TotalCIO

Nov 20 2009   5:10PM GMT

Customer feedback management: Is anybody listening?



Posted by: Christina Torode
Tags:
CIO
Web 2.0

I recently made my first big purchase — a new vehicle — and I made my mind up pretty much before I entered the showroom floor, thanks to customer feedback I gathered on the Internet. What surprised me when I went to test drive my dream SUV was the lack of customer feedback management being done by the car dealers and makers.

I went to Consumer Reports and Edmunds to compare safety ratings, highway miles per gallon, handling and longevity, but my list of choices was narrowed down much further by comments made at the end of the reviews by current and former drivers.

I was sure I was going to buy one particular SUV but found repeated complaints about its small back window that caused huge blind spots. Another one on my list had a souped-up engine [based on customer feedback] but left the gas tank the same size, leading to another customer complaint that still hasn’t been addressed: frequent fill-ups.

I was overloaded by all the different complaints and accolades made by drivers, but when I asked the salespeople about the customer feedback I read on blogs and reviews I heard “I haven’t heard that” or “No one’s told me that.”

I don’t lay the blame on the salespeople — they might not even be encouraged to look at what people are saying on public forums like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, emails or YouTube.

But who is responsible for customer feedback management? The feet on the street, or management? How do you centralize all this information, and distribute it so front-line employees are on top of what customers are saying and equipped to respond?

Was my experience atypical, or are companies ignoring a channel that may decide what people actually buy? Are they paralyzed by some of the critiques, and choosing to ignore them instead?

This is just the experience I had when looking for an SUV. I won’t even go into how the dealer dropped the ball when it came to rating my buying experience.

Share your thoughts on customer feedback management, or the lack of it — but particularly if you work for a company that does it well. Email me at ctorode@techtarget.com.

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  • KarlamarAssociates
    As a practitioner in this field, I would like to respond to your questions on Customer Feedback… [B]…But who is responsible for customer feedback management? The feet on the street, or management? [/B] Most organizations have neither the internal resources, nor expertise to regularly track, organize, analyze, and report on customer feedback, especially in today’s ever-changing environment of social media where consumer opinions are formed and exchanged every nanosecond. However, there are information service providers and market researchers that specialize in the gathering and distillation of this type of information for their clients. These folks are adept at knowing where to look for information specific to the client’s product and industry, how to ferret out reliable comments from irrational tirades, how to organize and analyze data obtained in different formats from many different sources, and how to make sense out of all of it in order to extract and report on consumer issues and then formulate actionable recommendations. It’s management’s responsibility to know that these services are available and to use them to their advantage. [B]How do you centralize all this information, and distribute it so front-line employees are on top of what customers are saying and equipped to respond?[/B] If the researcher is worth their salt then the deliverables they provide back to the client should be in a form that is directly usable by the front-line employees. Whether this is a job aid such as a table that lists perceived issues and suggested responses, or an online video that covers the recommendations, it all should be tailored to and be usable by whomever will be acting on the information. [B]Was my experience atypical, or are companies ignoring a channel that may decide what people actually buy? [/B] It depends…Some companies are not technically savvy and are oblivious to the existence and influence of various forms of social media…Others may be overwhelmed by it and don’t have the resources or expertise internal to their organization to do anything about it. [B]Are they paralyzed by some of the critiques, and choosing to ignore them instead?[/B] Some people automatically go on the defensive when they receive negative feedback about their company, their product, or service. Though most understand that it is important to be able to separate the emotion from the actual issue, nobody wants to hear that their baby is ugly. To prevent people from overreacting to a single post or being blind-sighted by the numerous posts that they never saw but should have, it is may be beneficial to have a third party researcher regularly track and report on this information. An unbiased researcher should be able to help the company take the emotion out of the feedback and help focus on the underlying issues that need to be addressed. To be competitive in today’s environment, all companies need to maintain some sort of customer feedback repository that is representative of their customers, and is well-organized and easily searchable. Companies should use this repository to help identify, analyze, and track issues and actions over time.
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