You Aren’t Always Right

As our team does more and more online outreach on behalf of our clients, I’m increasingly coming to realize that you can’t expect to “win” every debate.

Interestingly enough, “you” in this case can refer to either side of the discussion.

Companies – you don’t have to win

As a communications pro, with inside knowledge of the company/companies you represent, it’s easy to get caught-up in your own story. I mean that in a positive way – the best job is one you’re passionate about, whether that passion is focused on your employer or a client. Still, it’s easy to get swept away by the great things you’re doing, by the benefits your organization can offer, and by the great story you’re telling.

Trouble is, other people have a different story.

Maybe they have a history with that company. Maybe they perceive the situation in a completely different way to that in which you perceive it. Maybe they’re looking to solve different problems to you.

As a communicator who listens and engages with your target market online, you need to remember that you don’t have to convince everyone every time. Sometimes it’s enough that you show you’re listening. Sometimes it’s enough to put forward an alternative angle. Sometimes it’s best not to engage at all.

Consumers – you’re not always right

Social media, and the increased voice that it gives to the average person, seems to have led to many people believing that one person’s issue means a company has to change course.

Reality check, people: no company is ever going to be able to make everyone happy. What’s more, most changes in business have a counter-effect:

  • Lower the price on one thing and the revenue has to come from somewhere else (or increased volumes)
  • Basic management theory explains that of the three basic elements of a project outcome – cost, speed and quality – you can optimize two but have to compromise on the other.

My point here is that you may not like something, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same way. The opposite is potentially true, too – just because you’re happy with something doesn’t mean everyone else is.

Don’t expect every single company to leap to attention because you, personally, don’t agree with fundamental aspects of their business model.

So, next time a company responds to your concerns but puts forward an alternative perspective or just doesn’t drop everything to make big changes to their business based on your feedback, consider:

Is it them not listening to their customers, or an individual not necessarily representing the masses?

Closing-out

Social media engagement isn’t an all-or-nothing game. Not from the customer’s perspective, and certainly not from the company’s.

Social media allows companies to reach out to customers, and vice versa. It lets companies listen to concerns; to answer questions; to help people; to develop relationships. It lets customers voice opinions; receive support; put forward ideas.

Just remember – whether you’re the company or the customer, you aren’t always right.

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  • Push and pull philosophy=Win.

  • Great points, Dave. As a consumer, I’m looking for companies to be active and engaged to the level that they are comfortable doing so, as long as they continue to learn.

    Companies that posit an alternative view or perspective earn my respect – generally, my frustration, disappointment, negative experience stems from not having the same information decision makers do. Once I get that information, it’s easier for me to understand why, be empathetic, and cut some slack.

    Extend this further than Customer Company relationships – what about intra-company culture? Could information sharing lead to increased trust, better decision making and less micromanagement?

    Fantastic post Dave – I’ll be coming back for more, for sure!

  • Dave–

    Love your note about “sometimes it’s enought to show you’re listening. Amen. In our rush to convince our audiences that our story is the right story, we sometimes forget that in many instances customers just need to vent for a second. And taking time to listen to that venting, acknowledge their frustation and say you’ll do what you can to correct the problem can go a long way. You might be surprised how powerful listening, acknowleding and responding can be.

    It can turn a doubter into a believer in no time at all.

    @arikhanson

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  • wes

    Dave,
    what a wonderful post.right or wrong is not the question,but honest participation and intent is
    the true ingredient for building and lasting releationships in biz, in life. Back at http://www.activagers.com, we started a social network
    for babyboomers,because we felt the Facebook or
    MySpaces outthere are interested in just revenues
    in the infamous 18-35/49 age range.It was partly
    as an answer to the sentiment a lot of (young)
    boomers felt when they approach social media
    giants like the ones I mentioned above.Listen & learn,change/improve/remain is truly true.
    Wesley C.

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