customer misservice

After years of building customer service infrastructure (like outsourced support numbers, online service chats with robots, on-hold purgatory, etc) that distances a company from their biggest asset (their customers), the customers are now catching up and biting back with their own technology rush.

Here’s a very nice overview article from Jena McGregor at Business Week via MSNBC about the customer backlash against bad service with technology.

As anyone who is on the web knows, angry and disgruntled customers with an internet connection can easily wreak havoc on a company’s brand. Got a problem that the company won’t fix? Upload something to YouTube, start a blog, leave feedback on a shopping site, or flat out email the CEO and someone will pay attention (either the company or other customers).

This new age of the “customer service conversation” has been swelling for years. I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of companies who are doing a good job reacting to the community and providing great customer service. But even more are not.

The online marketing community is well aware of the dam bursts like DellHell, ComcastMustDie, and iPhone rebates. And while those make great examples for case studies, I really think they are in the head of the long tail of disgruntled customers on the web. There is a great unwashed mass of negative customer experiences stretching out in the long tail that I don’t think anyone has picked up on. In other words, while companies may have been talking for the past few years about this new rise of the customer, no one has any idea how big it really is.

Here’s the question. After years of trying to distance themselves from the customer, how will those companies react to the new realities of customer service that are just now starting to go mainstream? And will they be too late before they realize that the mass collective has grown to a point that they can’t respond?