking advantage of them, and was a move only motivated by bottom line profits. Under pressure, Verizon revoked the fee just 24 hours after it had announced it.
Even though the fee never materialized, mistrust among the company’s customers was rife. Charging $2 made the company seem arrogant - it implied that Verizon was convinced that its customers would be happy to pay more for an unchanged service - and damaged what was a reputable brand.
These mistakes aren’t common. But the question remains, how does a company - which is meant to know everything about its customers - find itself so far removed from them? It’s not a lack of information. Customer data is easy to obtain, with methods to analyze it increasingly accessible irrespective of company size. Even if patterns can be found, companies can struggle to transform this information into actionable plans though.
The first thing a company needs to do is listen to its customers. History demonstrates that consistent customer communication brings success. On this topic, Fast Company reserves special praise for Best Buy, Nascar and Yahoo. The article states: ‘They've started to take bold steps to react to the demand of the market, to be more customer-obsessed, and turn customer feedback into action. As a result, these organizations are now showing signs of revival.’
These companies embraced customer reviews and strategic collaboration with customers. For example, under Steve Phelps, Nascar made strides to improve fan engagement and made aggressive investment in the space. And according to Fast Company it paid off: ‘Nascar is once again becoming appealing to sponsors and viewers.’
Customer relationship management is nearly 30 years old. The concept has changed though. Social platforms give consumers a voice, and it’s one they expect to be listened to. Sales and marketing should understand this more than most. According to a report by Prism: ‘[Sales and marketing] must be the voice of the customer and ensure that the customers’ needs are taken into consideration in day-to-day operations, and especially when implementing proposed changes to your operations.’
These three companies show that keeping the customer central to your strategies reaps considerable rewards.