Are Your Customers Brand Terrorists?

The old marketing adage is that customers can either be brand ambassadors or brand terrorists, depending on how they’re treated.

Former Forrester Research analyst Bruce Temkin (now managing partner of Temkin Group) is a guru of the Customer Experience Management (CEM) discipline…and there are some interesting insights for marketers in Temkin Group’s Q1 2011 Customer Experience Survey, including this one:

Are traditional channels the best battleground to fight brand terrorists?

It appears as though customer terrorists are most likely to inflict brand damage in direct conversations with friends; either on the phone, through email or in person (63%), and it’s tough for companies to counter those assaults. In fact, Word-of-Mouth research firm Keller Fay Group estimates that 90% of all customer conversations about brands in the US – both positive and negative – happen offline.

From a defensive standpoint, a company’s greatest opportunity to address customer grievances occurs when they appeal directly to the company through phone calls, email, letters and website comments, which according to Temkin occurs about 34% of the time.

Despite all the buzz about the power of social media as a CEM tool, most customers are not spending much time complaining on Facebook(20%); on 3rd party opinion sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor (11%); or on the darling of social media, Twitter (4%).

Perhaps all the social media hubbub – at least in part – serves as a convenient distraction for companies that have failed to deliver on the most widely used CEM channels: phone, chat and email?  If you’re looking to convert customer terrorists into brand ambassadors, those channels still appear to be the best places to invest time and money.

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