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People are venting but is anyone listening?

When you get bad service from a provider or a product lets you down, what do you do?  Increasingly, people are venting their frustration or anger via social media.

For service providers, who care about their customers (which is more than you may think) this presents an opportunity.  Using very simple, freely available tools, they can track mentions of their brand, service or product names and learn from what their customers are saying.  They can interact with their customers before greater damage is done to the relationship.

Of course, in order for this to work, they need to be listening.

The brands that elect not to listen, are not only missing out on some incredibly valuable feedback, they are also missing out on the opportunity to reach out to their customers and retain their business.  It’s a lot less expensive to retain a customer than it is to win a new customer or motivate someone to switch brands, so it makes sense on many levels for companies to monitor and interact with their marketplace.

The savvy business owner is always listening

He or she not only monitors what their own customers are saying, but also what their prospective customers are saying.  They know that if they spot a common problem among their prospective customers, which is causing people to want to vent their frustration, they can adapt their offering to answer that problem and stand a real chance of winning that slice of dissatisfied people.

Whilst most of the marketing emphasis regarding social media, seems to be about building your follower / friend numbers, it’s also important for you to listen to your marketplace.  The rewards can be amazing.

Do you monitor what your marketplace is saying via social media?

What tools do you use and recommend?

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  1. I find companys just want to sell via twitter and are not interested at learning at all.

    This p[ost has confirmed what I believe thats that they were missing out by using SM as a megaphone.


  2. Hey Jim,

    I always feel better after I’ve vented my frustrations on facebook but don’t expect it to really achieve anything much.

    You make a valid point here. The impact it would have if just once, one of these companies actually got in touch to help with a solution would be amazing.

    • When they do take time to listen and try and make amends, they not only win back a customer but often gain an advocate too.

      Thanks Jenny.

  3. I had a wry smile after our conversation on Twitter yesterday, Jim! But I totally agree with you – that it is a great way for companies to engage with their customers.

    I also believe it is a good opportunity to turn a negative into a positive – how you handle a complaint can turn a disgruntled customer into your biggest advocate.

  4. And don’t forget the opposite – Acknowledging positive feedback via social media. It helps reinforce your “good vibes” and lets your happy customer know that you truly appreciate them and you’re aware of what’s going on around your company.

    Positive reinforcement can be just as powerful as handling the gripes. :)

  5. I find it can often be a double-edged sword. Yep, social media gives a wider audience for any grievances (and wins), but a lot of folks are abusing that “power” too.

    Customers have to take personal ownership of an issue, and ask if the company has done everything they can first of all before venting.

    As far as listening tools go, here are mine:

    * Free – Twitter search, Google Alerts, SocialMention.com, Surchur.com, Backtype.com, Facebook Search.

    * Premium – Meltwater Buzz, Trackur.com.

    • You make a VERY good point there my friend. I’m seeing some people use Facebook or Twitter as their first option, rather than make a support call or even read some instructions!

      Thanks for the tools tips. I use several of those and will check out the others.

    • Thanks Danny – just looked at socialmention.com What a great listening tool! I’ve signed up for an alert….

  6. Hi Jim!
    Some companies definitely ARE listening. I had a twitter exchange with someone when I mentioned a recent report on ‘green’ washing powders. I specifically mentioned Ecover and repeated a comment my engineer had made. Ecover contacted me, investigated the comment, and, a week or so later, replied to it! Pretty impressive even if it did feel a bit Big Brotherish…

    • There are some really good examples, of brands that monitor and outreach via social media. Comcast in the States is a good example. A company with a far from legendary customer service reputation, who won a lot of positive acclaim via their ComcastCares guy, Frank.

      Thanks for the comment Jane.

    • A Different Jenny

      August 28, 2010 at 20:56

      That’s the trick isn’t it – to respond without coming off as big brotherish or stalkerish. It’s a good idea to take a look at the customer’s Twitter stream to see if they interact with more than just a few close friends. I scared one person with a response to a “vent” and am more careful now.

  7. I think most medium and enterprise class companies on twitter do listen to the vents, frustration, complaints, etc. I personally have an experience with one of the world’s biggest mobile phone vendors. They responded to my tweet and took some actions, but the final result was something different. It lost steam. Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to measure the effectiveness, as it takes a bell-curve :)

    • The thing is Naren, businesses of all sizes now have access to the tools required. What I feel is lacking, hence the reason for this post, is education.

      Thanks for the comment.

  8. Hi Jim-

    I was initially drawn to this post because of the mention of our tool (see- we’re listening!) but this is an interesting discussion so I thought I would leave a few thoughts.

    First- 100% agree that companies should be listening in the social media space. In fact, I think it’s important to listen regardless of whether or not there is a response plan in place (and it’s important to distinguish between these two steps).

    I have talked with a lot of companies that want to hold off on listening until the team can figure out a “social media strategy”. In these cases I stress the importance of listening first- otherwise (among other things), how do you know what to prepare for?

    Besides, developing these strategies often drag out much longer than expected. Meanwhile, the company misses out on very valuable feedback.

    Like Single Malt said, people are talking regardless. Might as well know what they are saying even if you’re not sure how to respond.

    Thanks for the mention, Danny!

    Jason Arican
    Meltwater Buzz

    • I agree Jason, that step one has to be LISTEN. As you say, this makes it easier to put an effective plan in place for dealing with feedback; both good and less good.

      Finally; Kudos for practising what you preach and being the only brand mentioned in the comments to be monitoring mentions of your own name AND being interested enough to get involved!

    • Ha, was about to say the same but Jim beat me to it. Thanks for validating my confidence in Meltwater :)

  9. You’re totally right. It’s possible to turn a bad customer experience, (or misunderstanding) into a great opportunity to win an advocate for your services.

  10. Hi Jim,

    It works the other way as well – if you send out praise via social media the relationship can be further cemented by the business or brand that is actively listening.

    Case in point – I had some really fantastic customer service only yesterday from a lady in an organisation and I tweeted a public thank you mentioning her first name and department. A few hours later I received a reply thanking me for the feedback, stating that the thanks would be passed on to her manager.

    It most definitely boils down to listening – that could so easily been a missed opportunity.

    • I have had the same experience, Alex.

      My phone company really looked after me (O2) and I tweeted about it. I now connect regularly with their social team and often use them as an example, of doing it right.

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