6 Types of the Social Customer

In my book, I have identified six types of the social customer, all with varying degrees of influence. I don’t discuss influence specifically because every customer, social or not, has some level of influence over others.

The Social Customer

What’s important to note is that this is not a life-cycle. Social customers interact with business and brands differently based on their emotions and how they are feeling on a given day. One day they might be a collaborative customer, and the next day they might be with a competitor. Much of this depends on a company’s reaction, or not.  The study of human behavior can only be determined and examined by expert psychologists; and it’s even more difficult to do this when studying clicks, ratings, content and behavior on the social web.

Social CRM is at the center because support, sales and community management teams are the ones responsible for determining the rules of engagement based on the behaviors of the social customer. Organizations today are already deploying social technologies internally, creating workflows and governance models to address the landscape. That being said, here are few ways to think about social customers.

The Venting Customer

This customer might be complaining on Twitter or Facebook, but a response might not
be necessary. In many cases, these customers are just seeking attention from their networks and usually make statements such as, “I love my Dell laptop, but it’s way too heavy,” or “I just got Comcast installed. The high definition is amazing, but the cable box doesn’t match my furniture, ugh.” In certain cases, a company can choose to follow this customer on Twitter if that’s where the conversation is happening and may even take it one step further and say “Thank you for ordering,” or something similar.

The Passive Customer

This customer is definitely in need of customer support but isn’t actively seeking a response quite yet. Usually, these customers aren’t that vocal and are more patient than others. They’ll likely tell their communities about the issue and seek help while mentioning the company directly. They’ll make statements such as, “My Toshiba laptop keeps powering off after being on for 5 minutes, please help!” Often they also include the infamous #fail hashtag if they’re using Twitter. In this scenario, it’s imperative for customer support to be flagged and either fix their problem directly or send the customer information about how to fix it. Ignoring a passive customer can turn that person into a “used-to-be” customer, which is never a good thing.

The “Used-to-Be” Customer

This customer is angry, vocal and needs assistance immediately. These customers have most likely expressed their discontent several times online and either haven’t been responded to or haven’t had their problem resolved. They’re consistently telling others about their negative experiences. They make statements such as “My Internet just went down again. I am sick of @Comcast and canceling!” or “1-800 Flowers was late delivering my mom’s flowers for her birthday. This is the second time. I am done with them forever!” In this case, the customer support teams should be flagged immediately so they can proactively reach out and offer them a complimentary promotion of some sort. More importantly, the company should start thinking about optimizing their business processes in order to resolve the root issue of the problem.

The Collaborative Customer

This customer is happy with the product, service, or company. Often these people seek out venues for suggesting new products or enhancements to an existing product,much like Dell’s IdeaStorm and MyStarbucksIdea. They make statements such as “I think El Pollo Loco should also serve baked chicken for people who want to eat healthy” and then cc: the company on Twitter (as in “cc: @ElPolloLocoInc”). This, way, they ensure that El Pollo Loco will be notified via their @mentions on Twitter. Although this isn’t a customer support issue, customers like this should be flagged and paid special attention to because they could potentially be turned into advocates. In this case, a marketing or a community manager should engage directly and start building a relationship.

The Customer Advocate

These types of customers talk about a brand, product, or service even if he or she is ignored. These customers don’t need incentives, either. They talk about a product because they’re thrilled with what it does for them and how it makes them feel. Often they make statements such as “You all should buy the new Sony 3D TV. It is awesome and perfect for gaming and watching movies on Blu Ray. We love it!” Marketing and PR departments should be flagged immediately and should reach out to these advocates. It’s good practice to invite advocates to private communities and give them sneak peaks into future products, seeding them with new products or just asking them for specific feedback.

The Future Customer

This customer, also known as the prospect, is one of the reasons CRM systems came into existence. They can either be new customers or customers who are considering an upgrade to a new product or service. The prospect will say things such as, “I am thinking about getting Comcast. Tired of Dish Network’s constant outages. What do you guys think?” What could be a future customer for Comcast is potentially a “used-to-be” customer for Dish Network, so each company would handle this scenario differently. In any case, the sales team from Comcast should be flagged immediately and be prepared to offer this customer a really good deal for switching services. In a business-to business (B2B) environment, this could be an existing customer talking about upgrading the hardware in the data center; the account manager should reach out to them directly before the competitors do.

Related Articles:

About the Author

Michael Brito

Michael currently works for Edelman Digital as a Vice President and leads the digital team in Silicon Valley. He currently provides strategic counsel, guidance and best practices to several of Edelman's top global accounts.

Previously, Michael worked for major brands in Silicon Valley (HP, Yahoo! and Intel) and was instrumental in driving social media programs and campaigns emphasizing authenticity and long-term relationship building.

More about Michael >>