I've been using Verizon for three years. My average monthly bill runs over $300 a month, I live on my cell phone. My recent bill came in with a flyer promoting the new Blackberry 8130 of which I've been wanting to eventually get. The flyer promoted a deal which enabled me to get that phone at roughly 50% of the normal retail price as long as I signed a new two year contract (catch #1).
So I decided I would call the 800 number to inquiry about the deal. (catch #2). I called only to get an automated message "Thank you for calling our operators are all busy but the next available agent will be with you shortly". I counted, four minutes later after listening to recorded advertisements about how much the customer meant to Verizon. I finally get a real person on the line. I asked about the promotion then said "can I go down to the store around the corner and get the new Blackberry, activated and my existing phone number and contact list moved over to the new phone? The quick answer was NO, (catch #3!).
The person on the other end (who never gave me her name) went on to tell me this deal is only available either on line or by calling this number. If you go to our retail store you'll have to pay the full price (catch #4). OK, what is wrong with this picture? Wasn't I talking to Verizon, the same one whose name is on the local store? The lady, again with no name, went on and explained the "deal" to me"(catch #5), the terms and conditions of the deal and what I would have to do to get the deal (jump through a whole bunch of hoops (catch #6) and waste my time telling them things and filling out forms of which they already should have all the information since I was already a customer, or at least thought I was.
This whole conversation took forty minutes of my time and at the end frustrated, angry and shocked I simply said no thank you. Can you relate to this story? We're sure you can.
Verizon is not alone
This example represents a systemic problem is every Fortune 500 company's inability to think, act and serve the interest and needs of the customer and is the same across every company regardless of industry. True or False? The silo mentality, lack of respect for the customer's time and "tricks of their trade" is the root cause that fuels the attraction of the social web. Real people having real and responsive conversations with other real people about anything, everything and everybody.
Now consider people forming into groups named after each of the Fortune 500 brands , discussing similar experiences and collectively revealing (conversational rivers) the stupidity with a large and loud voice. One would hope that there may also be positive conversations expressing customer experiences that were delighter's but likely those would be few and far between. Now imagine a web with no walls, free flowing and "open" to seamless connectivity between people, one to one to millions. What influence would this freedom, this openness have on corporate performance, vendor relations (heard of VRM?), wall street performance measures and overall markets?
Guess what, it is already a movement and soon to be revealed even with today's current limitations of the social web. Soon people will be able to organize easily, seamlessly around affinities of interest without jumping from one silo to another. Soon the collective influence of the customers voice will be felt and heard around the globe, no longer hidden or intermediated by walled gardens rather reinter mediated by the customer, the people. the individuals.
There is a power shift swelling like a Tsunami wave. Right now it may not be visible however the under currents of the social web are creating the "oceanic plates to shift" thus sending a tremor through the foundations of conversational rivers
flowing through today's web. Corporations and institutions are not
ready nor aware of the approaching wave which can't be resisted given
its force and momentum. Stay tuned and we'll tell you and show you
where the plates are shifting and the waves are forming. You just may want to jump in and accelerate the shift. Can you hear us now?
What say you?