Thursday, June 25, 2009

Twitter and all that - Customer PERCEPTION or Customer Experience Intelligence?

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the value that Twitter, Facebook, etc brings to companies looking for customer "insights" or customer "experiences" - the thought process is that if only companies could have a live feed to Twitter or Facebook data that they could keep a finger on the pulse of customer experiences, suggestions, issues, fix problems, and ultimately create a happier, more loyal, more profitable customer base.

While there's value in social media tracking, I'm going to take a contrarian position. I believe that web/social media helps identify customer "perceptions" - but it does a poor job helping companies track real customer "experiences" - and thus the social media content is not a good place to track, measure improvements, and ultimately monitor customer experiences.

Why is that, you might ask?
1) the web is largely anonymous. If a person tweets "I'm sitting in Starbucks, my latte sucks" - you don't really know enough to fix the problem. Where is the customer? What store? Who served it? Is the shopper a frequent customer? How often does he shop there? Is the problem endemic at the store or just a transitory problem? You can't determine ANY of those insights from a 'tweet.'

2) the web doesn't generally contain a 'closed loop.' If a customer complains that he/she is having a problem with a product or service, and they get some insight that helps them fix the problem, is the case "closed?" Who closed it? What was the resolution? You can't tell that from a web forum, by and large.

In short - the web does not contain 'actionable intelligence' - it only contains - 'perceived intelligence' - to get to actionability you need more information from the person, details on the problems, and a closed loop from the resolution process that identifies that issues are tracked to completion.

You can track perceived issues, but you can't really use the insights from web content to identify, fix, and ultimately measure the impact of your changes on your customers.

Far better to track the insights, interactions, and free form conversations, chats, and verbatims from:
- customer calls to a call center
- survey feedback
- online chats
- company moderated (or at least participating) forums where you can reach out to a customer directly and work with them to identify, resolve, and track issues and resolutions.

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