Social media monitoring quickly becomes a “commodity” with hundreds of companies’ rummaging through fire hose streams of communications published, re-published and re-tweeted every second of a day. Brands want to know what people think about them and are prepared to pay for this knowledge. But why is this so? What is the value of knowing that people communicate a positive sentiment about your brand today?
I would speculate that most companies make this investment without specific strategy or process on hand, and some companies do it to manage the reputation of their brands or in other words, to do PR damage control and risk mitigation. A very few do so to systematically improve their customers’ experience.
Most of Social Media chatter has relatively low value for opinion mining efforts, which need to be given attention if you want to extract actionable knowledge for systematic change.
Furthermore, it is important to understand the differences between the types of communications that use Social Media channels:
- People often refer to Word of Mouth (WOM) in Social Media as a buzz and focus too much on technology at the expense of the appropriate targets, actions and measurements.
- The Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a subset of WOM that can be directly attributed to the customers of your product. It is very similar and as valuable as, if not more valuable than, customer feedback collected by many companies through their “walled garden” channels at a great expense.
The opinion mining operation that is focused on the Voice of the Customer “ore” delivers significantly higher yield compared to the overall Social Media buzz in terms of actionable knowledge. It is possible because it provides a very close correlation to specific products and often describes holistic customer experience with these products. I refer to “holistic customer experience” in the context of the customer’s effort required to achieve a desired outcome. An example of a desirable outcome is a new roof for the house or a quality audio experience while exercising in a gym.
We consider all steps – from the initial purchase research to the selection, purchase, delivery and setup, and to a completed realization of the desired outcome – measure it as a difference between the customer’s expectations and their perception of reality (their actual experience). Examples of VOC “ore” include—in ascending order—customer forums, blogs and customer reviews published online.
Recent Forrester’s research found that 14% of executives surveyed said that their companies don’t solicit customer feedback at all, while 56% of the respondents said—or were not sure if—their companies do not have a formal VOC program. However, the most shocking finding is that nearly one out of every four executives said that they seldom or never use customer feedback to change a business process (source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=142811).
The Temkin Group research identified it as the one of Top 10 Customer Experience Incompetencies, as shown in the table on the left.
There is a good reason why so many companies find it difficult to mine Social Media for improving customer experience: most content generated by customers is unusable by corporate information systems that are built to process structured data.
The following steps have to be taken to address the big challenge of translating seemingly anecdotal evidence into a scalable, corporate process:
- Aggregation, capture, cleansing and authentication of Voice of Customer data
- Conversion of this data into structured information
- Alignment of this information with corporate targets, i.e. conversion of this information into corporate knowledge
- Integration of that knowledge into existing, repeatable business process.