Watch the Internets – Listen to Your Customers

by john on November 4, 2009

If you sell any sort of product or service these days and you are not actively monitoring the Internets (invented by Al Gore) for mentions of your product then you are going to go the way of the Dodo bird or at least not do as well as you could be doing. There is no excuse not to do this as it is so easy to setup Google alerts and other monitoring vehicles to keep tabs on what is being said about you on social media.

Here are a couple of recent examples for me.

First, last night I noticed my T-Mobile phone didn’t have service. Then I noticed that all four T-Mobile phones in our household didn’t have service. Rather than search on Google I went to Twitter and did a search to see if anyone was talking about a T-Mobile outage on Twitter. And boy were they ever:

On Wednesday, #T-Mobile was again a trending topic on Twitter, where customers expressed their frustration. “I talked to T-Mobile reps more than I did to anyone else,” joeldreamweaver said. “They overcharged me. I’ll never do business with them again.”

Wouldn’t surprise me if the person at T-Mobile monitoring the Internets for mentions of T-Mobile was notified of the outage before their engineers were.

Now given the size and scope of T-Mobile there isn’t much someone monitoring Twitter could have done here – pretty hard to respond to tens of thousands of Tweets – but it does go to show how quickly people will share their thoughts about your service, usually when there is a problem.

Another example is my recent review of Quicken 2010 – the same day I wrote the post I got a comment from Chelsea at Quicken who clearly has as part of her job to engage with bloggers who write about Quicken. Search Google for “Chelsea at Quicken” to see her at work.

Here was her comment to me:

Thanks for sharing your observations about Quicken 2010. I’m glad you’ve decided to stick with us after 16 years of commitment -that’s fabulous. If you’re still having any trouble, feel free to reach out – I am happy to get you some help so you can get going on our much easier-to-use Quicken 2010.

A very simple “welcome to the neighborhood” kind of a message – but welcoming nonetheless.

My final example is from my iPodMeister review. Now when I wrote my positive review nobody from the company stopped by but I did have a customer write about his disatisfaction in a couple of comments on that entry:

Attention: iPodMeister is easy to fool you when it comes to claiming your prize. “its to good to be true”. they claim some of my cds were damaged and covers missing and damaged cds do to shipping.. they irritate me when it come to communicating to them, i rather throw away the remainder of my cds then give them anything else.

Kris from iPodMeister left a comment in rebutal, less than a week later (why not same day Kris – come on!):

Kevin,
there is no reason why you should be angry. We stated clearly on our website (http://www.ipodmeister.com/eligiblecds.htm) and in the detailed e-mail you received that we do NOT accept CDs with incomplete cover art or radio edits, promos, or singles. We also stated clearly that we do NOT accept CDs that are severly scratched or boxsets that are incomplete. You sent over 100 (!) items that fell into these categories. Why are you surprised that we did accept CDs that were clearly described as unacceptable. Common sense tells you that these CDs couldn’t have any value for anybody. We don’t “fool” anybody. We made clear -both on our website and in the detailed e-mail sent to you- that damaged, incomplete, worthless CDs are … well, wortless and that we don’t accept them. Sorry, but there is absolutely no basis for your complaint.

Now the interesting thing in this case is that while I do side with Kris having been a happy customer, I do think you can get yourself into trouble by having such an argument with a customer out in public. So I am a little torn on this example – perhaps a better approach would be for Kris to ask me for the private contact information for the commenter so I could put the two together privately? Or maybe right out there in public is fine if you know you are right, I’m not sure. I do know that iPodMeister got a few more mentions and backlinks, and that isn’t a bad thing for them.

In any case, I thought these were interesting recent examples of the relationship between product and service companies and the Internets/Social media.

I suspect companies will respond quicker and quicker to what gets written about them. And I think that’s a good thing for everyone.

UPDATE: Interesting article on Social Media Monitoring that I found by looking at my referrer logs – somebody at Intuit uses SM2 for this very thing.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kris June 3, 2010 at 7:03 am

Kevin, I’m glad that you were happy with our service. Since 2004, we have dramatically increased our customer base almost exclusively through word of mouth and referrals. It’s safe to assume that almost all of our customers are very happy with our service. Many customers e-mail me after they have received their iPod and offer to be used as references or promise that they will spread the word.
I disagree with the gist of your post which seems to me “all customers are always right.” My experience is that there is a small, almost minute “group” of customers who knowingly exploit the customer service orientation of e-commerce companies. There are so few of these customers that it’s inappropriate to speak of a “group.” These people are just plain wacky. Yes, you read right: wacky. They insult employees. They try to exploit companies or they are just very, very angry.
In these case I disagree with the very popular slogan “The customer is always right.” I don’t think that any of my employees should suffer insults or disrespect just because “the customer is always right.” Almost all of the people working for iPodMeister go to school, are musicians, or work in the arts. In addition to their class load and home work and in addition to touring and gigs they work long hours for iPodMeister. It just doesn’t sound right to me that they should nod their head in silence if the occasional wacko insults them on the phone or pushes them around with unreasonable requests. That’s not what they are getting paid for. They are getting paid for their hard work but not for letting others abuse them verbally.
In your post you criticized that I publicly pointed out to Kevin that he sent us more than 100 CDs that clearly violated out criteria for eligible CDs. Kevin knew exactly what he was doing because everybody can tell a water damaged CD from a CD in mint condition or a CD-single from a regular album. We unnecessarily paid an extra $38 to get these not eligible items shipped to us. Kevin took these $38 out of our pockets and we will have to earn them back from other iPodMeister customers. If other customers would act as irresponsible as him we would be forced to increase the exchange rates for all iPodMeister customers in order to compensate for the shipping costs for worthless items. What is wrong with pointing this out to potential customers as a deterrent?
iPodMeister provides a service that is fast, easy, and fair. There are no scams, tricks, or gimmicks: no “shipping and handling fee,” no fine print, no nothing. The iPods are brand new, factory sealed, and come with full warranty. The iPods are NOT last year’s model or refurbished items and they didn’t fall off the truck either. We pay for the shipping of the CDs from you to us and for the shipping of the iPods from us to you. We won’t trick our customers and we won’t allow our customers to trick us. It’s that simple – and we’re not afraid to say that publicly.
Your fans at iPodMeister

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