Do You Know What Your Customers Are Really Saying?

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Jeannie Walters – Enjoy!


photo credit: theparadigmshifter

With social media so readily available, small and big businesses are setting up listening posts to hear what customers, prospects and members of their community are saying about their brands. Listening in and using the feedback constructively can have positive results for your customer experience, leading to more repeat business, referral and word-of-mouth marketing. But it only works if you are listening to the right cues.

Start With The Basics

To make sure you’re connecting with your customers, it’s easy to track your brand name mentions on Twitter. Using Twitter search is a simple and straightforward way to do this. But what if they’re not aware of your brand? It’s a good idea to set up lists and searches for more than your brand name. Consider tracking:

  • Common questions and phrases prospects might use
  • Products or services you sell
  • If location is important, then track regional or locally-focused phrases
  • Your competitors!

It’s not just Twitter that can help you listen in, but Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. For location-based businesses, Foursquare, Google Local and Yelp reviews can really help you see feedback as it happens. Don’t be afraid of the reviews – deliver an experience so you can ask for them from your customers. Peer reviews drive more trust than advertising or anything the brand can say, so the more you listen the more you can drive your experience.

Ready For More?

If you really want to find out more about your customers, it’s a great idea to join the conversation where you can. Doing so means understanding what’s important to your customers. Join the communities online where they are, and participate when appropriate, but don’t use the community as a sales platform.

The best way to find the right communities are to think about what challenges your customers might have, not how your salespeople would talk about things. Identify those issues and find communities around them.

Tools Make It Easier!

I use a lot of tools to keep up with mentions, customer discussions, client mentions and competitors. My favorites:

1. Set up alerts

Google Alerts was the go-to resource for many people, but Google seems to be retiring this tool. The one to use now is TalkWalker.  TalkWalker does a great job updating you on mentions of your brand, your competitors, or whatever else you’d like to track. You can set up as many of these as you like for free. TalkWalker sends you emails at any frequency you like – as things happen, daily, weekly, etc. – so you see just where those conversations might be happening.

2. Use Google blog search

Asking Google to search is a little overwhelming. Using the blog tool helps you find squirreled away conversations that might really help you listen in. It’s great to see what customers or clients might be blogging about.

3. Check out the forums

Communities are often driven by online forums. Check out the topics that generate the most traffic to see what challenges you can help your customers address.

Don’t Forget to Act

Now that you’ve started listening to your customers, don’t forget to act on what they’re saying! It’s a great idea to set up a daily and/or weekly review of these posts, so you can create action plans for what you need to do in response. It can be at both a macro and micro level. For example, if many Yelp reviews are mentioning a specific issue, you know you have a bigger problem. But if one customer is complaining on Twitter, you are probably best served reaching out directly and asking to solve the problem offline, in a one-on-one manner. Whatever you need to do, take the time to create a process to respond.

Listening in on customer conversations in creative ways can help you stay ahead of the competition. Just be cautious about stepping in when you are uninvited. Invite feedback, respond to brand mentions and online inquiries, and offer support and help when necessary. It’s ok to reach out privately and say “We say you mentioned us on Twitter and had some problems. We’re here to help.” It’s not ok to respond and say “YOU’RE WRONG, Customer!”

What are other ways you have found to make sure you’re hearing all the right feedback?

2012-10 GLO Chicago Headshots-20eCROP (1)Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

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  • Lance E. Carlson

    Thank you Geannie, I am fairly new at this and know what I think I am targeting for an audience but this will go a long way in helping me establish how correct I am and perhaps I am finding people I never intended to. Go figure.


    • jeanniecw

      Good luck! Hope it works.

  • James Dean

    It’s always a good thing to get in touch with customers, this way you will know what they really want. Being hands on will let you understand better customers’ needs. Thank you for this nice article, J.

    • jeanniecw

      Thanks, James! It’s easy to think we know what they want, but we are looking through the lens of what we want.

  • Mark Sherwin

    Here’s another idea Jeannie: Asking for the feedback. We all hope (and for a few of us we pray) that our customers will have such an enjoyable experience that they will run to the internet to tell the world via reviews, blogs and social media. No such luck for many smb’s. What’s the answer – ASK. Ask if you’ve exceeded your customers expectations. Ask to be rewarded for doing so – as a person and not as a company. People love to reward people and they are less likely to reward a company. Our current Review Request to Review Completed ratio is over 40% for our clients. Why? Because they asked.

    • jeanniecw

      Hi Mark, I agree it’s always great to ask for feedback! One thing to consider is how sometimes people don’t like to provide hard-to-hear feedback to people they like. So I believe it’s also important to listen to what they might be saying elsewhere. Asking is never a bad strategy in any forum.

  • MaeganA

    Great post! It is really different if you get to interact with your customers.This will allow to build a relationship,that way you can ask them what they think of your products/service. :)

    • jeanniecw

      Thanks, Maegan! I agree it’s always important to ask. The challenge comes with scale and also honesty. People are typically nice and don’t always feel comfortable telling the truth when it might hurt!

      • MaeganA

        You should try asking comment and suggestions from people you don’t know because typically friends and family won’t give you a straight answer. :)

  • Christine Steffensen

    ” To deliver a great customer experience you must engage with your customers and listen to their feedback. Moreover, always make room for improvement based on what you learn.

    • jeanniecw

      Yes! Acting on the feedback is absolutely critical!