Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 2, 201212:52 PM

In The Nick Of Real-Time

Are consumer expectations getting out of control?

True story: our brand-new dryer broke down. It's not even one year old. It's not the first time. We were told we would have to replace a piece, and that it would take five to ten business days for them to receive the piece, and only once the piece is in inventory will they be able to make an appointment to replace the piece (which could also take up to an additional five business days). Young kids, colds flying around from daycare and wet weather doesn't make it any easier. We haven't heard a peep from the company. We keep calling them and they keep telling us that they will call us back when the piece comes in. Ten business days later, we now have an appointment to get the part replaced. They said that they will be at our house at some point on Thursday between 7:30 am and 5:00 pm.

Well, isn't that convenient?

It's not hard to tweet out the brand name in an effort to publicly shame them into speeding up the process. It wouldn't be hard to name names in this posting and have it become an ever-increasing piece of content that defines their brand story. It's not all that challenging to post the story on Facebook and encourage everyone in my social graph to not do business with this brand. I'm holding on by a thread here in not revealing the brand's name. It is frustrating beyond belief. During all of this frustration and waiting, I ordered my iPhone 5 directly from Apple and watched one of the hottest pieces of technology arrive in less than five business days via China. Five days for the new iPhone with full visibility into where the product is and how it is tracking to my office (thanks to UPS) versus no idea, no response and no sense of care from a major appliance manufacturer.

What gives?

There are three sides to every story. As a consumer, none of this makes sense. As a marketing professional, I have seen brands struggle with customer service and supply chains. It's a complex world and getting pieces manufactured, shipped and installed professionally is actually a lot harder than it looks. We hold brands to such a high standard in a day and age when a tweet can change corporate dynamics as public shaming is the new (and sometimes best) way to get a brand's attention.

Real-time is now time.

The Social Habit is a social media research series from Edison Research. They are publishing their latest report in a couple of weeks, and have been teasing out some of the more eye-opening pieces of data that they have captured. Last week, Jay Baer of the Convince & Convert blog (he's also co-author with Amber Naslund of the business book, The Now Revolution, and one of the editorial partners of The Social Habit) let the world know about this one, fascinating, nugget: "Among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes."

Suck on that one for a minute.

There are some brands that would struggle to provide a response in thirty to sixty minutes when the customer is actually in their physical location. Just last night, a friend was lamenting on Facebook that it took three phone calls and over two hours to their get their iPhone 5 activated via their mobile service provider. In short, brands are being put to the test of speed. With instantaneous connectivity and brands pushing for customers to like, follow, friend and plus one them, consumers are pushing back and expecting the responses to their customer service issues to happen at a fast and furious pace. It's not just this pending research report, you can feel it live and in-the-moment right now. Head over to Twitter and type in any brand name in the search box and witness the differing levels of engagement.

What this all means...

Pandora's box has been opened. It can't be closed. Brands are racing to capture as many fans as possible in as many social media channels as possible. It's not enough for brands to capture and connect with these consumers, without the expectation of one good turn deserving another. It turns out that consumers want one thing: their issues resolved. And, they want it done fast. Faster than fast. The challenge is this: the majority of brands act fast... as fast as they can. Sadly, it's not even close to being fast enough for consumers. Now, brands and consumers are going to have move forward and figure out a way to define what the true speed limits are. Right now, we're in the autobahn phase of social media... there is no speed limit but it's all moving very, very fast.

Over to you: do you think consumers have realistic or unrealistic expectations of how quickly a brand should respond?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

By Mitch Joel