june issue 2011
Customer Research Looks Very Different in the Social Media Age
Increasingly, social media is helping companies recognise and concentrate on unmet customer needs. By engaging customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders as dynamic participants in the innovation process while escalating the range of ideas and mining real-time feedback on them, international and local companies have introduced service innovation and extension.
Before the launch of Halo Reach, Bungie Studio’s released a downloadable beta of the game to those Xbox 360 fans registered on the site. This provided instantaneous feedback to its product development teams on issues regarding bugs, glitches and load times. Google also uses this beta tactic and the data it secures provides an early opportunity to identify potential problems and alert the development team to customer preferences across geographic markets that need to be addressed. Companies can also tap customers directly for new product and service ideas.
Shahjahan Chaudhary’s social media agency, Team Ants, manages the Facebook presence of Subway Pakistan and has been implementing a Customer Market Knowledge strategy by gathering meal suggestions and requesting users to rate the best suggestion. It is a simple way to gain access to customers’ untapped desires. And those users with the highest-rated suggestions are offered a free meal courtesy of the agency and client.
By leveraging community sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as customer forums and product review services, an astute social media manager can grant his or her company the opportunity to supplement traditional sources of customer insight. And it all occurs at a scale unavailable via other means, such as surveys and focus groups: social media monitoring gives companies unique access to unfiltered feedback from customers.
The knowledge gathered using social media tools allows businesses to fragment consumer groups better than before, along with providing the gear to customise communication campaigns around products and services that suit the needs and expectations of individual segments.
Now that consumers demand to be treated like individuals (thank Google for this one), standard responses cannot be provided, neither can offerings with a one-size-fits-all feel to them. The supplier willing and able to continuously provide superior value and unique experiences will receive a lifetime commitment from its target base. Of course, not every company does this right. Nando’s Pakistan is well known for its catchy taglines and one-liners relevant to its target audience. Last year they offered up a tagline contest on their Facebook page, offering fans a chance to win a free meal for the family by submitting the highest-rated (by fellow fans) one-liner. The winner, Yousuf (a renowned communications consultant based in Karachi), found out to his surprise that he was expected to purchase up to three meals in order to avail his prize. Nando’s lost a customer, that too an influential one.
Google Research is now being utilised by think tanks, SME’s and dissertation students to minimise cost, widen research scope and include an international audience previously inaccessible.
When it comes down to it, the bottom line benefits like never before. Social media opens paths that engage in a real-time dialogue with a wide array of consumers, imitating the insights traditionally provided by budget- and time-consuming focus group discussions. Your company too can utilise these tools to benchmark itself and stay one step ahead of the competition.
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