In the pre-internet, pre-social days, listening to your customers was relatively easy. You spoke to them directly, or you listened to them complaining at point of sale. Either way, the interaction points were relatively simple.
Today, we have noise – and lots of it. The recent acquisition wars between the big CRM providers indicate that the providers themselves fully understand the importance of providing a solution that allows people to listen across many channels. Is it Facebook? Is it e-mail? Are they tweeting at you? Life has become incredibly complex.
This is the multi-channel challenge – we have noise coming at us from all angles, and we need to learn how to listen before we learn how to react.
Do you hear me?
Recent research shows that only 15% of businesses respond to social media feedback at all. That same research tells us that 42% of social media users have given feedback (or complained) about brands online, and more than 60% are willing to do so.
Put simply – people are talking, but brands aren’t talking back. It’s because they’re not listening.
Whether you call it social CRM or XRM, or whatever buzz phrase is “in” at the moment, monitoring all channels for your brand is imperative. There are tools for this – SeoMoz have brought out a new tool for their premium users, but at a base level, a simple twitter search for your brand name can bring up any tweets that mention you.
For LinkedIn and Facebook, Microsoft brought out the Outlook Connector as part of Dynamics, or as a standalone. This simple little tool integrates into your email and expands CRM capability. Listening can't be so hard, you just have to know where to listen!
Do you know me?
What the multi-channel world gives us is multiple, disconnected noises coming at us from all angles. How easy is it to listen when you can’t separate out those noises? Imagine standing in a room with 20 people all trying to talk to you at once. It’s a bit like that.
The challenge is to integrate these noises into something that makes sense. For example, a customer tweets that he’s not satisfied with your level of customer service. Have you had an e-mail conversation with this customer? If so, how easy is it for you to find that conversation? The same goes for phone conversations – do you have notes or transcripts?
You cannot listen with your full attention unless you’ve been party to previous conversations, with as much background as possible. If your system can give you what some call a “360 degree view” of the customer, then that view needs to integrate all the new channels.
Are you really listening?
John Cronin wrote an excellent piece recently on listening styles. In this case, it was how people listened to each other (or not). On listening to people in the train, he remarked upon how some people were eager to impose themselves upon a conversation, or how there was no link between the previous statement and the response.
For brands, listening styles are vital. The worst kind of response is one that displays a lack of attention, and a lack of detail. In your interactions, do you show that you’ve listened? Or do impose your brand – or your rules - upon the conversation, to the detriment of the customer relationship?
For example, if a customer tweets a problem, and you reply with a casual “please look at our FAQs for more information”, the conversation reaches a dead end, and the customer can feel unsatisfied. You haven’t listened. And equally, if you end a conversation without ensuring that the customer has understood, or whether the problem has been resolved, you’re leaving the conversation before it’s finished.
The means, and the will
Our multi-channel world brings with it numerous challenges, but numerous opportunities. If we can bring together these disparate strands of conversation and murmurings from our marketplace, and better understand how they all fit together, then we can act quickly. Customer service can be greatly improved if we know the background of a twitter user, for example, and we have more context to their public utterance.
However, the means does not always imply the will. If you have the technology or the knowhow, you also need to improve your listening style, as a brand. And that listening style has to be enforced to the same level as, say, your brand guidelines. Be the brand who listens, who responds promptly and personally, and you’ll find the multi-challenge world is no longer such a challenge – it’s a gift.
Gareth is Director of Digital Marketing at Clever Little Design. He's interested in B2B marketing, search, technology and customer service - and essentially how the customer should be placed at the centre of all marketing (and business) strategy.