Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Posts Tagged ‘listen to customers’

Rockin’ Customer Feedback: SuggestionBox.com

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 4, 2008

There are many, many times here at Customers Rock! where I highly recommend that companies listen to their customers as often as possible.  The best way is to take note of the verbatim words customers use, rather than read from aggregated “survey results”.  This becomes even more important as organizations try to decide the best way to implement social media marketing tools.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with BJ Cook, CMO of SuggestionBox.com (they are based very close to where I am!).  SuggestionBox.com is a place where customers can easily send ideas, complaints, or feedback to companies via the web.  Customers can then sign up to track those ideas, while companies can respond and connect directly with customers.  This is a very cool and easy way to not only listen to customers but also show them you are taking action! 

I asked BJ to share with my readers a little bit about SuggestionBox and how other companies can improve their customer listening plans.  Enjoy!

Interview with BJ Cook of SuggestionBox

Becky: Tell us how the idea for SuggestionBox came about.  And why now?

BJ: SuggestionBox is the result of an online search for a place where our founder, Jeff Whitton, could leave feedback for a company he had an experience with. He couldn’t believe that a Google search for “suggestionbox” would take him to a parked domain. So the light bulb went off and he had a vision for the place that you could submit your ideas to any company around the world and then track them. Think of it as your own Idea portfolio and communication tool for all of the companies you interact with each day. For companies it would be a place to capture feedback, connect with customers and build better relationships. Right now as a customer you’re presented with 6 page surveys, URLs’ on receipts, online surveys and other ways that are intrusive and force you into answering questions that may not be relevant to the experience you just had with that company. So enter SuggestionBox. We’ve simplified the feedback process, by focusing on the field in the feedback form that means the most to the customer; the open textbox. This is what can we improve and why? The company wants to know what and the customer may want to give them some of the background on their suggestion. That’s all. This keeps the incoming feedback focused for companies to easily categorize it and open enough for customers to feel like they can share their story.

Becky: The economy right now is difficult for many.  How can SuggestionBox help companies weather the storm?

BJ: With the state of customer satisfaction and being in an economic downturn, placing emphasis on your customers is crucial. SuggestionBox is that bridge between a company and its customers. We want to be the tool that helps you Build Better Relationships with ____. The reason there’s a blank is that feedback and ideas go beyond your internal and external customers. The blank can be vendors, partners, investors, friends, family and so on. It’s a relationship building tool that just so happens to be able to make capturing insights simple and responding to those Suggesters efficient. Focusing on your existing community and asking them what you can improve lets them know you’re listening and you care. What’s better than feeling like it’s a two-way street? What’s even better is that you can avoid missed opportunities by having a tool setup to listen and be able to get back in touch to support goals like loyalty, retention and word of mouth. SuggestionBox gives companies, nonprofits and events a way to respond to people, keep them in the loop and directly have a positive effect on multiple areas of their business like sales, marketing, customer service, PR and even HR.

Becky: How would you suggest that a company/organization fit SuggestionBox into their existing customer listening plans?

BJ: Depending on what stage a company is in with their current customer listening plans, SuggestionBox can be a value-add tool if you’re just starting out or are already using forums, online surveys, focus groups or your blog. The thing to keep in mind is the communication benefits of “keeping people in the loop”. I’d like to cite a line from the book Raving Fans:

“Listening to customers is powerful, responding to them is dynamite.”

There are so many tools out there to listen to customers, but how many of those tools are just one-way? If you’re given the ability to let a customer know 1 month, 6 months or 2 years out that their idea was actually implemented, you may have them for life - and their kids and their kids. The relationship and bond that is created at this level can last through generations. By changing the current expectation, that I’m going to submit this piece of paper or email to this company knowing they won’t respond, can be the spark you need to becoming dynamite.

Becky: Are you using social media to help promote SuggestionBox, and if so, how?

BJ: Yes. It’s all top secret. I would say that SuggestionBox falls into the whole social media realm. We’re essentially helping companies and brands create online customer communities that they can then engage and communicate with. We are heavy users of community-based platforms like Twitter, Facebook, 12seconds and others. We’ve found that by really embedding our team in various conversations around customer feedback, customer relationships, social media marketing, we begin to build these relationships and lifelines with real people. By focusing on reaching into these various communities, we’ve met some amazing people who not only share their insights with us, but we’re able to share and add value as well. It’s taking the time to really engage with each community that’s so important about social media. I would say that the community is helping us to shape our company from the product roadmap to our outreach to even our hiring. The idea of being social plays a part in every role in our organization and something that we’re all passionate about. SuggestionBox is being defined by our community of Suggesters and customers.

Becky: Anything else you want to share with the readers of Customers Rock!  ?

BJ: With so many great tools out there in this space, you need to start off by asking yourself, “Is our organization customer-centric?” And then evaluate each area of your business to see if that is really being applied from a holistic point of view. Then go out and choose the tool or tools to show customers you’re listening.

Think about all of the businesses you interact with each day and when you have an idea, come see if they are on SuggestionBox. If they are not, you can create their SuggestionBox page simply by being the first to suggest.  We also love feedback, so submit away!

Becky: Thanks, BJ!

To my readers – You can set up an account on SuggestionBox.com for free and submit ideas to any company; SuggestionBox will deliver them for you!  BJ has also set up a code (twomos) where you can get a complimentary two months of a corporate SuggestionBox.  You might want to give it a try and see how you and your customers like it.  Here are some companies that are doing it already: TurboTax (part of Intuit), Southwest Airlines, Addison Avenue Credit UnionTrackur, and Zappos (among many others). 

Look for one here at Customers Rock! soon, too.  I would love to get your suggestions, in addition to your comments!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Social Media and Engagement, with Brian Solis: Part 2

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 21, 2008

 This is Part 2 of the guest post by the generous and smart Brian SolisPart 1 covered conversations and the use of social media.  In today’s post, Brian helps us take the appropriate steps to really begin listening, then engaging with customers via social media.  Again, many thanks to Brian for sharing his time and talent with my readers.  Brian, you rock!

Social Media Empowers Customer Service to Build Relationships, Part 2

Sociology provides us with an understanding of how human interaction and the ensuing ecosystem shape individual attitudes and behavior. Sociologists study society and social action by examining the groups and social institutions people form. In Social Media, these communities take the form of social networks and the communal groups within them. People establish associations, friendships, and allegiances around content, objects, products, services, and ideas. How they communicate is simply subject to the tools and networks that people adopt based on the influence of their social graph.

Observation, monitoring and listening tells us everything. We’ll learn where the relevant conversations are taking place, who’s participating, what they’re saying and the tone of the discussions, the specific information they’re looking for, impressions and conceptions, as well as revealing the patterns of behavior within specific communities.

The million dollar question that every business executive needs answered is who’s responsible for managing these conversations and how much time and money will it take?
In order to determine the amount of resources, time and money that are required, It all starts with good old fashioned research along with the new tools to help you get to the answers you seek (see below for a list to help you get started). 

First..

- Identify who your customers are and where they go for information.

- Search for key words: Products & Company as well as competitors and their products and services.

- And, please don’t forget the relationships that exist in the real world. They’re also indispensable for providing feedback and insight now and in the future.

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities, and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and variety of resources required (a community manager is required at the very least.) 

Here’s a formula that I developed based on participation averages over the last couple of years: 

The number of average relevant conversations per day per community.

Multiplied by the quantity of relevant communities.

Multiplied by 20 (minutes required to research and respond and also monitor for additional responses), variable +/- dependent on the case, usually +.

Divided by 60 (minutes)

Equals the amount of time required and in turn, the resources and associated costs required depending on internal labor or external consulting fees. 

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and resources required.

Throughout the research process, you’ll undoubtedly see that relevant conversations occur across disparate networks, are representative of a sweeping variety of related topics that require varying responses, and, that they usually map  to specific departments within your organization (those most qualified to respond), i.e. marcom, product management, customer service, PR, executive management, etc. Having someone keeping a pulse on relevant conversations and in turn feeding them, intelligently, to the right people internally and guiding them on the required response and follow-up makes the interaction more meaningful and helpful and also distributes the responsibility across existing resources. 

Here are some places to start listening (note, these tools are recommended for listening, even though many of them are also used for publishing and sharing content):

Social Bookmarks

  • Ma.gnolia
  • Delicious
  • Diigo
  • StumbleUpon

Crowdsourced Content

  • Digg
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • Mixx 

Conversations

  • Google Alerts
  • Blogpulse
  • Radian6 (paid)
  • BuzzLogic (paid)
  • Ask.com
  • Google Blog Search 

Blog Communities

  • Blogged.com
  • MyBlogLog
  • BlogCatalog 

Micromedia

FriendFeed

Pownce

Tumblr 

Specific to Twitter search:

Tweetscan

Summize

Twemes

TwitterLocal 

Social Networks

MySpace

Bebo

Ning

Facebook

LinkedIn 

Customers Service Networks

YahooGroups

GoogleGroups

GetSatisfaction 

Content

Video

YouTube

Metacafe 

Pictures

Flickr

Documents

ThinkFree Docs

Scribd

Docstoc

Once you’ve conducted the initial waves of research, identified the volume, location and frequency of relevant conversations, and estimated the required resources, you can effectively create an accurate blueprint for engagement. I call this a social map.

The next steps are dictated by the sociological work we’ve done, which reveals the culture within each respective network and how we should participate. Generally, each conversations should be treated as if you were approaching someone in real life whom you greatly respect.

- Start by participating as a person, not as a marketer.

- Talk like a person, not as a sales person or message factory.

- Be helpful and bring value to the conversation.

- Please remember, that during this entire process, you’re contributing to the personality and the perception of the brand you represent.

At the end of the day, we’re all people and thus we should approach conversations as such. It may seem like common sense, but as classically trained marketers, we tend to approach these things with our marketing hat on. It’s the difference between authentic conversations and one-sided talking “at” people we may be used to.

Most importantly, the lessons learned in the field should in turn be fed into the marketing department to create and run more intelligent, experienced, and real world initiatives across all forms of marketing, PR, sales, and advertising. 

In a social world, conversations will take place with or without us and the price we pay for missing them is potentially equivalent to the loss of brand equity and resonance.  Participation is the new customer service and the new art of relationship marketing.  Sincere, informative, and authentic interactions count for everything.  In social media, engagement is the only way to earn customer respect and hopefully their business, loyalty, and referrals as we continue to do what matters to earn their friendship.

Relationships are the new currency in Social Media, and as we all know, relationships need cultivation and value from both sides in order to grow into something of value and longevity.

You can connect with Brian on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an acclaimed PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley and also blogs at PR 2.0 and bub.blicio.us . Along with Geoff Livingston, Solis recently co-authored “Now is Gone,” a new, award-winning book that helps businesses learn how to leverage New and Social Media.

(Photo credit: wds2007)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Guest bloggers, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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