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No. My opinion of that was solidified last week thanks to a band of real smart folks led by Wim Rampen. Wim tossed some tweet chum out there last week with this:

This whole search for influencers and influence doesn’t sit right with me…what are your thoughts?

I took the bait. And, this started a fascinating twitter chat about this complex, multi-dimensional issue. My response was:

I’m in customer service. I don’t care about influence. Customer has a problem, gotta fix it.

Do we ask callers who they know before we provide service? Do we respond to emails with “I’d be happy to help you if you could first tell me how many twitter followers you have and how many people subscribe to your RSS feed”. Of course not. Being a bottom line kind of person, this is where I jumped to. But, as others like Prem Kumar, Brian Vellmure and Mitch Lieberman pointed out, it’s complicated.

While I think we are all in agreement, each of these folks came at the topic from slightly different angles. And there are many. Case in point: based on a recent article about Delta Airline’s use of Twitter for customer service, Mitch saw it this way. Wim pondered the validity of influencers in general in a post that stimulated a great discussion.

So you can clearly see, it’s an issue with many moving parts.

My point is this. Customers need service. That part is simple. So, I stand by my assertion that I don’t care about influence. That is not to say, however, that every customer gets the same white glove level of service treatment every time, all the time. Economic realities and scarcity of resources dictate that, in order to deliver a superior service experience, many organizations have a need to segment their customers for treatment. But, what possible value is created by making those segmentation decisions based on influence? According to Wim, he’s already witnessing this practice. It’s even more difficult to see the value in using this criteria over or in place of other measures like CLV, profitability or loyalty.

So, as I commented to Wim over on CustomerThink, picture this scenario:

Average Joe Consultant, who’s a Delta million miler and flies them exclusively, gets bumped from a flight, is disconnected from hold after 15 minutes or is charged cancellation fees or made to swipe his credit card to use the head because special treatment is being given instead to someone who tweets his request instead of calls, has 5 million followers but has never flown Delta before.

What if that was you?

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