The Rise of the Vocal Customer

The growth of social channels has amplified the voice of the customer. Suddenly, they seem more assertive, more unified, louder. Customers are “coming into power” – changing, growing, evolving. Business must keep pace. We’ve got to transform, adapt, even “morph.” So, for inspiration, I’ve turned to the most effective “morphers” I’ve ever seen: Saban’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

I’m few years too old to have watched Power Rangers for my own amusement, but I have two kids that breathlessly awaited 4:00 PM on weekday afternoons to join the battle. The Power Rangers were ordinary teens most of the time, until a crisis arose. Then, they would “morph” to meet the challenge. Said morphing process produced a brightly colored costume and a set of powers. The leader wore solid Red.

Usually, morphing was sufficient to handle the run of the mill bad guys. But every once in awhile, a challenge came along that required the ultimate level of collaboration. When faced with a truly earth-shaking foe, the rangers melded into a single creature: The MegaZord. To morph into Megazord, two power rangers morphed to become the legs, two became the arms and the leader (The Red Ranger) became the head. This act of unity gave the team enough power to defeat dens of dinosaurs:

Today’s corporations are facing a challenge worthy of a MegaZord morph: The Rise of the Vocal Customer.. In the past, Marketing could morph into blue ranger and take on a challenge like data mining. Support could morph into the green ranger and tackle CSAT or Average Handle Time. Techcomm could morph into the yellow ranger and battle Single Sourcing.

But the pace of today’s engagement is too rapid for vigilante heroes, and the stakes are too high for accidental teamwork. Customers are changing much faster than the organizations that serve them. Traditional business functions have developed over time to meet the needs of the marketplace and they have served us well for years. But, facing the challenge of the day, no single traditional business function is equipped to, by itself, extract the maximum value from customer relationships without partnering with other internal teams.

Because of social media, product management has a chance to listen to the customers more quickly and efficiently than ever before. The days of expensive formal market research analysis and focus groups are numbered. The data is pouring through the window from a fire hose. If they succeed, they will understand exactly what kind of products to build.

Because of social media, marketing has a chance to understand exactly how customers feel about a brand. They have a chance to react in real-time to campaigns that are failing and to expand campaigns that are succeeding, capitalizing on momentum. If they succeed, they will create a connection between a brand and its users that has seldom before been seen.

Because of social media, technical writers have a chance to study the impact their content has in the field. They can determine which topics are making an impact, which are useless and which are missing. They can adjust and deliver. If they succeed, techcomm can bring incoming call volumes down, helping control support costs.

Because of social media, technical support teams have a chance to morph from a break/fix model to a proactive approach. Technical support can listen and respond when customers report problems on social channels, driving up CSAT. In addition, support can set up tools in the cloud to analyze a customer’s environment, making sure that the OS patches and product patches are up to date, before a problem occurs. Finally, support can foster the growth of user communities that provide guidance to each other. If they succeed, support can improve satisfaction while reducing costs. It’s possible.

I’ve seen it done.

This will require a cohesive battle plan. The team will have to think as a single organism to truly win. We must make the MegaZord. The individual power rangers (techcomm, support, marketing, prod mgmt) must each become the arms and feet of the MegaZord.  The question is: Who will be the head? Which department will be the brain, eyes and ears of the Megazord? 

So who gets to be the Red Ranger? I truly don’t know … But you may know, so please comment on which team is best equipped become the MegaZord’s head.

7 Responses to “The Rise of the Vocal Customer”

  1. Oh, please don’t make TechComm the yellow ranger. People already accuse us of being cowardly. 😉

    Maybe the red ranger is the content strategist. The person who fills that role might come from Marketing, or from TechComm — or from outside the organization.

    • Hmm. I DO think the red ranger could be the content strategist. I’m going to ask @Halvorson what she thinks about that. I suppose I could make #techcomm the green ranger, since I’ve never met an stc member who drives a giant SUV.

  2. I agree, no yellow ranger for tech comm. LOL.

    Seriously, while this was an entertaining and informative post, I think that the team that really embodies today’s challenges for information is the Special Response Unit from TV’s Flashpoint. (Ironically, your beloved Pink Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson is part of this team.)

    If you’ve never watched an episode, the information comes in fast and furious to the deployed team (the team comes in at the beginning of the “crisis” – not ad hoc). The leader is the strategist and he has to analyze and deploy the assets on the fly to come to a satisfactory (not always feasible) resolution for his team and everyone else involved.

    Sound familiar?

    • I’ve never seen “Flashpoint” but your plot description sounds like my typical work day. I bet I’m not alone. I’m going to add the show to my DVR. 🙂

  3. Love this analogy, Tristan!

    At EMC, I’m the Red Ranger 🙂

    Our social collaboration efforts are driven by my team of folks (all 2 of us) who lives within marketing and reports up to our CMO. We describe our approach as a “hub and spoke” model where we are the hub or center of excellence, and collaborate with all of the other business units (product marketing, IT, HR, legal, engineering, etc) to enable their social strategy to be successful. We set overall strategy, best practices, and offer tips, tricks, and guidance to them along the way, taking into account all of their feedback along the journey.

    All of this is accompanied with listening in the social space about what people are saying about EMC and our brand, and arming folks with the right information and strategy to react to that info, where appropriate, in addition to sharing their own information and best practices with the world outside of EMC.

    At the heart of the strategy is the fact that it’s not only collaborative, but it’s also a living, breathing strategy that evolves over time, based on the needs of the company and the needs of EMC stakeholders. In fact, we have a whole community on our internal community network where we communicate all of this with the company at-large and seek their input and direction on where to go next.

    Great post and keep ’em coming!

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