What do your customers say about you? Really say, when you aren’t in the room? And perhaps, just as importantly, what do they say about your direct competitors? Social listening can provide the answers.And if you’re not too clear about what exactly social listening is, then welcome to the club. Social listening is new, but rapidly gaining traction as a key tool among businesses keen to discover fresh insights into how they can serve their customers better—and just as importantly, serve their customers better than their competitors can.
So make no mistake: social listening is a tool with huge benefits, right across any manufacturing or field service business. Sales, quality, marketing, product development: all these functions and more should be vitally interested in what customers think of the business.
With social listening they can do just that—and get the information right from the horse’s mouth, the customer themselves.
Social listening: how it works.
The basic idea isn’t difficult. As individuals, many of us use social media, regularly logging onto sites and services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and so on.
And while logged on, we may feel inclined to share with friends and others the joys—and frustrations—of our daily life. Joys and frustration that might have been triggered by the actions of your business.
An order that didn’t arrive on time. A field service engineer who didn’t turn up as promised. A product that didn’t work as advertised. Poor packaging, meaning that the ordered goods were damaged on arrival. And so on, and so on.
But suppose that you could see all these comments—and better still, proactively respond to them, before they went viral, damaging your brand further? That’s the promise of social listening.
Better still, it’s a promise of something that goes beyond damage limitation, and into brand enhancement. For a business that takes action to rectify a customer’s grumbles almost as soon as it’s posted is a business that wins applause, not criticism. Not to mention a business that’s in pole position to develop new products with guaranteed customer appeal.
Social listening: make a start.
So how best to enter the world of social listening? It’s not difficult. And better still, there are plenty of resources out there providing detailed advice and guidance.
One simple and straightforward option is signing up to Google’s alert service, which is a free service that notifies you by email whenever a certain phrase appears in any new web content. It’s easy to set up your company’s name or products (or competitors’ names or products!) as phrases to be tracked, and e-mails soon arrive.
But Google doesn’t ‘see’ everything, and for social media such as Twitter, you’ll want to use one of the specialised search term and hashtag monitoring services and tools that are available. These make it possible to not only search for specific words, but also follow ‘conversations’ oriented around hashtags.
Be aware, too, that for data-savvy businesses, it’s possible to make use of one of a number of API programming interfaces that social media providers make available, and thereby conduct your own searches, without going through a third party.
It’s this sort of technology that enables brand owners to respond in almost real time to social media complaints and observations—and a growing number of manufacturing and field service businesses have dedicated teams monitoring such feeds, ready to jump in and take action should a customer post a complaint or comment.
Social listening’s bottom line.
Is it all worth the effort? Only you can answer that, although it’s worth bearing in mind that your business’s reputation is probably the most valuable intangible asset that it possesses.
But certainly, many other businesses think so. From airlines to train companies, and telephone companies to consumer goods firms, the presence of such 24/7 monitoring has resulted in a growing number of surveys all concluding that complaining via Twitter or Facebook is far more effective that doing so by e-mail, phone, or letter.
And that’s because when a customer sends an e-mail or letter, it’s simply a two-way exchange between them and the object of their unhappiness.
Make the same complaint on Twitter or Facebook, and many more people are going to see it.