Businesses, customers and small fry

IE Focus | By Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School

It’s time to put an end to deliberations. If there is anything that really is changing as a direct result of the popularisation of the net and the so-called social web, it is undoubtedly relations between businesses and their customers.

Open your account on Twitter (Sorry? You’re an executive and you still don´t have Twitter or you don´t know what it is?) And write something about well-known large business organizations with millions of customers, such as Telefonica or Iberia, often criticised for their customer service. In a matter of minutes, if what you have said about the company merits a reply, you will quite possibly find it on Twitter. Have a look at the Twitter accounts of Movistar or Iberia… What can you see? Businesses talking directly with their customers and offering to solve their problems. Businesses that listen to the small fry.

It might be a question about items on a bill, explanations about an incident or about an offer: the question is that, after many years of inflexible single-direction trading and contacting customers only to harass them by throwing new products and services in their faces, many businesses are finally starting to use bidirectional communication channels to maintain real relations with their customers. Such relations are much more genuine and make it worthwhile to manage exceptions or speak with a human voice if a problem can be solved and a customer can be satisfied. Trivial? At the moment, more or less testimonial. But undoubtedly a sign of the times. Times in which technology, far from isolating individuals, makes it possible to humanize relations and bring together those who are on both sides of the screen. How can invest millions in expensive CRM systems if our customers then speak about us in public and we pay them no attention?

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Students from IE Business School’s International MBA (IMBA) program have been providing online and onsite assessment for the African women entrepreneurs who have participated in The Women-Led Businesses Program. The program is designed to provide mentoring and assessment for women entrepreneurs in Liberia, South Africa, Congo Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Senegal and Rwanda, and is organized by the Senegalese association FAS (Femmes Africa Solidarité) and IE Business School.

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