Your customers are talking about you, are you listening?
Your customers are talking about your product on social media. They are telling their friends and followers about their experiences with your product. They are praising or complaining about your product or service, and even highlighting bugs. Listening to these conversations can help you make your product better.
A friend told me a story. He was in a meeting and TweetDeck chirped with an update, a customer was complaining that the site was down. He immediately checked his email, there weren’t any alerts. So, he sent an email to the operations leader. The email server was down. It turned out, the whole data center was offline, including the alerting system & email server. A tweet from the customer was the first time he heard of the outage.
Now, this is an extreme example, but if your customers are having troubles with your product, its likely some of them are complaining online. With Customer-Driven Quality, we monitor these channels to find opportunities to improve our product & tests.
Twitter and Facebook
I like to keep a search going for Twitter & Facebook, using either TweetDeck or HootSuite, with my product as the search term. I’m not monitoring for system outages, like my friend, but looking for unhappy customers. Some customers I’m able to help directly via reply or private message, others I redirect to our customer support team, and some are just venting.
Blogs and Forums
Your industry and product are likely to have influential blogs and forums where your customer meet. Joining the forum and getting on the blog mailing list are good ways to keep up with your customers.
Creating a Google alert is another good way to keep up. Google will do the search work for you, and deliver results in real-time or summarized once a day.
Reddit is a very active forum of forums. Creating a search for your product name is pretty easy. Here is an example searching for HootSuite: http://www.reddit.com/search?q=hootsuite&sort=new
Sentiment140.com is a cool tool that uses text analytics to rate tweets as positive or negative. Picking on HootSuite again, here is a sample report:
Tweetfeel.com is another alternative, streaming live tweets and rating each one. This time we will pick on TweetDeck:
Tips & Experiences
- My place of work encourages interactions with customers, others may not. So, you should check with your leaders for any guidelines for directly communicating with customers. Even if you are discouraged from communicating, you can still passively monitor these channels.
- I always disclose that I’m an employee. “Hi, I’m John from the engineering team, have you tried xyz?”
- Keep in mind your personal activity on social media before commenting in public. One time, I sent a private message to a frustrated customer, asking if I could help him. He saw my personal, off-work, activity on the message board and was not impressed. In retrospect, he was having problems with our software, and he saw me posting pictures of my dog. Not the best impression. If you are always checking into “Joe’s Bar and Grill” and posting photos of your beers, maybe you should consider creating a profile just for work.
- Never be defensive or argue with a customer.
- Be yourself, don’t try to be a corporate automaton.
One question we hear in development, when do we stop testing? Well, the answer is usually when you no longer have users. Monitoring social media and the web is a customer-driven method for improving your product and test suite.