This one is between “high-value” and “low-value” customers.

Marketers sensibly chase after disposable income, and technologists leap to the challenge of finding ways to improve their products and find better and more efficient ways of serving customers.

Brian SantoThe potential problem is creating yet another digital divide, this one between “high-value” and “low-value” customers.

In a recent discussion about using social media to improve customer service, the following example was offered: Someone tweets about their dissatisfaction with a service provider (SP). The SP does a little cross-referencing, identifies the tweeter as a customer, and then does a little analysis and determines the tweeter is a high-influencer – someone whose recommendations are valued by others.

The SP therefore deems the tweeter a high-value customer and offers him a deal of some sort. If the tweeter accepts, the SP follows up with a brief satisfaction survey and asks the tweeter’s permission to push a notice to the tweeter’s circle that the tweeter was satisfied with the experience.

The desire to identify and leverage social network influencers is common. But if customers are deemed unworthy of customer service because they’re not pissing away a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, that’s simply wrong.

I have no objection to offering perks to good customers. The example above goes beyond that, however; it gets into social engineering, rewarding/punishing behavior that is almost entirely unrelated to the vendor-customer relationship. It’s also tantamount to deliberately neglecting a class of customers based simply on their economic means, and that can be offensive.

Look at it from the customer point of view. Those making $120,000 a year are probably spending about 1 percent of their monthly budgets on a communications bundle. Those making $30,000 a year, taking a similar bundle, are spending about 5 percent. Who values your service more? And in light of that, which do you label a low-value customer?