Listen Up: Don't Ignore CustomersBy Pedro Pereira | Posted 2009-01-28 Email Print
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Companies, including IT vendors, have a poor record of monitoring customer feedback, even though Web 2.0 tools make it easier than ever to do so.
What’s the point of all this technology if you don’t really use it?
That is the question a lot of IT vendors need to ask themselves in relation to the myriad social networking sites that customers often use to offer feedback.
While many customers are vocal about technology they like and don’t like by posting their thoughts on the Web, it seems vendors aren’t really paying attention. At least that is the evidence from a new study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, an organization that caters to marketing executives.
The study, based on a survey of senior marketing professionals, found that only 16 percent of participants monitor online message boards and social Web sites to collect feedback from customers.
If you don’t think that’s bad enough, consider this: The study also found that only 23 percent of participants track or measure customer feedback e-mails.
Take a moment to process that. What it means is that a whopping 77 percent of e-mails containing customer feedback are ignored.
You have to wonder if that’s where it stops. You have to wonder if those little prompts that pop up on your screen when an application suddenly fails do any good. The prompts ask you for permission to report the problem to the software vendor, but if they are being handled the same way as most customer feedback e-mails, they are ending up in the trash.
The CMO Council conducted the survey to raise the awareness on customer feedback, according to Donovan Neale-May, the organization’s executive director. In what is probably the understatement of the year, Neale-May says that based on the council’s findings, companies are not doing a very good job of collecting feedback and using it to refine their marketing messages.
"Most companies are not utilizing what is in effect free intelligence," he says.
It’s not just negligent, it’s potentially dangerous.
Online message boards and social networking sites could heat up overnight about a particular customer service problem, but the company at the center of the issue may miss it altogether because no one in the organization is paying attention. So a problem that could quickly be addressed may instead linger and lead to loss of business.
It’s no wonder that only one-third of participants in the CMO Council study rated highly their companies’ abilities to handle and resolve complaints.
Interestingly enough, Neale-May says one of the IT companies that seems to be doing a pretty good job of this is Dell. Having suffered its fair share of customer service complaints some years back, Dell now has a comprehensive social networking site that encourages customer feedback, Neale-May says. The evidence is in Dell’s current marketing and advertising campaigns, which are positioning the vendor’s products as a solution to customer pain points, he says.
As any successful IT solution provider will tell you, addressing pain points is one of the most effective ways to get a customer’s attention.
It seems that more companies need to understand that listening to customers is critical, as is incorporating customer feedback into how they position themselves and their products. It’s a challenge, no doubt, especially as companies try to contain costs by laying off scores of workers.
But it’s a necessity. The CMO Council recommends tying executive and employee compensation to customer loyalty and satisfaction. Microsoft, for instance, is already measuring partner performance and tying rewards to end-user satisfaction with their solution providers.
And, you know, that’s a pretty good idea. Such a move would ensure that someone is listening.
Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for Channel Insider.