Customers Rock!

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

Archive for the ‘Voice of the customer’ Category

Rockin’ Customer Feedback:

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 (they are based very close to where I am!). 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 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: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Tell 3000: The Voice of the Customer

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 9, 2008

I always encourage my clients to listen to their customers using a variety of mechanisms.  One of the best ways, however, is to listen to or read customer verbatims.  In other words, listen to customers tell stories about your company in their own words.

So of course, I am very interested in this new project put together by Pete Blackshaw.  He is doing it to help promote his new book, “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000”.  Over at his book’s blog, you can find a series he is starting up showcasing consumer interviews .  These feature various consumers talking about both good and bad experiences from companies.  I listened in on a few, and here is a line I liked from a recent consumer interview about Southwest Airlines.  Mike, the consumer, said this about one of the reasons he likes Southwest:  I feel as though they see me as a person, not just as a ticket and a way to make cash.  Prompted by the interviewer, Mike then goes on to share a story about a Southwest employee that went out of her way to help him feel better about a certain situation at the airport.

Pete, this is a great idea!  I would love to see this sorted by good vs bad experiences, as you are doing with your feedback.  We all need to hear more good experiences -that’s why this blog was started over 1.5 years ago!

Check it out, and let Pete know what you think (and tell him I sent ‘ya).  Readers, talk to me, too.  How do you best listen to your customer’s pure, unfiltered voice?  Monitoring the internet?  Social media?  Reviewing feedback letters?  Surveys?  Focus groups?  Tell us how you do it either via comments or by sending me email to becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Customer Engagement Online

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 26, 2007

conversation.jpg I have talked with many companies who tell me they aren’t sure if they want to start an online conversation with their customers.  Cord Silverstein asks this question in his post Engage customers or die. He says,

Is it a good thing for companies to try to engage their customers online? Does the good outweigh the possible repercussions that could come from it? And finally what are some of your ideas on how companies can engage online with their customers?

Cord’s post and comments start a great discussion on this topic!  I think part of the concern companies have about engaging their customers in conversation online is that they have not already been engaging in ANY conversations with customers.  Rather, marketing and PR have often created one-way communication vehicles (advertisements, press releases, articles/white papers).  Ongoing, two-way interaction with customers is how we build customer relationships.  The online channel, ideally, is just one more channel by which to reach out and build relationships with customers.  It is a great channel to use because it enables immediate, two-way conversation!  Therefore, if your customers are interacting online, you need to be out there talking with them and learning from them in the online space.

With or Without You

Customers are having conversations about companies, with or without the company’s involvement with those discussions.  Someone in Cord’s comments suggested the way to engage with customers online is to have your PR department be new media-savvy and do the correspondence.  Having the PR person be the one to respond concerns me, as I believe customers are looking for authentic responses, not carefully crafted company statements. 

Creating a place on your own site, such as a blog, is a great way to keep the conversation in your backyard – as long as you allow comments and take the time to respond.  Southwest Airlines has done a good job of engaging with customers online, and they use their blog as a feedback channel for ideas, concerns, and questions.  Everyone at SWA takes the time to write and respond, including pilots and the CEO.  For example, their recent business decision on whether or not to assign seats was put to their customers in a few different blog posts; the most recent one elicited over 360 comments!

Check out Toby Bloomberg’s Diva Marketing blog or Mack Collier’s The Viral Garden for more on corporate blogging tips and best practices.

Conversation is Key to Customer Relationships

Think about it.  Can you get to know a new person you meet without having some kind of conversation?  Whether it be in person, over email, or on a Facebook wall, there has to be some type of interaction in order to progress the relationship.

Customer relationships are no different!  It is important to go where your customers are (be that online, at a retail store, in their own place of business), get to know them, find out their needs, and start doing something different based on what you learn.  Customer trust and relationships will build, and the best ones will lead to more customers as they tell others about you.

Start the conversation!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Marketing, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Customer Walls

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 8, 2007

happy-customer.jpg Are we putting up walls between the enterprise and its customers?  Or are we putting up walls dedicated to its customers?

I was in Santa Barbara this week and had a chance to see how one company shares their customers’ voices.  Citrix Online hosted a tour of their facilities for me.  Besides being very employee-centric (one whole wing of their campus was dog-friendly!), Citrix Online is very customer-centric.

Tina Long, director of PR and communications for Citrix Online, walked me past their Voice of the Customer wall.  On it were three large groupings of many signs, each sign a verbatim quote from a customer.  Each quote was also directly attributed to a customer.  These customer quotes were divided up by Citrix Online’s main product lines, each grouping a different color.  It was in an area near the employee break room which gives the opportunity for many to stop and read “the writing on the wall.” 

I love this idea of keeping customer comments visible to all in the organization.  It was inspiring to see the feedback plastered all over the wall!

Do you listen to your customers enough to get these types of quotes?  Or do you aggregate your customer feedback into several large categories so the true voice is lost?

In one of my previous posts, I asked you what other companies do to listen to their customers.  Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData shared his experiences with some major apparel companies:

  • At Lands’ End, professionals had to help out in the warehouse, or on the phones, during the holiday season and during bad weather. You learn a lot about customers doing that.
  • At Nordstrom, we had to physically work in stores, or take orders over the phone, during major sale events.
  • At Lands’ End and Nordstrom, we learned a lot about customers, by actually spending some time being close to the customer. Both brands are well known for their appreciation of the customer, both brands require professionals to have some interaction with the customer.

When I worked at HP, we learned about the “Day in the Life of a Customer” concept, which was very similar to ethnographic studies.  HP researchers would go to a company which was a customer of HP’s and video tape their business for a day.  HP would then analyze places where they could help make that customer’s business processes easier.

Lego’s customer service team shares customer feedback from the front lines, support, with the rest of the organization in their regular internal newsletter.  The information helps product teams improve their designs as well as highlights any potential issues. 

Some companies tend to hold customer information within their own corporate “silos”.  By this, I mean that departments are not always good at sharing what they know or learn about the customer with other areas of the company.  This kind of knowledge-is-power attitude cannot exist if one wants to create a Customers Rock! company.

Companies like Lands’ End, Nordstrom, HP, Lego, and Citrix Online get close to their customers and share the verbatim “voice of the customer” within the organization to improve products, processes, and ultimately the customer experience.

Where can you improve your customer listening?  Go find a spot to make your “customer wall”, and start the conversation!

(Photo credit: elnur)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Voice of the customer | 12 Comments »

Weekend reading

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 11, 2007

blog.jpgI thought I would share a few great links to get you thinking over the weekend.  Enjoy!

Demanding Excellent Service

Christy Brewer over at the Quicken Loans blog The Diff shares a frustration many of us share that focus on the customer: we analyze the experience everywhere we go!  Much like the joke about the psychologist constantly analyzing friends, Christy tells the story of how she has analyzed her experiences at the hardware store and at a medical office.  She and I must be long-lost kin, because this paragraph sounds so much like something I would blog:

Providing great customer service is not hard. In fact, the more you do it, you realize that it’s actually easier to be excellent in the first place, rather than trying to fix the experience after turning off a client or customer. Great customer service really does boil down to the simple things. Anticipating needs and then meeting them. Listening like you are doing the talking.  Doing what you say you will do.

Keep the faith, Christy!  We can spread the word and help change the world more quickly than you think.

The Southwest Airlines Conversation

Geoff Livingston of the Buzz Bin has a great interview with Brian Lusk from Southwest Airlines as their blog, Nuts About Southwest, celebrates its first anniversary.  The Southwest blog is truly an ongoing customer conversation where customers have influenced major airline decisions.  Many employees have started to participate as well, both by blogging and by leaving comments.  Here is a quote from Brian about these customer-employee blog conversations:

They simply are conversations you might have with any friend, and we consider our participants to be our friends. But, it builds relationships with our Customers. This is very similar to the relationships our Station and Inflight Employees build with their regular Customers.

The interview also discusses the way Southwest participates in the customer conversation and truly shows their customers Southwest cares about what they think.  An excellent interview! Special thanks to Toby Bloomberg of the Diva Marketing Blog for highlighting this post.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Voice of the customer | 5 Comments »

Stacy’s Pita Chips has a Customers Rock! Attitude

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 16, 2007

happy-customers.JPGI enjoy finding companies with a Customers Rock! attitude and sharing my findings here on this blog.  Today, I saw something which impressed me on the back of my big bag of Stacy’s Pita Chips (Parmesan Garlic & Herb flavor).  Here is how Stacy’s Pita Chip Co. describes their origins:

We designed a food cart and began serving all natural pita roll-up sandwiches.  They were an instant hit and the lines grew longer each day.  As an incentive for customers to wait in line, we baked fresh pita bread into different flavored pita chips.  Customers loved them so much, they encouraged us to get the chips into stores.  We listened, and that’s how Stacy’s Pita Chip Company was born.

It goes on and continues focusing on customers:

Listening to our customers is also how we continue to grow.  Today, the recipes remain the same… simple, natural, and delicious.

Thanks to all our customers!

I love the way this company gives a lot of the credit for their success to their customers!  But do they really care?  Here is a great post from The Diff blog (a blog from Quicken Loans!) discussing how Stacy’s Pita Chips responded to a concern from someone who had just tried the chips for the first time.  The blogger bought a bag of the chips from the vending machine and was very disappointed with the actual number of chips in the bag.  He sent an email to Stacy’s to express his concern.  They responded saying they would send a replacement bag.  Here is what Stacy’s sent:

They could have just sent the single replacement bag but they sent a boxful.  A snack food company that didn’t want the customer to have a bad impression of them.  To me that was the Diff.

I believe Stacy’s is a customer-focused company.  Their website is very friendly and is as easy to use as flipping through a magazine (in fact, that is how it is set up).  They continue to state on their homepage how they built the company on customer input and feedback.  Flip to the tab labeled “Talk to Us” and find their Guest Book.  There you can read many dozens of positive comments sent in by customers.  (To Stacy’s: one great way to improve the Guest Book would be to turn it into a blog and respond to the comments!)  They also had a fun SuperBowl campaign this year and sent out party kits to over 100,000 people in America named “Stacy” in order to celebrate the brand’s grassroots beginnings and word of mouth enthusiasm of its customers.  Anyone get one?

Stacy’s also has a nice loyalty program to reward frequent customers: you can clip off the UPC symbols from the products and send them in for t-shirts, aprons, recipe books, or lunchbags.  What is so different about this, you say?  Hasn’t this been done for years?  Yes, but the customer-friendly approach taken by Stacy’s is embodied by the word FREE.  The UPC symbols are all that is required (and presumably a loyal customer has quite a few of those); no shipping or handling charges needed!  That is very cool.

I am impressed with the customer focus I have seen from this organization.  Stacy’s Pita Chips Company, you rock!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customers Rock!, Marketing, Voice of the customer | 6 Comments »

How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 27, 2007

remote.jpgI love Stan Lee’s blog Brand DNA.  He posted earlier this month on something that really made me stop and think.  The post called Kids of Today shares a pithy quote from a 19-year old college student (found by Stan at Leo B Toronto’s blog):

“Sometimes a prof will ask you to watch a program for school and it’s not something you’d be able to track down on YouTube.”

So, you think you know what your customers are doing with your product?  Think again.

What’s the best way to find out?  Talk to them!  I posted on how to listen to your customers earlier in March.  It is so critical to interact with your customers in order to learn from them.  You can’t get some of this information from a market research report.  There is just no substitute for meeting customers face to face and really understanding what they do and how they do it.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out and get to know your customers today!

(Photo uploaded by redbaron)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Marketing, Voice of the customer | 3 Comments »

Tips for Listening and Learning

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 7, 2007

listening.jpgIn yesterday’s post, I talked about the importance of getting to know your customers better.  Today, I offer practical tips for listening to your customers and learning something about them.

I started blogging about this at the beginning of the year and gave four tips on ideas to help your organization listen to customers.  They are summarized below:

  • Read actual customer comments.  Be sure to look at verbatim comments.
  • Talk to your customers.  Face to face is ideal! (more on this below)
  • Hook up with your customer service organization.  They are often a central point of contact and a great source of customer information.  Grab a headset, plug in, and have a listen.
  • Check out the blogosphere and customer forums.  What are customers saying about you?

Here are a few other methods of getting to know customers.

  • See how customers use your product or service.  Spending time watching customers use your product in its “natural setting” is a fantastic way to learn about customer needs.  Be sure to ask your customers what works and what could be better!  A great example of this type of ethnography study was in a recent New York Times article in their Magazine section.  This (lengthy) article discusses how Toyota spent time with real customers while designing the Tundra truck.  I love this excerpt because it shows the power of talking with customers face to face, as well as the passionate interest in understanding customers:

In August 2002, Obu and his team began visiting different regions of the U.S.; they went to logging camps, horse farms, factories and construction sites to meet with truck owners. By asking them face to face about their needs, Obu and Schrage sought to understand preferences for towing capacity and power; by silently observing them at work, they learned things about the ideal placement of the gear shifter, for instance, or that the door handle and radio knobs should be extra large, because pickup owners often wear work gloves all day. 

(Thanks to Return Customer where I first heard about this article, then to Shmula with some great links to other ethnography sources, and then, from the comments on the Shmula post, to ChittahChattah which was the impetus for the above bullet in my post.  I love the way I can find such great resources from blogs.  Thanks, guys!)

  • Close the loop after an interaction.  Take the time to ask customers about their experience.  Did it meet their expectations?  Exceed them?  Fall short?  This can be done with a short web survey or a quick phone call (depending on the nature of the business).  It is also a good time to ask what could be done differently next time.  Although this is a very simple way of understanding customers, it is amazing how few companies actually do this.  Companies that close the loop with their customers are stand-outs; even if the experience wasn’t good, asking can help a customer vent and get some mental relief.

For the best results, customer listening activities should take place on a regularly scheduled basis.  How often they are scheduled will depend on your role in the organization and how ready your organization is to take action on what is heard.  That last part is critical, so let me say it another way. 

Take decisive action based on the results of listening to customers.  Don’t let their feedback be wasted!  Use what you learn from listening to customers as a critical piece of data to put alongside your other research findings as you make decisions on products, services, and experiences. 

Finally, loop back with your customers to let them know you heard them.  Ideally, it will be the beginning of a long, two-way conversation with your existing customers, building relationships as you go forward.

I will share some examples of companies listening to customers in upcoming posts.  Add examples you know of into the comments; I will include your example in my posts with, of course, a link back to you.  I’m all ears!

Posted in Customer strategy, Voice of the customer | 21 Comments »

Through the Eyes of Others

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 6, 2007

big.jpgI just watched one of my favorite movies this weekend, Big.  Starring a young Tom Hanks, it is about a 12-year old boy who accidentally becomes a 30 year old man overnight.  One of the things I like about the movie is its view of the corporate marketing world through the eyes of a boy. 

In particular, there is one scene where Hanks’ character, Josh, is in FAO Schwarz, a very hands-on toy store (Josh got a job at a toy company).  The CEO of the company where Josh works, Mr. MacMillan, runs into him there at the store.  Recognizing Josh as an employee, they start talking, and MacMillan realizes that this young man has a different perspective on the toys in the store.  As they are watching kids play with the toys, they talk about what they are seeing.  Here is part of the interchange (from

MacMillan: I come down here every Saturday.  You can’t see this on a marketing report.
Josh: Um, what’s a marketing report?
MacMillan: Exactly.

When Hanks was preparing for the role of a 12-year old boy stuck in a man’s body, he watched tapes of his co-star, David Moscow (who plays Josh at age 12) to see how he behaves and acts.  The director of the movie, Penny Marshall, also filmed each “grown-up” scene with Moscow playing the part of Josh so Hanks could see how a 12-year old might handle that situation.  The result is true insight into the mind of a young boy.

How much insight do you have into the mind of your customers?  Do you know them?  How well?  Do you take the time to understand how they interact with your products or services?

We can learn a lot from the MacMillan character.  This executive spent time at a retailer watching his customers interact with his product.  He also hired a specialist (Josh) whose sole purpose it was to show the company what their customers needed from them.

I’ve blogged on this concept before, talking about how the grandson of the founder gets out with Harley-Davidson customers and rides with them

We need to do more than just watch tapes of focus groups.  We need to get to know our customers, their wants and needs, their frustrations with us, and their raves about us.  You need to see your company through the eyes of your customers.

Tomorrow, I will post some practical methods for getting to know your customers better.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, Voice of the customer | 3 Comments »

Are you listening to your customers?

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 8, 2007

man-with-headphones.jpgI just read a great post by Sandy Renshaw over at PurpleWren about a cable company who is listening.  That’s right – a cable company.   A few days ago, Sandy blogged about her experience with her cable provider Mediacom (who, due to a dispute with Sinclair Broadcasting, had to drop the Fox channel) and the short-term solution they put into place.   She also expressed her concerns about the long-term (how to get Fox without an antenna??).  To my (and her) surprise, one of her comments was from Scott Westerman, Group VP of Mediacom, sharing his thoughts on the problem, as well as his email to keep the conversation going!  He also sent Sandy a montage of Mediacom customer voices, which you can listen to from her most recent blogpost (see first link above).

I am impressed with his response for two reasons.  One, he is clearly hooked into the blogosphere and is open to using it to communicate back to his customers.  Perhaps he has read Citizen Marketers?  Second, he has actually taken the time to listen to the actual voice of the customer.  Not aggregate results of the latest customer satisfaction survey.  Not anecdotes from his team.  He has listened to customer concerns and recorded those voices for others to hear.

How well are you listening to your customers?  Here are some ideas on how you can open your ears to hear.  I welcome other ideas as well!

  • Read actual customer comments.  Don’t rely on survey results which have been aggregated into a list of the “top issues”.  Be sure verbatim customer comments are included, both good and bad, so that you can understand your customers in their own words.
  • Go talk to your customers.  Whether it is in-person at a retail store or customer event or by going out on a few sales (and support!) calls, meeting and listening to customers face-to-face is critical to do at least once/quarter.
  • Hook up with your customer service organization.  The place where your customers go to contact you is a great place to go to listen to them.  It could be a customer service call center or a technical support department.  Go down to the call-center floor, hook-up with one of the customer service reps, and have a listen.  Don’t forget to bring your notepad!
  • Check out the blogosphere and customer forums.  Of course, I am assuming anyone reading blogs is already doing this one!

I highly encourage management at all levels to add some of these interfaces into their regular set of activities.  Put it in your planner, if you must, but just do it.  And when you are finished listening, be sure to respond.

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing, Technical support, Voice of the customer | 6 Comments »