The phrase ‘listening to your customers needs’ sounds like such a 1980s business cliché, albeit one that still rings true for any business. Keeping up with what your customers needs are, however, can be a tricky thing to do, especially in the digital world where information, attitudes and demands are carried so quickly via the web.

Historically, tried and tested methods such as surveys, focus groups and product testing panels were a great way of gauging customer sentiment towards your product or service. Unfortunately, these methods are also quite time consuming. Now I’m hesitant to suggest Social Media as a cure for all ills, but listening to what your customers might be saying about your brand on the social web is cheaper, far less time consuming and above all, deadly accurate.

It’s a generally accepted rule, for example, that twitter users should praise in public and rant in private. Look across the twittersphere and you’ll find many instances that break this rule, but in a lot of cases, it holds true. Ergo, if one of your customers is ranting about a bad encounter with your brand on twitter, they must be rather riled in the first place. Consider the information you now possess: you know the name of the customer, with contact details, the nature of their problem, perhaps when and where it occurred, and the perfect medium in which to engage with them, in many cases in near real time. Which other medium would give you this opportunity? To directly interact with your customers and turn brand aggressors into brand advocates on the head of a coin?

With traditional market research techniques, by the time you have found the dissatisfied customer, they’ve already made up their mind about your operation and told, on average, four others about their experience. Although a tweet goes much further than four people, so does your response: there’s nothing I like more than to see the walls broken down between a company and a consumer, and a problem resolved for all too see.
If you haven’t yet ventured on to the social web, what are you waiting for? Take a look at my previous post on social monitoring tools and start listening, you could revolutionise your CRM strategy…