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Customer feedback management tools advance, but still no social media

Customer feedback management tools offer new functionality, but responding to social media often falls to the call center.

Social media may be changing the way consumers and business customers provide feedback to stores, hotels and the public at large, but companies have yet to catch up to these new channels with their customer feedback management efforts. Some companies are still trying to figure out how and even if they should acknowledge those tweets, blogs and other public comment forums, even as they duly follow call center logs or get customers to provide feedback in more conventional ways.

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"We pay attention to certain blogs that we feel are legitimate to our industry, but some of these other medias come and go so we are not skimming them or constantly following them yet," said Finn Schulz, senior vice president of IT at The Rezidor Hotel Group, which is the international arm of the Carlson Hotels group and operates 320 hotels in 50 countries.

Part of the problem is there is no systematic way to gather and act on customer feedback on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. There are social media analysis tools that will monitor such sites for a mention of your company name and send you an alert, but most users and vendors have not integrated this feedback channel with the overall customer feedback management strategy or systems that aggregate data from surveys or call centers.

The mainstay customer feedback survey vendors (Vovici Corp., Confirmit Inc., MarkeTools Inc., Medallia Inc., Mindshare and Allegiance Inc.) and text-mining applications like Attensity are a few years out when it comes to developing modules that gather information from social media networks. At the same time, social networking analysis tools don't yet integrate with the big survey tool vendors, said Jim Davies, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. But the two worlds are coming together, he said.

In the meantime, companies can use customer feedback management systems that are already in place to gather social media comments.

Call centers, for example, already have the training and policies to deal with customer feedback.

"Responding to comments on social media networks doesn't scale. What I'm seeing is companies taking those comments and directing them into the call centers to people who have experience, knowledge and a process for dealing with them," said Bruce Temkin, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass who recently blogged about his customer experience with an airline.

Speech recognition technology used in conjunction with some call center systems can also parse out customer feedback. For example, if an agent takes a call about a change-of-address request and the caller also comments on service, such as expressing dissatisfaction with charges, the speech recognition technology captures this information.

"So it's not just about improving the [call center] agent's performance, but with speech analysis technology you can gather and analyze customer feedback on competitor pricing or dissatisfaction with a service," Davies said. "In turn, you can reduce customer churn and turn customer comments into a revenue generator."

Closing the loop: How technology can help

The Rezidor Hotel Group has found a way to take quick action on hotel guest feedback, even while the guest is still there. Seven months ago, it deployed enterprise feedback management software from Menlo Park, Calif.-based SaaS vendor Medallia. By asking a guest to give an email address and leave feedback on the hotel's customer portal, employees see comments during the guest's stay, as well as notes that other hotel staff members feed into the system based on guest comments. Should a problem arise, the front desk can resolve it. The given hotel also follows up with a survey.

"What was happening is, we would get a negative comment or suggestion and we would note it, report on it, but we did nothing about it," Schulz said. "With Medallia, employees have to take action ."

What was happening is we would get a negative comment or suggestion and we would note it, report on it, but we did nothing about it. [Now] employees have to take action.
Finn Schulz
senior vice president of ITThe Rezidor Hotel Group

At the front desk, employees now see a portal or ticker tape of customer feedback: Green is good, yellow not so much and red is bad. The front desk can click on the red comments, to see what they are and act on them.

"We respond to problems during the stay, not just after," he said.

The system also automatically sends out electronic feedback surveys to guests, and has a 30% response rate -- a high number based on past experiences, he said. Those surveys have provided invaluable information, Schulz said.

But when formulating a survey and analyzing the results, do not get caught up in the big-picture number.

Too many companies conduct a survey of thousands of users and look at that one customer satisfaction percent or whatever number the company is going by.

"It is so important to pay attention to what the individual is saying and respond to an individual complaint. Although it's important to aggregate customer feedback to see trends, you can't overlook the individual, and a lot of companies do," Davies said.

What customer feedback management technology can do for your company is automate policies for responding to customer feedback; whether positive or negative, aggregate customer feedback to indentify problem areas and force employees through alerts to at the minimum respond -- but optimally to resolve a problem.

"The area that most companies drop the ball is responding to customer feedback," Davies said. "They spend so much time on planning what they're going to ask -- with questions they think are important versus what the customer thinks is important -- and they get so caught up in the survey stage that when they get the results they see a number and don't do anything about the comments."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Christina Torode, Senior News Writer.

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