The sheer noise of customer feedback through social media can intimidate even corporate titans.
How much of that is valuable information, and how much is the work of a crew of hardcore complainers? What of it, if any, is actionable? It’s easy to make the error that social media is primarily for broadcasting your corporate communications. The best use of the technology, however, is to use it to measure, listen to, and act on customer feedback.
Persistent complaints made by diverse customers are some of the most important to take into account. If more than one person has the problem with your product, it’s just like when a quality assurance department reports a reproducible bug in a computer program.
Measure the frequency with which you receive that complaint. Determine how important it is. And act on it. Make your customers a priority.
When a customer complaint leaves your e-mail inbox and spreads to a user blog, on Facebook, or another social network, it can pose a more significant problem. It will show up on search engine results. And if you never address it, that customer may start to act like a negative advertisement. If they recruit enough people to their cause, it will drag down your promotion efforts.
When someone with clout complains or makes a suggestion about your company, you’ll have to use your judgment about whether or not it’s a good idea to respond. In some cases, it creates an opportunity to demonstrate how much you care about your customers to a broader audience. In others – particularly if the celebrity is grandstanding – talking to them publicly could just inflame them.
Any sufficiently popular product will develop a community of highly informed power-users. It’s wise to cultivate public or private relationships with those users to get a better idea of how people are interacting with your product.
The best example that I can think of is the Elitist Jerks forum, focused on intensive, math-heavy World of Warcraft discussion. Blizzard, arguably the most successful game developer in the world, uses that community as a resource for learning about the flaws in their own product. The official forums for the game, by comparison, are still valuable for the company, but have too high a signal to noise ratio to really learn from.
Real Problem or Fake Problem?
Your customers aren’t always right. Facebook is notorious for provoking outcries whenever it changes a minor feature or introduces a new service. In some cases, the furor passes over a few short weeks. It doesn’t mean that the feedback was ignored; it’s just that sometimes management must exercise judgment over how much to listen.
But if a problem is basic to your offering and multiple people notice it – and talk about it – over an extended period of time, then you will know that you need to act to fix it.
[Photo Credit: darkpatator]