When customers become your ‘friends’

They say finding true friends in the Internet is next to impossible. The fact that you cannot communicate with them in flesh says it all. Let’s just say that nonverbal communication can never be replaced and still the most difficult to objectively decipher. Written messages in social media in the form of wall posts, status, or comments can never suffice the richness a message has. All netizens, experts or not, alike know this basic tenet.

Computer-mediated communication has brought some changes not only in communication per se but rather on relationships. My close friends whom I spent almost everyday with years before are the ones I miss a lot these days. Some of them are abroad while some are the ones whom I lost communication with. Yes, thanks to Internet, I can have conversations with them now. But then, I know that nothing is going to be the same anymore. Failing to connect with them once accounts for everything.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but these days, I am thinking over how social media and the Internet redefined the meaning or ‘friendship’. Perhaps at least one friendship is ended everyday as well as a new friendship that is formed between two strangers. Some friendships end while some just becomes faded.

Building friendships is similar to establishing connections with customers in the perspective of organizations. Maybe the difference lies in the fact that organization-customer relationship is crucial for it’s not that symbiotic. Organizations should develop good customer relations if they want to survive in this age of business competition literally. However, customers now are the ones to be ‘pleased’ and hold less pressure for there is a wide array of products, services, or companies to entrust themselves into. When customers lose interest, and moreover trust or loyalty, to a product or service, companies have to think of strategies to win them back. In a sense, this is like a one-sided relationship. Although both parties benefit, the amount of effort and expectancy level is not equal. And now, these all become more complicated because of social media, where a person’ message can instantly reach millions in just a click.

To organizations,

but be sure on how to have them.

Although a neophyte in communities and chatting, I learned essential things . I think these things may not be that directly translated to organizational strategies but I believe they are the fundamentals in every relationship there is. Here they go:

1. Disclosing true information helps you.

What’s the sense of pretending to be someone you’re not? Yes, information we disclose over the Net must be carefully sifted for security reasons. Yes, deception can be said to have higher rate of occurrence in the world wide web (particularly in social networks) than face-to-face. But there will always come a time that scandals will surface, hidden agenda will be traced, even secrets will be revealed in the Internet age. And that time is more unpredictable than before.

2.The first conversation is always the most important.

Relationships involve conversations. People rely and believe on first impressions. These are facts. First conversation is actually a predictor of the existence of succeeding ones. It’s like establishing good PR for yourself leveled up because it’s online. Smart people know whom and not to trust in the Internet. Gaining trust, perhaps in any channel or mode, is still difficult.

3. Keeping conversations entails pressure.

How to keep the interest in your target burning is a difficult task to do. In fact, it’s sometimes pretty normal to be paranoid in predicting, assuming, and expecting customers’ behavior. Each opportunity an organization can get to have conversations with customers should lead to more conversations in the future. Sometimes, it is even better to have clashes between companies and customers (although this is a huge no-no!)  than finding customers apathetic. It’s like having people not realizing your existence.

4. No matter how short conversations are, people remembering you gives the best feeling.

Trust is definitely gained, hardly gained. Real relationships are with people who know one another though they are not with each other physically. I am working on the assumption that when people/ customers believe in and like you, they will remember you without commanding them to. They will be ‘evangelizers’ of you instantly. It is not about the quantity of conversations organizations are having with consumers, but the quality of their relationship’s impact is. It’s about how much they value one another and be there when one needs the other.

Of course, I think, too, that relationships have their endings. No matter in what form those would be and because of what reasons, relationships should be taken care of very much while they last.


4 responses

  1. Hi jody!

    I also believe in the importance of first impressions, especially for communicating organizations with audiences who can easily switch from one brand to another. That’s why organizations and brands are advised to disclose genuine information at the very beginning of their conversations with customers. Disclose true information for good impression. Follow them up so they’ll remember.

    I also think that in this relationship, the other party (organizations) are required more effort.Maybe it’s because there are more competing companies that the other party (consumers) could choose from.

    August 21, 2010 at 6:29 PM

  2. Hi Jody 🙂
    I do agree with you that relationships,both online and face to face, have endings. It’s just that I think it is more difficult to sustain a relationship if your only channel of communication is the new social media.
    And while it is that hard to sustain, relationships that depend only on the internet or phones for communication is so much easier to cut off than those where face to face communication is possible.(we can easily remove them from our friends’ list or from our phonebook, right?

    with regard to companies trying to create a relationship with a target market, I think that it really is a hard task especially when that market has a number of suitorsssss.

    August 21, 2010 at 8:54 PM

  3. I believe that the consumers now is far different from the consumers before. Consumers are now smarter than ever, we can recognize which ones are just fake relationships (attempts of companies to communicate with us when they just wan to promote a new offer or product) or which one is real consumer engagement.Might want to read Earl’s post related to your entry. 🙂


    September 29, 2010 at 7:15 PM

  4. Hello Jody! I have my fair share of this. I am an online seller and an online tutor. Transacting online does not hinder me in making friends with my customers and tutees. In my case, it is precisely the reason why I can be friends with them. I’m an introvert but NSM could easily turn me into an extrovert. 🙂 One of the most important things I learned in OrCom is that we should NEVER ever burn bridges and that relationships should be given utmost priority.

    At the advent of NSM, we should not lose it. Instead, it should boost us our connections with each other. Connectivity, afterall, is one of its main characteristics. 🙂

    October 2, 2010 at 6:53 AM

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