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ATM or bank clerk?  Self-service or live-service? Which do you prefer?

A new Havard Business Review article – Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You – suggests, on the back of recent research, that your customers don’t want to talk with you, or have any kind of ‘relationship’ with you – they just want you to solve their problem, and if that entails buying a product or service from you, then all the better (for you).

And if that problem-solving process can be automated to be smoother, faster and more efficient than dealing with a human – then most customers may prefer that too.  Self-service wins out against live-service.

So what’s this got to do with social commerce?  Well, it underscores the truth about business-customer relationships – you’re there to serve them, not be friends with them.  It also helps explain the finding by Razorfish that customers don’t want to have conversations with you in social media, nor do they want you be part of their conversations – what they want from you is simple; news about deals, events and offers.

Secondly, and by extension, the implication of the HBR article is that social features on e-commerce sites or on e-commerce-enabled social platforms shouldn’t get in the way of transactions.  Rather social features should make the business of companies serving – and selling – to customers, smoother, faster and more efficient.

More generally, if the HBR view holds for your market and your customers, something that is worth checking out, then there are a number of implications for social commerce;

  • Throw out the Cluetrain Manifesto – markets are not conversations, they are markets
  • Review your social media strategy – think commerce platform not conversational platform (and consign ‘engagement’ and engagement platform to the bin)
  • Use social media to make it faster, smoother, and more efficient for customers to buy from you. If social makes things more complex, it’s getting in the way.
  • To the degree that social media is conversational media for customers, don’t crash the party, host it – stop engaging in conversations with customers, and start facilitating and curating conversations between customers.
  • Prioritize passive social features that require the least effort on the part of customers (e.g. social recommendations based on social graph, group-buy deals etc).

Food for thought.