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10 Ways To Make Hay From Customer Feedback

You can learn a lot from the comments your customers post on Facebook and other social networks. Here's how to make the most of them.

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There is a great deal of value to be gleaned from the reviews, comments, and even criticisms your customers post on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Here are 10 ways to effectively leverage customer feedback.

1. Solicit it. Not everyone is prone to, or even used, to commenting publicly. This whole social networking thing is still relatively new, after all, and some people have yet to jump on board. To get a good variety and volume of feedback from customers on social network platforms, you may have to do a little cajoling or even enticing. Set up a poll. Get one of your better-known employees (or an employee with a cool-sounding and/or customer-facing role) to respond to people live on Facebook or Twitter. Award a prize for the most thoughtful review of a new product. In short, give your customers a reason or even just a reminder to post.

2. Monitor it. Nothing said about your company, its product, or its competitors on social media should be a surprise to you. There's an app (or rather a social media management system) for that.

3. Respond to it. Responding to customer comments--whether positive or negative--can yield value in many different ways. It makes that customer feel good, it makes others who are seeing your response to that customer feel good, and it keeps the conversation--and the customer relationship--going.

4. Collect it. It's all about the data, and the more data you can collect over time, the more effective your data analysis and resulting business decisions. (The how and where you collect it is fodder for another story.)

[Learn more about how social media analytics can help your business. See The Many Styles Of Social Media Analytics.]

5. Analyze it. One customer saying he hates the way your "new and improved" product smells does not a trend make. But several customers saying it, and several more agreeing with those who said it, could indicate fire where there's smoke. That's a rudimentary example, of course. There are many tools available that can suss out trends from the most disparate of comments and comment sources.

6. Let your customers know you're paying attention to it. When you make a business decision--big or small--based on customer feedback, let the customers know. They'll appreciate the fact that you are not only hearing them, but you actually care about what they are saying.

7. Improve customer service with it. Share customer suggestions and workarounds. Make it easy for customers to talk amongst themselves about the most effective ways to use your products--be it a cool shortcut for a smartphone or a link to a Web page that provides nutrition information. You just may see a drop in help desk calls.

8. Arm your sales team with it. Potential customers want to hear what actual customers think about your product or service. The comments and feedback that come through social networking platforms can provide insight into your customers and their experience with your products--good and bad. Armed with this knowledge, your sales team can more articulately and thoughtfully express to potential customers why your product will fit their needs.

9. Arm your whole staff with it. Maybe not everyone on your staff has a reason to be looking at customer feedback, but most could probably do their jobs a lot better if they knew their customers better. This data likely gets fed through your CRM system to a few, but it might be a good idea to open the spigot. (And what better use for that new internal social network?)

10. Protect it. The line between using and abusing any customer information--including their own feedback--is a fine one. Make sure you're walking on the right side of it.

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