The Customer as CEO: an Interview with Chuck Wall

In one of my other (many) lives, I’m a food blogger, and I was recently assigned to write a piece on restaurants with great patios. I reached out to several of these restaurants via Twitter, and was surprised at the amount of time it took for them to respond, or the entire lack of response from a few of them.

Facebook, but Twitter especially, are becoming excellent customer service tools–I would argue, even more so than the phone (but this is coming from a girl who uses her phone only to text, tweet, and check her email).

Many businesses I work with are still somewhat reluctant to jump onto the Twitter train, especially. They are afraid folks will say something bad about them, or they’re afraid they’ll need to be connected to their device 24/7 just to answer people’s questions. The truth is, people are going to talk about you. I think it’s better to know if it’s negative, so that you get the opportunity to turn it around. And when it comes to customer service, quite simply, above everything else, people just want to be heard. Acknowledging them often solves 80% of the problem.

Today, I do an interview with Chuck Wall, author of Customer CEO: How to Profit from The Power of Your Customers (Bibliomotion, April 2013). You can download a free chapter here, and I’ll be giving away a copy of the book at the end of this post.

RC: How has the social media revolution affected how businesses dealt with negative feedback in the past?

 CW: In the good old days (before social media), if a customer had a bad experience they were at the mercy of someone, anyone, at the company that might take the time to listen and do something about their complaint.  This is why proactive companies like Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton stand out; so few others made “high touch” customer service a competitive advantage.  Many companies have just figured “why bother? There are plenty of new customers to take the place of the complainers.”  But now, in this mobile social era, the customer has the immense power to tell many others about their experience in real time.  Companies that don’t take the time to really understand this shift in power are simply kidding themselves.  Today’s customers have many choices and they will be gone in a flash unless quickly helped.     

 RC: Many businesses I work with are terrified of social media for this exact reason. “What if someone says something bad about me?? ” How would you respond to that?

 CW: You are so right. I have heard this many times over the last few years from all types and sizes of companies.  In fact, in the book, I list the eight main reasons leaders have told me they want to avoid social media at all costs.  They are:

  • It’s a fad.
  • There’s no ROI.
  • It will only damage our brand’s reputation.
  • We lack the time and/ore resources to do it right.
  • We can’t control the message.
  • We’re afraid of making mistakes.
  • Our staff lacks experience.
  • We don’t really care about what they are saying.

 Of course, we know this is short-sighted and counter productive.  The dam has burst and many companies are underwater now.  The longer they wait to catch up, the harder it will be to swim back upstream.  Meanwhile, competitors that understand the importance of social commerce, will gain a tremendous and decisive competitive advantage.


How has social media changed the way that businesses are handling customer service?

 CW:  The smart brands have embraced new tools to allow them to listen 24/7 with “listening posts.”  For example, I think JetBlue is doing an exceptional job using Twitter to build rapport with their passengers on good flight days and bad flight days.  They use humor to connect and this helps build a reservoir of good will.  Others, like United, have been slower, and often seem somewhat detached from the conversation.  Interestingly, legacy brands like Hertz (who have not used social media proactively) have recently jumped in with both feet.  They are moving much of their real time customer service response to Twitter. They have finally figured out that it’s good for both parties in that it’s a fast and efficient way to solve customer problems…and build goodwill in the process.

 RC: Finally, do you think that people are starting to abuse this power? I tend to mostly post positive stuff. If someone really pisses me off, I’ll try to get some satisfaction, but for the most part, I like to use my “social media super powers” for good. Do you think people are getting too cocky with this “superpower?” or is it just a few bad apples?

 CW:  Yes, like everything, social media does have it’s bad apples.  I call them “customer vigilantes.” These folks are on some kind of search and destroy mission and I think brands would be smart to “fire” them.  Make them someone else’s problems.  No one likes a bully and that’s what is happening in some of these cases. However, my research shows that they vast majority of people are too busy; they just want a resolution to their problem as quickly as possible.  

RC: Thanks, Chuck! Follow Chuck on Twitter @customerceo.

To be entered into a draw for Chuck’s book, Customer CEO: How to Profit from The Power of Your Customers, tell me, in the comments section below, either:

  • an example of someone you know who has used social media as an effective customer service tool


  • how your business is utilizing social media as a customer service tool

I’ll do a random draw from all the comments in a week, on May 22.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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