Friday, January 14, 2011

Marketers Aren't Listening to the Voice of the Customer?*!

I find this data from today’s Center for Media Research newsletter so stunning that I’ll just quote it verbatim:

A new study by MarketTools revealed that 94% of companies do not yet use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to gather customer feedback, despite consumers' growing engagement with these mediums. The study found that the most common ways companies gather customer feedback are email/online surveys (51%), formal phone surveys (28%), and informal phone calls (28%).

As someone (and I doubt that I’m unique) who just refused to answer the email survey from the car manufacturer because I had already answered the one from the dealer and who uses ANI to select the phone calls I answer, I’m pretty sure these 94% of companies are missing the mark. While I’m engaging in self-revelation, I’ll also add that I don’t usually respond to emails for reviews of products I’ve just purchased. I do occasionally, and I would have done so for the car, had they asked me because it has one noticeable improvement over the model I previously owned. The car companies really have overdone the satisfaction surveys—especially since the sales and service people have been trained to ask customers not to say anything bad about them!!!—see #3 below and ponder. The rest of the data from the newsletter is also quoted verbatim:

1. 39% of executives surveyed said that their companies increased focus on customer satisfaction in 2010 versus 2009, with 21% stating that they invested more in customer satisfaction-related products and services in 2010 versus 2009
2. Despite the importance given to customer satisfaction, 14% of executives surveyed said their companies don't solicit customer feedback at all
3. 46% of the executives surveyed rate their company's performance on customer satisfaction in the top 10% when compared to their peer companies, and 93% rate themselves in the top 50% of peer companies.
4. Still, 56% of all respondents said their companies do not have, or are not sure if their companies have, a formal voice of the customer (VOC) program
5. Nearly one out of every four executives said that they seldom or never use customer feedback to change a business process.

I also have a personal perspective on #5. I made an online Christmas order for 9 items, none of which showed being out of stock. However, only 5 were shipped and the invoice listed 4 as out of stock (inventory failure). I was, however, billed for the total amount of the order (billing failure). I tried the call center several times to always find a lengthy wait. So I tried email—every day for one week plus some miscellaneous. I got 2 autoresponses for each email (marketing automation failure), but never a real response. My credit card took my word for it and refunded the difference. I wrote the above in considerably more detail to the operations VP. In the meantime, the company started refunding my money, one item at a time (another marketing automation failure)! The VP simply passed my email onto the call center manager, who has no responsibility for any of these things except possibly the wait time, although that’s probably a budget issue. But the VP got it off his desk, apparently happily ignoring the fact that it was business processes at fault, not customer service.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the social media mission control centers recently established by Pepsi’s Gatorade (video here) and by Dell. This 3-minute video is from the opening of Dell’s center with commentary by several industry experts.

Smaller companies/brands should not let the size of these “mission control” operations put them off. It’s a matter of scale and the listening issue of small brands is not the listening issue of Dell. Smaller brands, smaller companies need to think about their own processes, which I’ll lump under the Voice of the Customer rubric.

My recent personal experience says:

1. I would have done a customer review on the car because there was something (in this case favorable, though that’s not the issue) I’d like to point out to potential purchasers. I don’t care to waste my time checking Excellent on a mind-numbing set of Likert scales.
2. Even a VP can take a few seconds to acknowledge a customer email—even better to show that the real nature of the customer problem is recognized. This company is out about $25 in an undeserved refund—more important it permanently lost this customer!

How can you scale Dell’s and Gatorade’s listening activities to your brand? That’s the real issue and it can—and should be—dealt with! While they’re at it, corporate executives should come out of their protected cocoons and actually listen to the voice of the customer!!

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