A traditional way to gather such “marketplace intelligence” is to ask customers to complete satisfaction surveys. And although sat-surveys represent a direct method of feedback, they don’t always generate the most accurate information, because most people won’t complete a survey without a polarizing motivation to do so–like a burning need to escalate a situation up the management chain.
At times, sat-surveys can be dangerous. I once worked for a company that forced its customers to complete them four times per year–a practice that bordered on disrespect for its best customers. For example, one poor customer was badgered 24 times over the course of six years to answer the same five questions. Once, when answering the question about what we might do to increase his satisfaction, the customer answered:
“Stop sending me customer satisfaction surveys!”
Sat-surveys will provide some data, but you won’t be able to paint an accurate picture with it.
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Last week one of my clients shook his head and said, “I’ve tried Twitter, but just don’t get it. It’s meaningless chatter.”
It’s a fair assessment. In its raw form, Twitter epitomizes the concept of meaningless chatter. Seriously, who cares about what hamburger your New Media Evangelist ate for lunch today?
Consumers spend billions on hamburgers. They buy “Big Macs,” “Whoppers,” and “Six Dollar Burgers” from McDonalds, Burger King, and Carl’s Jr respectively. They eat “Rubyburgers” and “Big Beef Burgers” at their favorite neighborhood restaurants like Ruby’s Diner and Friendly’s. Wouldn’t these establishments care about what burger I eat for lunch? And more importantly, how valuable would it be for someone to aggregate the worldwide burger-eating conversation to seek trends in consumption, location, time, what we like and what we don’t–all captured while the experience is still fresh in our minds?
Today, companies have access to tools such as Twitter Search and Google Alerts to monitor thousands of ordinary conversations. Independently, these conversations represent chatter, but collectively, they offer an opportunity to sift extraordinary insight out of ordinary events.
I’m not saying to abandon your customer survey strategy. There are many needs for traditional interruption-based intelligence gathering tools. By the same token, don’t ignore the power of meaningless chatter. By using the tools, digging into the data, and extracting the extraordinary from the ordinary, online conversations can add another level of detail to your traditional information gathering efforts.
There’s meaning in the chatter. Give it a whirl. You may be surprised at what you find.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pancakejess/