Posted November 10, 2011 9:47 am by with 3 comments

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We hear this all the time. People want to be heard. That’s why social media is taking off like it is. Even the Godfather of social, Mark Zuckerberg, talks this way and he is betting Facebook’s future on this desire for people to share and even overshare, if that’s what it takes to be heard.

If being heard is so important then why does a recent study show that many companies that are involved in social media aren’t placing listening, and the incumbent response, as one of the highest priorities? eMarketer reported on a study conducted by MarketTools and found the following with regard to companies hearing and responding to customer complaints. First a look at whether or not companies even THINK that their customers complain online.

In case you missed it, 66% of the respondents either didn’t even think that people complained about their business online or din’t even have an idea about it. I’m sorry but that is pathetic. I would love to get a list of the companies that responded like this and see just how completely out of touch they are.

Of course, considering how this study is heading it doesn’t get any better as we see another measurement of whether or not companies respond to those online looking for customer service.

I can tell you from personal experience that complaints online to Verizon about an issue merited ZERO response to me at one time. Another time though, a blog post about another communications company, Century Link, ended up turning me in favor of their company. So the knife cuts both ways.

So what should we learn from this? First there is a lot of work to do and companies both large and small need to be listening and responding to their online customers whether they feel like it or not. How can it be done? Here are a few simple tips.

1. Use Google Alerts – At the very least be monitoring your brand through Google Alerts so that you can at least give the appearance of trying to listening and pay attention.

2. After you outgrow Google Alerts invest in listening tools – You know our personal favorite here at Marketing Pilgrim is Trackur which is inexpensive and powerful. Once you get beyond the stage of Google Alerts you will want to track not only your online presence but your competitor’s presence, industry mentions etc, etc.

3. Know the cost– When companies are being sold IT security solutions they are asked to estimate the cost of a security breach to the company. You need to consider the same thing for online issues left unattended. If a customer that you neglect online has a large enough audience they can really do some brand damage especially if left unattended by the brand itself. What could an online screw-up cost your business in hard dollars? You need to consider this.

4. Assign responsibility – You need to give a person or a team of people this responsibility so that there is accountability and process for online listening and response. If you think that this is just a fad and will go away you are delusional. You need to cultivate expertise in your company no matter what the size, to keep tabs on your online presence. Outsource it if you must but do something rather than nothing.

5. Embrace online issues – Like I noted earlier I became a much bigger fan of Century Link after they worked with based on my issue that was raised on a blog that was only getting 50 visitors on a great day. People love to have their problems solved and they will tell others like I ma here about great customer service. They will also kill your brand if you do nothing. Once again, the sword cuts in both directions.

In the end, is it worth having all of your hard work that was put into building your brand and reputation put at risk by having your head in the Internet sand? From the findings of this study it looks like many think so. That’s simply playing online Russian roulette with your business and no one should ever do that.

What’s your take on the state of online listening and responding in the business world? Is it as lax as it seems? What do youi suggest to do about it?

  • “66% of the respondents either didn’t even think that people complained about their business online or didn’t even have an idea about it.”

    Denial is alive and well! If you think no one has every complained about your brand online or on a social network you need to pay a little closer attention. Sooner or later something you do is going to rub someone the wrong way. There is no way you can make everyone happy all the time. The real issue is how do you handle it.

  • Google alerts is definitely a must use tool…

  • Social listening and its message are important. Even though we deliver the message effectively if no one listens its nothing. So this 2 goes hand and hand. 🙂