What Can Q&A Bring to the Consumer Feedback Table?November 23, 2011
Many things are described as ‘the lifeblood of any business’; capital, good design, great management, a clear vision and any number of others.
The hottest contender, surely, is ‘happy customers’.
The challenge of keeping customers happy is such that many businesses turn to companies who specialise in assessing the quality of the ‘customer experience’ through all levels of the business.
So what part could Q&A services play in helping companies make sure that their interactions with customers are as positive as possible? To find out TKM turned to Kimberly Nasief. Her company, Louisville, Kentucky based Measure Consumer Perspectives, helps businesses, including globally known brands (think KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut – work for MeasureCP and you’ll never go hungry), keep their finger on their customers’ collective pulse. It offers a range of services including mystery shopping and brand auditing to help them do so.
One challenge, says Ms Nasief, is that as advertising evolves it goes where the crowds go, and that means the social web. “More and more, the businesses are spending a lot of time socially to market their brand,” she says. “They need to ensure that what they are marketing is actually being delivered.”
“We work with businesses to ensure that their processes and protocol are occurring in a manner which meets their businesses marketing/ operations/ training/ customer satisfaction objectives.”
It comes as little surprise that the traffic on the web is two way and as companies start to communicate more directly with customers, customers start to speak back. It takes a trained ear to listen to the cacophony of a thousand voices and weave what they’re saying into a comprehensible narrative from which the business concerned can learn.
“We monitor what is being said about a brand and about products/ services that we are involved with. We use it to keep an eye on our competition. We use it to engage with thought leaders in the market research and consumer feedback industries. We use it to prospect; who is talking about a brand, and what issues are they having; we use it to develop channel partnerships.”
So in an industry where the conversation is so all encompassing (Nasief mentions social networking sites, blogs and mircro-blogging services like Twitter as will as professional networks such as LinkedIn as sources of feedback), staying on top also means staying on top of the technology. “We need to be faster than our competition,” explains Ms. Nasief. “We need to deploy technologies that are available; we need to stay abreast of innovative trends and figure out which will fit into providing our clients with the fastest, most useful feedback products.”
So much for trawling the great online river of conscious for signs that a brand is respected or distrusted, that its stores are enjoyable places to be or that fill their customers with dread. But what about garnering specific feedback from smaller, more carefully chosen groups, or finding experts to evaluate specific aspects of a client’s operations. Could Ms. Nasief envisage Q&A, and especially paid for Q&A, becoming a key tool in her sector?
“Yes, we can easily see that,” she says. Her company already uses an offline equivalent. “We already pay our shoppers to evaluate customer service and brand experiences. The next level, and this is where crowdsourcing comes in, engage everyone-not just our shoppers-to give feedback; however, it must be under the auspices of transparency and the client must be willing to act on the feedback in real time-as well as use the data for trending purposes.”
Ultimately it’s all about scale, cost and convenience. In a market the size of North America sending an executive from one side of the continent to the other to check on a retail outlet or customer service centre may not be cost effective. Measure CP can provide trained people on the ground. It also knows how to interpret its findings.
However while their model works readily for the large clients with a major consumer profile that use Ms. Nasief’s company, smaller and more specialist outfits may need similarly specialist assessment to ensure that their customer-facing operations are doing the best possible job.
Rather than hiring a major outfit to undertake a small task, paid-for Q&A offers businesses a way of reaching people with the necessary specialist skills, expertise and interest and commissioning them to assess the company’s operations.
If you’re an engineering firm wanting to gauge opinion of your new marketing campaign from amongst potential customers or a firm of accountants wanting to know how the recruitment section of your site is playing with the next generation of talent you’re seeking to take on – pair Q&A and micro-research may be the way to go.
It may be a little rough and ready compared to the highly professional services outfits like Measure CP offer, but it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s simple to spin something up to get micro feedback on focused areas and above all it’s cheap.
Kimberly Nasief however isn’t about to take the ability of clients to crowdsource customer feedback directly lying down. What would be her tech solution if she were able to wave a magic wand?
“It would take customer feedback from traditional methods like IVR [interactive voice response] and Web surveys,” she explains, “add in the mobile feedback element; encompass social media commentary, sales performance stats from the clients, employee satisfaction levels from the client, and provide real time brand temperature from an internal company and external customer perspective.”
“It wouldn’t be flat, but rather spherical or round. It would encompass text and sentiment analysis, and heatmap areas of concern or focus-and it would be drillable by hierarchy and demographics…”
Wow. If that ever comes to pass then Kimberly Nasief will be flying the consumer feedback equivalent of a Klingon Battlecruiser. Woe betide the competition.