by: John Caddell

I touched on this topic six months ago, but I think it’s worthy of some amplification.

Companies need to listen carefully to their customers, and while new means like blogs, Twitter, etc., are promising sources of customer feedback, the truth is that the vast majority of customers don’t (and maybe won’t) use these tools.

Other sources for customer insight include call-center recordings, customer-service chats, etc. [I have a white paper on using what customers say in these forums. If you'd like a copy, email me @ john (at) caddellinsightgroup (dot) com.]

This still leaves a lot of customers–those who don’t contact the company–unheard.

There is a source for this type of insight–the front-line support staff. Retail clerks, bank tellers, etc., have person-to-person contact with customers every day. If customers have opinions, they hear them. The following diagram describes how their intelligence could be captured and used to improve companies’ understanding of their customers.

[This is a very preliminary draft, and I welcome comments, critique, suggestions, etc. It may end up to be a dumb idea or unworkable for some reason. I think, though, that it's worthy of serious consideration and thought.]

Step 1 is the front-line teams blogging on a daily basis about their experiences. The prompt for these blogs is a very simple, general question: “What was the most interesting thing that happened today?” Rather than ask them to sign onto a computer and type their blog post in, it’s gathered via phone. What’s easier than leaving a 1-2 minute message on the phone? The poster also supplies a title for the post.

The phone messages would be auto-transcribed using a service like SpinVox or Dial2Do and automatically posted to an internal blog.

In step 2, the blog posts are distributed via RSS to a wide range of readers within the company–customer service, marketing, management, etc. This group scans the post titles on their RSS readers, read any that caught their eye, and comment on, share and/or rate the posts that were most interesting to them. This process will quickly separate the interesting information from the noise (and we should expect a lot of noise).

In addition to sharing their thoughts, the blog readers can propose improvement projects based on the what they learn through reading the blogs.

(We’ll continue this post tomorrow.)

(Acknowledgement to Shawn Callahan, from whom I first heard the possible uses of blog posting and RSS for collecting and using distributed knowledge. Here’s a white paper Shawn wrote on the topic.)

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