Do you understand what your customers are saying?

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Every expert tells marketers that they must listen to customers. Fair enough. My problem is that too many of us misinterpret what customers are saying to us. I think we forget that customers are people too, and while some of them don't mind bluntly giving us a piece of their mind, most are at least trying to be civil and to protect our feelings. When we interpret what customers are saying, we need to keep that in mind.

I was reminded of this when I got a notification that one of my subscribers was canceling his e-mail subscription to my daily blog. I noted the reason for his cancellation, as I always do. In this case it was, "Too many updates." I started to move to the next e-mail in my inbox before considering exactly what that meant.

I mean, the thing he subscribed to was "Biznology Daily Blog" and he had been getting the daily blog sent to is inbox for months. But suddenly, he is now saying that daily is "too many updates." How many updates did he expect for a daily blog?

Now, I could just file this away as another irrational idiot, but, honestly, this is very rational behavior. The person canceling knows that I will be shown the reason for cancellation. He could have said all sorts of nasty things, but he wants to be polite. He probably wants to protect my feelings. He chose the least nasty thing he could say--it arrives too often.

But what does that really mean? It really means that the content is not relevant enough to this subscriber to pay attention to once per day. The response to this cancellation is not for me to consider sending the daily posts once per week, but rather to redouble my efforts at producing relevant stuff.

Other times, when customers talk to you, they aren't obfuscating out of kindness, but out of ignorance--they really don't know what is going on. One example that I vividly remember is that searchers commonly complain that there are too many results in Web site search when you ask them what's wrong with the site search. But what they mean is that the results are not relevant. They don't care how many results are shown if the best ones are at the top. But because you asked them, they will answer your question.

The best information comes when customers don't know you are listening to them. If you listen to what they say to each other--on message boards, in product reviews, in blogs--they aren't being overly kind and they aren't answering questions because they think they should. They are saying what they really think, which is what you want to know.

That's probably why Google Alerts and other listening services are really taking off. That unfiltered conversation gives marketers something to chew on without having to figure out how to interpret it.

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2 Comments

Great post!

I completely aggree, the media is populated with ad campaigns telling us about 'discounted rates and 'one day only' sales. Yet if brands just took the time to listen to what their consumers want they would need to be so price competitive!

Thanks

I totally agree with you. I first heard about this a number of years ago and decided to write a list of what I wanted my customers to say. I now believe that this is where you should start: in your marketing, in your sales and service standards, in your staff selection, in your product mix. Why? Because if I can get them to say my magic words (or something similar) then I know I’m on the mark!!















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This page contains a single entry by Mike Moran published on May 6, 2009 7:46 AM.

Cookie Cutter Marketing: Efficient or Effective? was the previous entry in this blog.

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