If your business has been around for any length of time, you know that knowing what customers think about your service is important. However, customers may be reticent to provide that feedback directly to you - good or bad.
For some reason, we prefer to vent with friends and colleagues. Sometimes those conversations escalate without warning. Perhaps because what you were getting through your customer service line was just a frustrated tone and a couple of hang ups.
Many companies have a process for monitoring conversations. Although there’s no silver bullet, you can use a combination of tools - Radian6, BuzzLogic, Cymphony, Twitter Search, Technorati and Google, for example. Some of these tools are free, some cost in the range of $5,000-30,000 for a single research dip, and some are subscription-based.
I was poking around and stumbled across a post by Ryan*MacMillan that offered a survey of the ten leading online conversation monitoring companies. You may see the table here - as an aside, this is quite a clever way of sharing excel spreadsheets.
I recognized MotiveQuest LLC - Tom O'Brien has been a contributor in this space and his Human Voice is inspiring. I'm also familiar with Radian6. There are other companies I listed when we discussed how to improve your company's reputation online. You may want to take a look at the Social Web Analytics eBook by Philip Sheldrake, which you can download here. In it you can find information about free services along with paid services.
Monitoring is a first step. You then need to figure out your strategy to respond, reach out, and help correct misinformation for your time and effort (and budget) to be worthwhile. Monitoring is also a reactive measure. A much better approach is that of embracing social media.
There are a number of companies that are already active in social media and learning from their customers as a result. Dell has IdeaStorm, Nike has Nike Plus, Ford has Where are the Joneses*, GE is present with Ecomagination, Method blogs at People Against Dirty, Graco shares resources for parents on their Graco Baby blog, and many others. For a more extensive dive, Peter Kim put together a list of social media marketing examples.
Today at Fast Company Expert blog, we discuss how you can own your customer service experience. Do you monitor online conversations about your business and brand? What tools have you found useful?
[* update from Scott Monty at Ford - this site was run until the summer of 2007. Ford gives people the opportunity to submit their own ideas at Ford New Ideas. They also have a forum for owners of the SYNC system (hands-free control of your phone and mp3 player, developed in partnership with Microsoft) called Sync My Ride.]