Transforming the Customer Experience By Simply Listening

Savvy businesses sharpen their listening skills so they can use posted comments to better serve all of their customers.

The power, immediacy, and far reach of social media is radically altering the customer relationship landscape. As a result, your customer service approach must recognize and process both positive and negative communications that appear on blogs, chat rooms, user forums, and other social media channels. As an added challenge, social media messaging can be totally one-sided, originating solely from the biased viewpoint of the person creating the post.

So how do you attack that issue? It’s actually pretty simple. Start by listening.

A few things to consider when listening for what your customers and their audiences have to say about your enterprise:

  • How do you find, monitor, and listen for customer comments?
  • Is the customer right, wrong, or just misinformed?
  • How do you handle damage control?

Monitoring and Listening for Feedback

Things are infinitely easier in an inbound-centric model where phone calls, e-mails, letters, and personal visits readily find their way to the customer service department. There is little need to look hard to find what customers are thinking, and you can respond in an orderly fashion.

It’s far different with social media. Anyone who believes they have been aggrieved can post whatever comments or barbs they want at any time. It may be hours, days, weeks, or even months before you know there is a problem, if you ever do. If you can, it’s a good idea to monitor online comments about your organization with the realization that it may be difficult to find where comments are posted, and there may be too much volume to monitor effectively. One possible benefit of listening to social media posts is that you may unexpectedly come across strong customer quotations and find sentiments to use for bolstering your brand and products.

Right, Wrong, or Misinformed

How you choose to respond to unfavorable feedback delivered through social media will likely depend on how you classify the quality of the message.

When negative commentary is accurate, the same channels that bring the bad news to you can also provide a public forum to promote how you are making it right. Whenever possible, be sure to use the appropriate social media tools to publicize that an issue has been identified and improved. Proactively answering concerns may well sway other customers to want to do business with you.

On the other hand, if the commentator is truly wrong or misinformed, try to correct the misperception with tact and empathy. Be sure to answer with facts and relevant background information so you aren’t characterized as merely a puppet reciting the company line.

Damage Control

When social media posts are extremely adverse to your organization’s image, you may face a damage control dilemma. If the negative social media user is overly sensationalistic or nasty, it may be best to do nothing. Entering into the fray may only lend credibility to his or her false assertions, while staying quiet oftentimes allows others to recognize the unsubstantiated rhetoric for what it is.

If you believe the poster has misunderstood an important element, it may be a good strategy to reach out to them individually and privately. When armed with more information, you may convert him or her to an advocate.

Also, be aware that social media posts can alert your organization to genuine issues that require attention. In those instances, consider not only answering in the social media arena, but also by using proven public relations tools, such as news releases, media pitches, executive speeches, position briefs, and other communication materials that present a consistent and uniformed message.

Social media undoubtedly places additional demands on your company to listen and respond to customers. On the positive side of the ledger, instant feedback can also tip you off faster to what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Savvy businesses will accept that challenge and sharpen their listening skills so they can use posted comments to better serve all of their customers.

A final thought: “Game-changing social media plans and strategies—not to mention the path to lifetime customers—just might be less about beginning with a compelling marketing message and more about intentional listening.” ~@EricFletcher