The social consumer – a curious coda

A few weeks back I did a little experiment. Bored with the usual annual challenge of being bamboozled by the complexities of telecoms company charging models, and the feeling of exploitation that was aroused by the end of “12 month introductory” deals, I issued a challenge to five of the main broadband providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, PlusNet and TalkTalk) as to whether they could provide me a better service. The results where a depressing, but unsurprising glimpse into how little big organisations care about actually engaging with customers and prospects through social channels.

If you followed that story, you might be curious as to why I never wrote a conclusion. Who did I choose to go with?

Well, here’s the reason why…

In conversations around the subject with friend Chris, I mentioned how the combination of people and tech that my energy supplier Ovo have seems to strike a much better balance, and has a real understanding of how new platforms can change how a service provider can provide a service. I use Ovo for Gas & Electricity, and as a new, small company they have built a model for customer interaction that just feels, well, nicer.

It also appears that they actually listen to social networks –

If you click on the conversation above, you’ll then see the intelligent, interesting and aware conversation that followed. This is neither the phenomenon of “Social networking by Intern” or of shepherding social interactions into established customer service channels. This was a real conversation.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, soon afterwards I was contacted on Twitter by Ovo’s CTO, who asked if I’d like to be part of their pilot Telecom service which was to be soon released. This morning I signed up. I can’t remember ever feeling a sense of excitement and warmth in signing up to a utility company before.

Now the big utility companies would look at this and probably immediately cry that this sort of approach just isn’t scalable. And maybe, in an economy that will increasingly be about the value in interactions, not transactions, the issue of scale is exactly the point. In a world where streamlining of transactions is key, scale is everything. That’s the industrialisation model.

But in a world where interactions between people are the differentiator, and technology becomes available to give smaller organisations distinct advantage over the larger ones, maybe (as Seuss’s Onceler put it) “figuring on biggering and biggering and biggering” isn’t the best way forward any more?

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