Some very large companies learned lessons this year about the power of customers. There was the Bank of America fee story and the Verizon fee story. Now, those fees hit customers in the pocketbook, and it's easy to see why people rebelled against them. But things get very interesting when we look at what happened to GoDaddy, which lost upwards of 72,000 domains when customers decided there were better alternatives.
GoDaddy didn't increase its fees, or do anything directly draconian to its customers; the company did, however, indicate that it was supporting SOPA, the very controversial legislation making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, and customers didn't like it.
There's always been an adage in business about customers who "vote with their feet," heading over to the competition if they find something they don't like about you, whether it be price or service. But now, people may leave you if they don't like your backing of a bill, or if they don't think you pay enough attention to the environment. And this is just the beginning.
Those of us who follow and contribute to social media are well aware of the ability to use outlets like Twitter and Facebook to make noise when something doesn't appeal to us, and some even credit, or partially credit, social media with a role in the recent governmental changes in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, the so-called "Arab Spring."
But customer influence is being taken seriously at levels most of us are not even aware of. Take for example the complex social media analysis being done by Bluefin Labs. As explained in a recent article in Technology Review (login required for the full story), Bluefin extracts enormous amounts of information from social media updates related to TV programs and advertisements. It won't be too long before they can deliver detailed analysis related to almost any topic in any medium.
All of these things should be a very big warning to companies:
Pay attention to your customers. They are empowered now in ways that they have never been before. They may vote with their feet, and take thousands of others with them when they go.
What are you doing to make sure your relationship with your customers stays on the positive side?
Give it some thought.