Sunday, 13 December 2009

Customer listening mechanisms & Social CRM tools

Listening to the customer is the weak-spot of many organisations. Decisions are made based on assumptions about what the supplier thinks the customer wants, rather than what the customer actually wants.

Many companies assume that listening to the customer equates to an annual customer satisfaction survey, or a follow up call following a transaction to check if everything was ok. At best both these tactics do more to irritate customers then they do to improve the customer experience. In general customers do not like being cold-called to give feedback, nor do they like being asked to fill in a survey when they sit down in a plane or check into a hotel.

Other companies are scared of opening up and asking customers for feedback in case customer's say anything negative about them. Again, this is a dangerous strategy. Customers will tweet, blog and talk to each other regardless of whether you chose to participate in the conversation or not. You are invited to listen, respond and improve, or ignore the voice of your customers and push them to your competitors.

So how do you listen to customers and engage them in a conversation to help refine your products & processes, or improve your customer service? There are several tools that I've come across that can help and can supplement traditional Business intelligence tools. As with all technology-based solutions they are only effective if they are deployed in an environment with supporting culture, incentives, business processes etc. None of them on their own represent a silver bullet to customer-driven success.

Survey & Feedback tools like:

Mirrorwave  - what I like about Mirrorwave is that it is an opt-in survey tool that looks at customer satisfaction in a longitudal way, measuring the customer journey, rather than static anonymous data points
Fizzback - allows customers to SMS feedback on a transaction at the point of experience
Rightnow - feedback management platform
Bazaar Voice - allows organisations to set up a listening platform including product ratings & reviews
Survey Monkey - free survey tool

Tools to solicit customer ideas like:

Uservoice- tool for capturing customer ideas, allowing customers to vote on suggestions Ideas - tool for capturing customer ideas and bring them into used by Dell Ideastorm and myStarbucks

Social CRM Platforms like:

Jive Software - tools to listen and respond to customer "buzz"
Lithium - Social CRM suite

Brand monitoring and sentiment analysis tools like:

Radian 6 allows you to create a "listening grid" across various social media
Scoutlabs allows marketers and agencies to monitor social media
Visible Technologies - social media monitoring
SAP Business Objects provides sentiment analysis tools

Social Sales tools like:

Social CRM Tools - provides a plug-in for to connect to Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook
Xobni - Microsoft Outlook connector to Linkedin and Facebook
Gist - personal social monitoring tool

Social Support tools like:

Helpstream - allows organisations to set up P2P online help portals
Parature - chat features for support reps
Salesforce Service Cloud - SaaS customer service and collaboration

In addition, the major CRM vendors SAP,, Oracle Siebel CRM all provide open APIs to connect to social networking sites to supplement customer knowledge across Marketing, Sales and Service. For example, SAP allows Service users to connect to the Twitter Firehose to monitor and respond to complaints.

This is not an exhaustive list of tools, rather a representation of some of the different categories of "listening" mechanisms. If I have missed any major categories please feel free to let me know.

You can view a Pearl Tree of these categories here

In addition Jeremiah Owyang provides an excellent analysis of Social CRM tools in his blog.


  1. You are correct...none of these tools are the silver bullet, but when implemented with measurable objectives and aligned with overall business goals, you can truly make the case for social media investment. Thank you for including us in this list of resources.

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6

  2. Great post. Also keep in mind that Social CRM Tools is also a Customer Support tool. It provides Ticketing via Twitter suing Salesforce.Com cases. Coming soon will be the ability to respond via Twitter from within Salesforce.Com.

  3. Thanks Lauren - nice to see Radian6 listening to their brand comments!

    John - thanks for pointing out the Customer Support capabilities of Social CRM Tools


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The Customer Revolution Blog by Laurence Buchanan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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