Don’t let Consumer Feedback Fall Into Corporate Black Hole

In the past it has been difficult to have meaningful customer conversations, however now with the advent of social media companies have the opportunity to listen to customer feedback. Before mainstream social media, consumers provided feedback to companies but typically did not receive resolutions to their problems and concerns. Alas as Becky Carroll, blogger and founder of Petra Consulting Group, describes it the one-way communication model, the “corporate black hole,” was ever so prevalent before social media. Public relations is about building and maintaining relationships, if there is no two-way communication PR practitioners are not fulfilling this necessity.

Social media tools are continually changing, adapting and growing two_way_591all the while allowing companies to converse with its consumers. Becky Carroll says in her post, “In Social Media, Collaboration is King” that companies must go “beyond just listening to customer feedback,” instead companies need to interact with customers, whether it is “thanking them for the Tweets” about company or “running quick contests to get more fans or followers.”

One important concept is that companies need to take action on consumer feedback. If people continually complain and no change occurs, the consumer will develop a negative perception of the company. In “Managing Customer Relationships” by Don Pepper and Martha Rogers, they say that, “the goal of every enterprise, once you strip away all the activities that keep everyone busy every day, is simply to get, keep and grow customers.” This is where PR practitioners come in handy, it is our job to build and maintain those relationships. Social media is not a campaign in itself, it is a tool to help develop and continue relationship with the company’s publics.

As former GE CEO Jack Welch said about social media, “we have only two sources of competitive advantage: one– the ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition, and two– the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition.” Social media allows for two-way communication, but still some companies treat it is a platform to bombard you with information. For example, Amazon’s twitter is fundamentally flawed. Although Amazon is a huge internet pioneer it uses a ‘Twitter bot’ to publish tweets from its blog. This is why Amazon only has a little more than 8,900 followers but more than 250,000 mentions. The higher number of mentions shows that people want to interact with Amazon, but they do not want their social media accounts to be cluttered with something of little or no value.

By allowing consumers to collaborate with companies via social media, companies and consumers will both ultimately benefit. Consumers will bring new perspectives and ideas from everything to what they like to future endeavors they hope to see. Brian Solis, PR blogger for PR 2.0, says that, “conversations don’t mean much without empathy, action, or resolution. In social media, collaboration is king.”

As PR practitioners it is our job to help companies understand and carry-out two-way communication with publics. PR practitioners must remember to not bore the company’s publics with shallow information, but rather enlist the consumer to be part of the organization.

I think that PR should be an open two-way process. Our goal is not merely to push out content and score media coverage but to have a dialogue with publics. If publics do not trust us, then there is no way we can influence or even change their attitudes and behaviors.

Is there a company that you know of that enlists two-way communication on social media? If so, what is it? Do you think companies are scared to have two-way communication because some of the feedback may be negative? How can we as PR practitioners relay the importance of social media to companies that refuse to adopt it?

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4 Responses to Don’t let Consumer Feedback Fall Into Corporate Black Hole

  1. kinoshita says:

    Ashley- Great post. We aren’t able to fulfill our roles as relationship builders and communicators if there isn’t two-way communication taking place. I agree social media is the platform, not the message. PR is about conversations. Social media provide us with the opportunity to identify existing conversations, join the conversation and influence the conversation faster than ever before. It’s imperative that companies and organizations using social media outlets like Twitter be personal and attentive. People don’t want to be bombarded with tweets equivalent to spam or junk e-mail. There is so much information out there already. People want personalization and intimacy. It’s not just one way, and we need to recognize that fact as professionals and be able to convey that message to our clients.

    I haven’t been tweeting very long and don’t follow many companies, but Whole Foods stands out. Visit the link http://twitter.com/WHOLEFOODS. They must have people whose sole job is monitoring and interacting with publics through social media. Whole Foods is constantly replying to individuals. This company is definitely using Twitter as a platform to disseminate information but also to interact with and grow its relationship with customers.

    I don’t know that I would say companies are necessarily scared of negative feedback. The Internet has been around for a while and with it came bloggers, online reviews and the like. I do think, however, social media can be very time consuming, and companies have to be willing to invest time and money into these outlets they are using. Perhaps the biggest hinderance is lack of awareness. Social media is still so new; the “bandwagon” effect is still going on. People don’t really understand what it is or its full potential, but they know it’s hot and everyone is doing it.

  2. bgansar says:

    I agree that action needs to be taken on customer feedback, but I am afraid of what the two-way communication with all the new social media may have consumers expecting. For instance if every tweet or comment is expected to have a response, companies may have to hire a personal Twitter-secretary. So is it and should it really be expected that everything be given feedback? In an ideal world I don’t think it’s possible, however it would be very nice for relationship building. I personally can’t find time to respond to all of my wall-posts on Facebook.

  3. wwillis says:

    I was actually thinking about this today as we discussed social media in one of my classes. We all know that social media is a great tool for PR practioners and allows them to disseminate information to important stakeholders. However, if these tools aren’t used as a means of two-way communication for relationship-building, then they aren’t being used effectively. And I personally think that time and effort should be placed into social media. Maybe there should be some one on staff who takes the time to respond to consumer feedback and resolve issues.

  4. astrazzara says:

    Kim—I agree that consumers want that intimacy with companies. They want to know the client cares about them and they aren’t just a number. Thanks for the Whole Foods example, I think that’s an excellent point that companies can successful manage social media accounts that build trust with consumers.

    Brittany—I definitely see your point about maybe some unrealistic thinking consumers may get. They might expect an instant answer perhaps on a weekend, when for example Southwest Air’s twitter is off, will a consumer be angry when they don’t get an instant response back? As consumers I don’t think we should expect companies to cater to our every whim.

    Whitney—Exactly! I think of social media as a friendship—just as you don’t want to constantly be hearing your friend talk about herself (such as sending our constant tweets about your company), maybe you could like to chime in occasional (a reply back). It should be a two-way street. I think both parties benefit tremendously when the lines of communication are open.

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