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How to collect informal customer feedback: listen to social media

Use social listening to empower your customers and improve customer satisfaction.

When you run a business, you know that customer feedback can be one of your greatest sources of learning.

While revenue numbers and other implicit metrics give you a good sense of how you’re doing, it’s difficult to understand the why behind the numbers.

Running a customer satisfaction survey is a great way to get the explicit answers you need to figure out the why. But you can also collect informal customer feedback every day through social listening.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter have transformed from places where people stay in touch with friends and relatives to sounding boards where people talk about their purchase decisions, favorite products, and interact with brands. Social listening is listening to the informal customer feedback on social media sites and empowering customers to speak up so you can:

  • Understand your customers
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Drive growth

Here’s what organizations need to do to mine social media for feedback and using social networking sites to manage customer satisfaction.

Some businesses avoid social media activity because of the perceived time commitment. In truth, not that much time is required, but it’s important to make it. If you don’t have an online marketing or customer service support team, try setting aside 20 to 30 minutes a day for social listening. If you have a customer support person, have them budget some time each day for this activity.

When customers have a complaint, question, or compliment, many of them go directly to social media. Regularly monitor all of your social media touchpoints, including your Facebook page, Twitter account, or customer-review sections on your e-commerce sites, and pay close attention to what’s being said. Start with channels you own (like your Facebook page or @ mentions on Twitter). Then expand your efforts by searching for your name and product names.

To make it easier to identify when people are talking about you, consider subscribing to a social listening tool. These tools allow you to follow several social media accounts at the same time. Best of all? Many are free.

Social networks aren’t the only place where people talk about you. Although it’s important to maintain and manage your social media accounts, find out what else is being said online. Use a Google search to find out if customers are talking about you on Yelp–and in online communities, blogs, and forums associated with your demographic.

Here you’ll find a wealth of information that will help you understand how your core audience thinks. If search engines are a useful source of feedback, consider setting up a Google Alert based on your company, product, or service name. These alerts, based on any keyword you choose, automatically send you an email when the keywords appear online.

It’s important to respond to complaints and feedback online; however, even when people are not talking about you specifically, consider reaching out to people on Twitter, or joining online groups to help answer questions in your field of expertise. You can also create and manage groups on platforms like LinkedIn or Reddit. Not only will you build trust and loyalty among your audience, it can also broaden your knowledge base.

If your customers are already online leaving feedback about your business, streamline the process by providing an online customer feedback form or survey. Surveys can help you compile and review feedback without having to gather it over time across multiple channels.

In the same way stores and restaurants provide suggestion boxes for customers, online businesses can do the virtual equivalent with a survey link. Make these feedback forms easy to find by linking to them at any customer touchpoint, i.e. the homepage of your website or social media pages. You can even add a survey link to printed brochures or in-store receipts. If you haven’t conducted a survey yet, we recommend them as a way to:

  • Collect customer feedback easily and efficiently
  • Gather general information on trends and behaviors
  • Learn specific reasons why people do or don’t do business with you

Using online surveys creates the added benefit of organizing responses and turning the data into insights and trends. When you collect feedback, always give customers the option of leaving their contact information. If they do, it pays to follow up with them after the process.

Surveys can’t do everything; they won’t do a better job than web analytics of assessing site performance, and they can’t replicate the human interaction of speaking directly to customers in person or on the phone. But by making surveys part of your customer service process you can learn a lot from them.

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