Employ Multiple Methods of Listening for Effective CRM

Ann All
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Which is worse: A company that ignores social channels and communicates with its customers as it always has, or a company that wholeheartedly embraces social conversations while abandoning less trendy CRM practices?


In my opinion, bridge burning is often more damaging than not building enough new ones. I wrote about this a few months back, suggesting companies should view social CRM as a complement, not a replacement, for traditional CRM.


Esteban Kolsky makes a similar point in a CRM Intelligence & Strategy post. Kolsky shares a tweet from a fellow industry watcher who attended a conference where General Mills' Jeff Hagen apparently said a culture of listening removes the need for traditional customer surveys. One problem, writes Kolsky (and I agree):

Direct questioning of the client is a sine-qua-non requirement of any listening program.

I've interviewed folks who run customer communities for Dell, SAP and Microsoft. All mentioned collecting customer feedback as a big benefit of their communities. However, all of them still communicate with their customers via multiple channels including old-fashioned ones like e-mail, snail mail, the telephone and (gasp) live events, realizing their communities shouldn't be a single contact point. Writes Kolsky:

There is no possible way that any organization, under any circumstances, can get sufficient data and knowledge about the customer needs, wants, and desires simply by "listening." Sure, the unstructured feedback you can get from listening is more likely to have truthful statements than poorly done surveys, and the volume of unstructured feedback collected in a listening program can be 20x to 100x the volume to structured feedback collected in surveys-but there is no comparison between one and the other. ...

Kolsky lists three specific shortcomings of listening programs that don't include tools like surveys:

  • Your listening program may not capture specific information you are seeking
  • The customer may not be interested in using the channels you use
  • The customer may not like to share their thoughts in public


I'd add that much of the feedback conveyed via social channels tends to fall into the glowingly positive or harshly negative categories, so it won't offer any insight into the more "average" experiences likely enjoyed by the majority of customers. Social channels also still aren't the best way to reach certain demographics, though use of such channels is growing in nearly every area of the population. And let's face it, it's simpler to gather and mine data collected through more traditional channels like surveys. (That doesn't mean you shouldn't also analyze social data as well, of course.)


Concludes Kolsky:

... Relying entirely on your listening program may capture the feedback from the client, but without the surveys to corroborate you are just likely to end up "greasing squeaky wheels," not solving root causes of problems. You must query customers directly to find out what is going on, there is no substitute for it. No matter how good your company may be at analytics or how much you have improved your listening skills. ...

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