During the 21st Century, business has moved from the age of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), developing into the era of Social Media Management (SMM) as additional communications channels become available. The acronyms and titles may change, but ever since the dawn of time, successful business has been reliant on one key guiding principle—listening to the voice of the customer. Because without knowing what a customer actually wants, it is impossible to build and sell products or services that meet their needs.
With its inherent challenges and opportunities, the online marketplace has made it all the more important to hear the voice of the customer. Your business can easily connect with millions of potential customers across the globe, but they can just as easily move to one of your numerous competitors. Now that you are competing in a global marketplace, it is all the more important to hold onto your existing client base—and it is only by providing a superior experience that you can hope to do so.
Fortunately social media provides your business with a unique window directly into the thoughts, feelings, and intents of your customers, allowing you to properly analyze what it is they want and need.
Everyone is your most important customer
When it comes to raw figures, marketing to existing customers frequently generates a better return on investment than trying to attract new ones. According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, nearly 70% of consumers worldwide spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer experiences; and it is insights like this that challenge modern social media marketing.
Listening to the voice of the customer should be precisely that—the voice of the customer, not leads, not competitors, and not industry analysts. These other individuals are undoubtedly useful sources of valuable insights, but your existing client base should be the priority.
So when Miss Jackson has a problem with her purchase and takes to social media to complain, your business needs to be the one to respond. Not only can you turn a bad situation into a great opportunity to demonstrate outstanding service, but you also prevent a competitor stealing one of your hard-won customers.
And don’t think it won’t happen—40% of customers began shopping with a competitor because they heard about the company’s good customer service, almost invariably through one of their contacts.
"40% of customers began shopping with a competitor because they heard about the company’s good customer service."
When your clients speak as one
Social media has become the go-to place for consumers to voice their opinions on any and every topic. As a global meeting point, ideas are traded freely, quickly becoming trends that provide valuable insights into how groups of people feel on a variety of topics.
From voices united against injustice (#whyistayed), to hijacked hashtags (think #McDStories), to petitions for the return of long-missed products (Cadbury Wispa anyone?), social media has amplified the collective voice of the customer. Businesses who take the time and effort to monitor and aggregate online sentiment will find that collectively, customers are generating huge volumes of valuable data that can be used to refocus general marketing campaigns, or to direct future product development. They may even identify new opportunities to poach clients from competitors.
The voice of the customer—your most powerful marketing tool
The voice of the customer is also one of your most powerful marketing tools. Word-of-mouth has always been a valuable source of recommendations, and in the age of the connected consumer, those endorsements carry far and wide.
In fact, research quoted by Social Media Week suggests that “73% of millennials feel it is their responsibility to help friends and family make smart purchasing decisions.” This new generation of customers actively recommend or argue against products and services—generally on the basis of their own experiences.
This statistic further underlines the importance of listening to the voice of the customer and delivering an exceptional experience based on what you hear.
Why you can’t afford not to listen
It would be wrong to think of social media simply as a seam of rich data that can be mined for marketing insights. The reality is that listening to the voice of the customer is essential to delivering the service they demand.
Failing to listen will certainly result in tone-deaf marketing campaigns that fail to generate leads or sales. But more importantly, not listening and acting appropriately will alienate existing customers. This costs you their business and increases the chance that they will advise their friends to avoid your business, creating exponential losses and giving even more of your market share away to competitors.
And one final thought—the voice of the customer is far stronger and more important than your own. Just 4% of customers trust advertising the most for service information. So for the best results, let your customers introduce your fantastic new product to their contacts first.