1. Social Media Voice of Customer is unsolicited – the customers share their experiences online motivated primarily by one of the following desires:
- to help other consumers make a good purchasing selection
- to get attention of the providers by making their grievances public
- to assert themselves as consumer mavens
Solicited feedback, in the form of survey response or focus group results, is motivated by participants’ consideration for the emotions of the researcher or moderator. I’ve seen quite a few times when consumers, making enthusiastic promises to buy and recommend a food product they just tasted, spitting out with disgust after leaving the sight of a tasting booth.
2. Social Media Voice of Customer is customer centric – the customers describe their own experience rather than answer somebody else’s close ended questions. They describe what is important to them in their own words. Sure, that is not easy to tabulate, but “easy” does not make it valuable.
“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”
Daniel Yankelovich. “Corporate Priorities: A continuing study of the new demands on business.” (1972)
3. Social Media Voice of Customer is voluminous – it often provides much more representative data sets for analysis than traditional, company-controlled methods.
4. Social Media Voice of Customer is inclusive – customers describe experiences that are not limited to your products or brand. It offers the opportunity to learn and compare how customer experience provided by competitive products measures to yours.
5. Social Media Voice of Customer is authentic and transparent – everybody can see who said what, where and when about a product. Consumers can relate to how the product was sold and used. They can decide if its limitations and benefits would apply to their circumstances. Consumers are smart enough to distinguish genuine experiences of their peers from idiotic and illegal attempts to fool them into a purchase of product that does not fit their needs. They are also capable of understanding the difference between a legitimate grievance and an angry rant. Fostering social media customer feedback builds your brand and improves sales results in addition to providing customer experience intelligence. Traditional, company-controlled Voice of Customer is only meaningful for internal consumption and even that is often only for a self-serving pat on the back.
I am not arguing to abandon traditional methods – they can be very valuable for hypothesis validation. However, social media Voice of Customer can provide much richer market intelligence, second only to ethnographic research, but without its cost and statistical representation limitations.