Feedback or Noise?

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"There is a massive amount of information bouncing around online," Richard Hanks emphasized during a recent conversation we had. Hanks, president of Mindshare Technologies, was referring specifically to the many comments, complaints, and opinions voiced through such social channels as blogs, online communities and social networks.

"There is a massive amount of information bouncing around online," Richard Hanks emphasized during a recent conversation we had. Hanks, president of Mindshare Technologies, was referring specifically to the many comments, complaints, and opinions voiced through such social channels as blogs, online communities and social networks.The challenge, he said, is to separate valuable feedback from all the noise. People are posting everything from "I'll meet you at ABC restaurant" to "I don't like the décor at ABC restaurant" to "I love the food there" to "The host at ABC restaurant was rude to us." In fact, according to a recent survey Mindshare conducted, 72 percent of social media users share their customer experiences through social channels, and 40 percent expect the businesses they mention to be listening. Companies tracking these conversations need to determine whether these remarks are simply comments or whether they are actual feedback. Is a customer venting or complaining, suggesting an improvement?

One way to find out is to ask. And most customers are willing to give their feedback online. According to the Mindshare survey, more than 85 percent of social media users said they would take a survey to provide information regarding their customer experiences. "Customers will take a survey--if you'll use it," Hanks said. "The hard part is to get the information to the person who can actually act on it."

According to Hanks, poor execution is what stops customers from coming back. Someone might not like a restaurant's décor, but if the food and service are outstanding, they're likely to return. If the décor is beautiful, but the service is awful, that customer is much less likely to go back to the restaurant. Whether an organization will apply customer insight to improve execution, Hanks said, is not about company size, it's about whether the organization's leadership gets the concept of execution.

Management also needs to understand the value of learning about customers' opinions and experiences in real time. Companies may know about their customers based on what in their CRM system, but today more than ever they also need to know whether those customers had a good experience during their last visit or most recent purchase or service interaction, Hanks said. Distilling the feedback from the noise is one way to find out.

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EXPERT OPINION