Facebook’s contrarian approach to customer service

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Before Social Media marketing there was just plain old marketing.

Marketing consisted of several components. In the ‘old’ days, it was a struggle to get sales people to understand that the sales function was only part of the marketing equation, not the entire equation.  Marketers knew that the entire equation included sales, lead generation, public relations and customer service, each equally important.

Customer service evolved to a ‘science’ with mega training and guru philosophies abounding. One of the most common philosophies was ‘the customer is always right’.  Another was ‘if you want to be successful,  find out what the customer wants then give it to them.’

If you didn’t stick to these rules, the experts said, you’d be out of business pretty soon.

Every now and then you’d have someone who dared to voice a contrarian opinion, such as ‘fire the client’ and ‘the customer is NOT always right’.  These philosophies were born fromt the movement that addressed the issues of growing your business based on the profile of your top 20% of customers rather than wasting time on the difficult and low profit 80%.

While we’re all used to seeing government organizations growing despite their flagrant disregard for ‘customer’ service, we’re not used to seeing this happening with a a relatively new start-up.  Especially not when it’s establishing itself in the market.

Until Facebook.

Facebook has an interesting and very contrarian approach to customer service. They often totally disregard their ‘customers’ wishes, public opinion, and even at times simple business ethics.

Disputes regarding privacy issues have been common. Sometimes the organization has backed down a little, but never entirely reversed a decision to make an unpopular change.

If they decide that they’re going to change the way that your profile operates or completely upend your marketing approach to your Facebook page – tough.  Learn to live with it or leave.

Some leave.  According to a recent magazine feature on the company on CNBC, most who leave end up returning.

It appears that Facebook operates with complete immunity to negative consequence. Their disregard for basic customer service principles is amazing in its brazenness. Yet they are growing by millions yearly.

How is this possible? Is everything espoused by traditional marketing principles wrong? Or are there exceptions to the rule?

Here’s the deal: Facebook has something everyone wants.  And they want it so badly that they’re prepared to put up with anything to have it.  It’s sort of like a drug addict who will do anything – absolutely anything – to get their hands on the next fix.  Or… to be a little more mainstream, it’s like those of us who are prepared to trade any and all of our constitutional rights and freedoms for ‘protection’.

So, as you’ve guessed, this is not a politically correct social media marketing piece – but, if you read carefully, what you’ll discover is a new marketing paradigm that should be examined and understood.  In one way, Facebook’s ‘anti’ customer service approach is a clear demonstration of what it appears to contradict i.e. ‘give the customer want they want’.

Facebook is giving their ‘customers’ exactly what they want. A platform that encompasses their entire lives – that handles both their personal social life as well as their business efforts.  A medium that brings them both what they’re looking to buy and what they’re looking to sell.  A way to present themselves and reinvent themselves publicly.  It allows users to create the perfect ‘radio face’ leveling the playing field so that those who are self conscious face to face can now project themselves as they’d like to be – and those who enjoy face to face success can now reach beyond the limits of their geographic social circle.

What’s the lesson?

Find out what the customer wants and give it to them. Be bold.  When you’ve identified and supplied what they really, really want… you too can flagrantly ‘ignore’ marketing principles.  But until then, as they say on TV, these exploits have been performed by experts.  Please do not attempt at home.

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