After moving to a new apartment in September, I needed to get a new TV. My first instinct was to gather information from a few sources. I browsed online retailers to get an idea of prices, and I looked at manufacturers’ marketing content to understand the latest technologies like 3D TV. After all of that, I turned to consumer reviews and discussions to get a feeling for whether I would actually find those features valuable. (For example, some customer reviews helped me confirm that I didn’t want 3D TV.)

Where did I find those reviews? Everywhere — there are star ratings and comments on product pages at retail sites (like John Lewis and, technology media sites (like CNET) and manufacturer websites. Interestingly — I got the feeling that the manufacturers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the transparency that social media brings. They’d like to put a spin on the message, even if they can’t entirely control it — For example, Panasonic’s UK site has a page that promotes “5 Star Reviews Of The Month” (see the screenshot below). I can't think of a situation when I'd want a firm to guide me only to the most positive reviews of its products. Can you?


I’m pleased that social media teams at consumer electronics firms have convinced their organizations that consumers expect to see peer reviews when they’re evaluating products. But isn’t it a bit underwhelming that all of the sites I saw took pretty much the same approach to including customer reviews? I didn’t see any innovative approaches to integrating customer feedback into the experience of evaluating and choosing an appliance. I was also disappointed that the manufacturers and retailers didn’t use social media to help me with the next step after I bought my TV — the somewhat complicated task of setting it up. For that, I got the help I needed from a discussion thread in an independent online community. It falls a long way short of the innovative uses of social media that USAA devised when it designed its Auto Circle experience for car buyers.

In my presentation at Forrester’s forthcoming Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals, I’m doing a presentation titled: “How Does Social Media Change Customer Experience?” I’ll share examples of companies with effective social media activities at different stages of the customer life cycle and make the point that social media has transformed customer expectations at every step of the customer journey.

Which industries do you see as the most sophisticated in their use of social media to improve customer experience? Please share your experiences by commenting below — Have you done business with a company that wowed you with its ability to use social media to improve your overall experience?

And if you're interested, please consider joining me at Forrester's Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Los Angeles, November 14th to 15th. For those of you in Europe, please consider joining me for Forrester's Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London, November 6th to 7th. (I'll be talking about multichannel design at the London event.) Even if you can't make it to our forums, you can join the conversation via Twitter with the following hashtag: #outsidein