Imagine you’re at the supermarket and queuing behind you is rock-legend Bono. I’m not sure why a multi-millionaire would be queuing at the supermarket – but how would you feel if staff treated him better than you?
And I don’t just mean giggling and asking for an autograph. How would you feel if they slipped a few free products into his basket or – even worse – served him before you?
I for one would be annoyed. If I’ve been a loyal customer for years, why should Bono swan in and get showered with great customer service and free gifts?
Irritating though it sounds, some businesses do treat certain customers better than others, and ‘online influence’ is one of the key tools used to determine who gets the star treatment and who gets stuffed.
What is online influence?
There are certain websites – such as PeerIndex and Klout – which try to measure how ‘influential’ a person is online by looking at their network of contacts. With my relatively puny 300-odd Twitter followers, my ‘klout’ is fairly low. But if I send a tweet from the mother-ship, @WhichAction (with over 3000 followers), people are more likely to sit up and pay attention.
Many companies are now using those measures of influence to decide who they should ‘target’ with special treatment, some of which I think is completely unfair.
The best things in life are free
Some companies offer free samples. This is pretty common, as celebrities and those with influence will always be targeted by marketers who want to get their brand into the public eye.
For example, one man (not famous but quite popular on Twitter) was the beneficiary of this targeting recently, when he cheekily tweeted at a a restaurant asking if they could have a steak dinner waiting for him at the airport on his way home. His online influence was so strong that the company decided it would be a good marketing move, so they sent someone out with steak and potatoes to meet him as he left the airport.
But everyone deserves a good service
Free products are one thing, but there’s been a worrying trend in the field of social media where companies give people better customer service to those who have greater online influence. And I can see why they’d want to.
After all, Stephen Fry (whose tweets are seen by over four million people) having a pop at your company will have a much greater impact than Joe Bloggs’ occasional rants. But it’s just not right. A person’s online influence should have no bearing on the treatment they receive.
But as more people start using social media to contact companies, the temptation will be greater for those companies to prioritise responses based on who has asked the question.
So I hope that those in charge of corporate social media understand that all customers are created equal. Apart from the obvious immorality of pushing non-internet-savvy customers down the queue, it’s just not a good way to do business.
Have you ever witnessed examples of better service based on a customer’s influence? Or do you think it’s fair game for companies to prioritise their most influential customers?