Why "Social Listening"?
A few years ago, when the chief executive of a medium-sized consumer business mentioned to me in exasperation, “There are 130,000 fans for our brand in a Facebook group that we didn’t create. What do I do about them?” it provided a compelling justification for this question, "Why do Social Listening?"
And just as it's generally no defence to claim ignorance of the law, as Chief Marketing Officer, if you're not listening to the comments, praise, gripes, issues and suggestions your customers choose to share, wherever and whenever the mood takes them, you're in no position to understand or do anything about it.
This is what social listening is all about: instantly uncovering trending themes and topics, influential people, and unexpectedly enthusiastic reactions in public forums. These immensely valuable conversations are happening right now, on mobile and social media channels, between customers and non-customers alike: past, present and future. Make no mistake—many of your competitors are already taking advantage of social listening.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening is a set of tools, techniques and processes that help make sense of this continuous flood of conversations taking place in real-time across multiple channels. Social listening can work in isolation by providing fresh insight about an interesting topic or a household name. However, it's just one facet of a much broader discipline designed to deliver long-term, valuable and enjoyable experiences for customers when they interact with your company, its brands, products and services, at every touch-point.
Popular brands already have millions of social media followers, many of whom choose to share their thoughts about everything from the sublime to the subliminal, the profound to the provocative. Social listening tools work at scale: they do the heavy-lifting work of collecting, dissecting and categorising the conversations, so that you can use their output to judge whether, when and how best to engage with your audience. The interesting challenge is to treat each of your many and varied customers as an individual—to make the connection personal.
Social listening is part of the extensive mesh of customer experience tools and processes that includes customer relationship management, multi-channel campaign management, customer satisfaction, customer journey mapping and more. Respected analysts like Ovum have identified Customer Experience Management as a maturing trend, but one that many organisations have yet to embrace fully. It's this discipline where the corporate goals and customer experience strategy meet – and experts like Forrester's Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine have written whole books on it.
The Essence of Fresh Conversation
One of the misconceptions of social listening is that it tells you what to do. Social listening is part of the 'listen–analyse–engage' feedback loop, and it helps you make your next move. The essence you want to extract from the conversations is your customers' perception of the experience your company is delivering. What you get is real-time, uncensored—often quite fruity—feedback that can really open your eyes and help you adjust and refine your product and marketing strategy.
What's powerful about social listening as a tool is the benefit you get without having to mesh it into an all-encompassing 'multi-channel customer experience strategy'. For instance, the freshness of real-world insight drawn from a brand's followers can act as a wonderful conversation starter for a first customer meeting. And once the door is open, you have a custom-made collection of informed, real world feedback ready to mine for ideas to improve how you interact with your end-customers.
So what should you do about it?
Ubiquitous, capable and affordable mobile devices have empowered 'digital consumers' to express their views about your products, services, brand, or behaviour, in online public forums. Others with similar opinions or respect for those comments strengthen the credibility and influence of otherwise ordinary people. Your goal is to establish a similar degree of trust with your customers through the valuable and enjoyable experience you must consistently strive to deliver.
Social listening helps you discover what matters; Customer Experience Management helps you build the long-term relationship.
Today's digital consumers have great choice and high expectations from brands. Customers who trust you are more willing to forgive occasional lapses in service. This gives you a small window of opportunity in which to rectify problems, outside which some customers will have no qualms about leaving you noisily for a competitor. The risk of reputational damage can have a far-reaching impact on your bottom line.
The opportunity to profit from social listening is yours for the taking, and the really good news is that the tools and expertise are out there to help you build lasting trust and long-term loyalty among your digitally-connected customers.
About this author
I'm not so sure I would use the term "Customer Experience Management". Mirror it. Suppose a customer called you and said "I need to do some CGI employee management." If I am the customer, you are not my experience "manager". Perhaps "facilitator" might be a better word.
The reason I see terminology as so important, is not only does it create a picture of the company in the customer's mind, but it also creates a picture in an employee's mind. If I tell my employees that they should go out and "manage" the customer's experience, what am I telling them?
Thanks for taking the time to post your comments. You are correct about the importance
of nomenclature and perspective – viewpoint matters. The post referred to the
industry term for Customer Experience Management in what you might call its
"default context" of a consumer-facing business seeking to improve the overall experience for its customers.
To answer the question, if you asked your employees to manage the customer
experience, the author’s view is that you'd really be asking that they:
- make use of relevant information the customer has shared, both directly with your company through previous interactions and public social media
- follow the guidelines your CMO has agreed upon based on a well-defined and well-understood strategy of how your company interacts with its past, present and future customers
- understand that they should aim to enhance the long -term relationship through each interaction – to the benefit of both parties