Is it customer service if you’re not a customer?

The 18th Mall
Creative Commons License photo credit: Adam Tinworth

There is a particular psychology around retail architecture, (not just shopping malls, thanks Mr Gruen) when consumers respond to “scripted disorientation” cues in the environment. Something I read years ago stuck with me – there’s a trick retailers use by extending the flooring that’s in their shop, outside of the shop, past the door and outside the window. So as you’re checking out the window display, your feet are already on a new (shop floor) surface, and your brain subconsciously thinks you are in the shop. Next thing you know, you’re in there buying that new outfit.

So using the extended flooring analogy, when you’re interacting with brands using social media marketing is it customer service if you’re not a customer?

With all the brands using social media to outreach and build up relationships, there are many paths to becoming a customer  beyond the one to many, company to customer “traditional” marketing model. Social media is causing a major rethink of the one way conversation. I found this great summary of the degrees of customer relationships in social media marketing

Traditional marketing focuses most on company to user and user to company. Today we have:

  1. company->customer
  2. customer->company
  3. customer<->customer
  4. current customer->potential customer
  5. potential customer -> current customer
  6. accessory customer -> current customer
  7. retailer -> current customer

There  are many others, and all of these relationships are broadcastable to tens of thousands or even millions.

In much the same way word-of-mouth and third party advocacy works, social media touchpoints such as Twitter, get a whole bunch of potential customers interacting with your brand, before they actually ‘purchase’. Just as the retail flooring extends outside of the shop to give you the psychological effect of already being inside, brands using social media extend a “pull” out to potential customers and in the social media interaction, it becomes customer service, whether you are an actual customer or not. What do you think? Have you had good or bad customer experiences on social networks? Share your thoughts.


The wonderful @stevieenglish is doing an amazing job being himself (hair colourist and avid surfer) on Twitter and social media marketing while he’s there. This post by Realize Beauty talks about her  social media “path to purchase” by interacting with Stevie for a week on Twitter before going to experience Stevie English Hair for herself in Glebe.

  • Eric Sohn

    A customer receives goods or services of some sort – it doesn't have to be your primary product or service. Information, connectivity, community are all services. Users of those, even in a browsing, information-gathering phrase are still customers. So, it's still customer service.

  • maverickwoman

    Thanks- this was a very valuable article that goes to the heart of the question by the skeptics who doubt the ROI for effort that has to be expended in reaching small pockets of non-customers through social media conversations vs cultivating traditional media relationships that still, in Australia, reaches a larger audience faster and cheaper.

  • Ryan

    I also think there's goodwill to consider, which is difficult to quantify.