Customer feedback is customer experience gold.
That’s why there are transaction surveys, experience surveys, customer interviews, customer focus groups (although you know I’m not a fan) and many, many formal ways to gather feedback and use it to improve the experience.
But many customers don’t want to answer your survey questions. They’d rather tweet about their experience. Or post a negative review online, not on your site but on others.
The danger of ignoring these informal reviews from customers and others is big.
Consider how surveys work first.
Customers are asked specific questions about their experience with your brand. They are given a finite set of answers from which to select. They are offered space to share their own feedback, but surveys by their nature are limited. They are answering your questions, not providing you insights.
Interviews are a bit better, offering more space for customers to share true emotional feedback on larger issues, but customers often don’t share the really bad stuff since they don’t want to disappoint anyone.
But get them online? And man can you see the anger or frustration or joy!
Social monitoring allows brands to track the brand name, and it’s critical to do so, because without it, these digital diatribes can add up to prospects deciding not to do business with you before walking into a store or seeing a web site.
Trying to find a store from your mobile phone? If the address appears above 3 negative reviews about the store itself, the shopper may second guess her desire to shop there. In a study by New Brand, personnel was cited as a reason customers wouldn’t return to both J. Crew and Gap. Words like “terrible, rude, snobby” were mentioned frequently about these in-store interactions.
What can retailers do about the casual online reviews?
Here are a few ideas to stay vigilant about those customers who are providing feedback about you, but not TO you directly.
1. Monitor closely.
This may be obvious, but monitoring brand mentions online go beyond tracking the Twitter stream and Facebook feeds. Find forums with likely customers. Online reviews posted on Google, for example, get priority within a Google search, so pay attention to reviews there and on Yelp, Foursquare and other sites.
2. Obsess about the less obvious.
Obsessing about the brand is what many marketers are paid to do. But watching for only the brand name can lead to missed opportunities. If there is a less-flattering but well-known nickname, for example, monitor that, too. Or track common questions seen online or in stores. If peers are answering shopper or customer questions incorrectly, the brand will pay the price by not meeting expectations.
3. Engage your digital advocates.
It’s amazing how tweets or reviews praising specific stores, personnel or experiences are classified by brands as “no need to respond.” Customers who publicly sing the praises of a specific brand want to hear from that brand. Say thank you. Pass on the praise. Follow that advocate back and engage when you can. It’s not rocket science, but customers who say nice things shouldn’t be ignored for those who are negative. These customers can also be asked directly to write a review if you need them.
If negative reviews go unchecked, soon that’s all that will appear. Focus on what you can do as a brand to monitor, engage and learn from the customers who are out there chatting about you.