A person couldn’t walk through a shopping mall 20 years ago without being deluged by chipper young people carrying clipboards. They would offer free treats from the food court, shopping discounts, and sometimes actual cash for people to come in and simply give their opinions about a business or brand. It was arduous, costly, and not even reliable (depending on how they did their sampling), but it was still a huge business and almost every successful company did it. They did it because getting the opinions of “real people” and actual customers is an integral part of how a company evaluates its own performance.
Your company may have had a great quarter or two or six, but if you are not engaging with your customers or listening to their feedback, the only place to go is down. From titans of telecommunications technology to for-profit universities, giant companies with nothing but promise crashed and burned simply because they didn’t listen to their customers.
Today many voice of customer programs are essentially built on the same idea that sent those college kids out into those malls with clipboards. Sure, computers and smartphones have made getting data easier, but it has also increased “survey fatigue.” Just as regular mall shoppers learned to sidestep the kids with the clipboards, the busy online customer may love (or hate) your business, but simply doesn’t have the time to tell you.
Yet, what if you could listen in on what your customers were saying when they don’t know you can hear them? No, we’re not talking about bugging the restrooms in your stores or hacking your customers’ emails. Rather, using text analytics, you can mine forums, Facebook, Twitter, and countless other places to see what is being said about your business, allowing you to catch problems you may not have even known were problems.
People may not like to fill out surveys, but they all love to complain. A sizable number of social network posts are complaints, posted or tweeted out of a moment of frustration. It makes sense, because in those moments it often feels like there is no one to complain to, so they just tell the world. However, thanks to text analytics, you can find those complaints and address them.
For example, let’s say the proprietor of Betty’s Tacos and Spaghetti restaurant wants to find out what her customers are saying. She does traditional surveys, which gives her a lot of great information based on the questions she asks. Betty learns what dishes work and which ones don’t. She asks about her staff and how comfortable the chairs are and what people think of the mood music.
Yet when Betty starts analyzing her social media feed, she notices that the words “smell” and “dumpster” are mentioned negatively in a lot of customers’ tweets. It turns out that on windy days, the smell from the dumpster carries over to the parking area. In just a few minutes, she moves the dumpster to a new location further from the parking area and her problems are solved.
In other words, she figures out a solution to a problem she didn’t know she had, and thus didn’t even think to ask about.
This is the kind of benefit adding text analytics can bring to customer feedback. Customer loyalty is a tricky thing to inspire. Yet, if you’re open to their feedback and are able to fix a problem they never even told you about, you’ve just earned a customer for life.