Despite exploding social networking, customers still want to talk directly to you


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A recent Forrester analysis of its Consumer Technographics data shows an unsurprising development and an interesting non-development in how customers complain about bad service.

First, the non-development: “A whopping 74% of consumers who got poor service in 2010 provided feedback directly to the company through at least one of four private methods (survey, phone call, email, or letter),” writes analyst Andrew McInnes. “That represents a minor increase since 2009.” Add on-line interactions (not covered in the 2009 survey), and that 74% moves to 78%.

The fact that consumers are actively voicing sources of dissatisfaction directly to companies is the good news–if the companies are listening and responding, not only addressing the specific complaints but also the broader problems that inspired those complaints.

And the unsurprising development: Of those who had experienced bad service, 24% reported that they had complained via at least one social-networking mechanism–a 50% jump over 16% who reported doing so the year before.

I see in these figures both challenge and opportunity. The challenge, of course, is in developing strategies to monitor and respond to social-media conversations to turn negative word-of-mouth (WOM) into positive conversations. That’s a huge and wholly separate topic.

The opportunity is to more actively leverage consumer propensity to complain directly to the company. Consumers are turning to the network more and more, yes, but they have not yet turned away from you. As McInnes writes, “private feedback overall shows no sign of waning.” How might you make it easier, and more rewarding, to turn to you first (and hopefully only) with a complaint? And how might you leverage all the power of your loyalty program and its communications streams to invite feedback and to establish yourself as the first and most satisfying listening post that consumers turn to?

Often, the dialogue between progam and members is centered around member preferences, but expanding the dialogue to gather other feedback such as “suggestions for improvements” (a nice way of saying “Do you have a complaint?”) can open the conversation with customers willing and even eager to speak directly to you. After all, as we have found in the 2011 COLLOQUY Word-of-Mouth Study, your loyalty-program members are three times more likely to be your most-active brand advocates (who we call WOM Champions) than are non-members. And on the other side of the coin, 31% of WOM Champions are also what we call Madvocates–those who are ready and willing to spread the word about negative experiences. (For more on this, see our article, “Fast and Furious.”)

Invite and facilitate the direct feedback–listening and responding is, after all, one way to secure customer loyalty. What ways have you found to leverage customers’ demonstrated interest in speaking to companies directly?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bill Brohaugh
As managing editor, Bill Brohaugh is responsible for the day-to-day management and editorial for the COLLOQUY magazine and, the most comprehensive loyalty marketing web site in the world. In addition to writing many of the feature articles, Bill develops the editorial calendar, hires and manages outside writers and researchers and oversees print and online production. He also contributes to COLLOQUY's weekly email Market Alert and the COLLOQUYTalk series of white papers.


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