After a number of recent, widely reported stories about companies getting slammed on Twitter and Facebook for poor customer service, businesses are learning the hard way that the cost of not engaging with customers is great, and it is public. Social media has given the consumer a voice, and organizations that fail to listen do so at their peril.
But waiting for an angry tweet is a passive way of managing customer relationships. It is time that brands start to view their own websites as social platforms to ensure stellar customer service and a closer level of engagement than what is possible in more public venues.
The benefits of a real-time communications channel
One way to gain a competitive edge and connect more closely with customers is to merge your web analytics data with user opinions, wants, and needs. By integrating these critical items, companies can combine user feedback directly with behavioral information from web analytics to create a real-time communications channel and gain a deeper insight into a user's online experience.
Customer feedback can help you increase satisfaction, loyalty, retention, and conversion rates, so website owners should carefully consider the most appropriate feedback tools for their needs. You might have shopped around, or even experimented with a feedback tool or survey. Internet surveys -- which come in a variety of formats including emails, online pop-ups, and survey landing pages -- can be useful in extracting answers to site-level questions such as "Where did you hear about our site?" "What are you looking for?" and "Who are you?"
Responses help you know your users better, but they don't give you qualitative information about user behavior -- it's mainly statistical data, and you already have this and so much more with your web analytics. You want to know the "why" behind user behavior, so do not deny users the opportunity to steer a conversation by offering them only static surveys. Let them tell you the reasons for their behavior, and make sure you have the ability to optimize their feedback and act upon it.
Online feedback forms that are integrated with web analytics provide a way to gain instant feedback to the site that is easily measurable based on individualized business metrics. Integrating customer data into your web analytics, which traditional surveys are unable to do, is the best way to put a human face on your web analytics process. In addition, this type of feedback solution provides your customers with a feedback button on each of the site elements you wish to monitor.
The combined feedback and web analytics reporting can help you answer complex questions like, "Why are users in different countries leaving my website or abandoning my shopping cart?" You can correlate your web analytics' metrics directly with feedback data from customers and visitors using the real-time feedback forms.
Integrated web analytics and customer feedback in action
For example, imagine you have created a feedback category for "bugs," and you ranked the feedback based on rating grades. For every visitor or customer who gave a low grade for bugs, you can combine this with your web analytics to also include browser information, comments, and more. By identifying and reviewing data in this manner, you can easily identify potential bottlenecks or performance problems and make immediate adjustments. Then you can contact users directly and update them on your progress. By doing so, you let your customers know that your company cares about their experiences and is available to help.
Using web analytics and your real-time feedback channel, it is possible to zoom in on visitors who gave certain grades or provided feedback on certain topics and create reports based on this information. You can add any web analytics metric to the existing feedback for more enriched reporting and virtually limitless reporting combinations. You can measure by rating, feedback item, country, browser, operating system, website process, and more. This helps you make online experiences more personalized and relevant to your users.
Driving processes based on direct engagement with customers greatly improves a company's chance of creating a successful service and support operation. Users have been burned by relationships with other companies, and they may be skeptical about customer service. Using this approach not only lets you differentiate your business as a truly responsive one, but it also enables you to personally respond to a large number of users, improving operations and back-office processes based on trending feedback responses.
Your mandate: Listen, then act
Regardless of what tools you use, the most important aspect of customer engagement is to first listen -- really listen -- and then respond and interact with customers in a timely manner. Too often companies implement a survey or provide opportunities for customers to offer praise, criticism, and feedback, but then the engagement ends.
By the time a customer is screaming on Twitter, the brand has already failed in its customer service responsibilities. Long before that occurs, forward-thinking organizations are using their own technology resources to build internal, real-time communications channels that let customers know their experiences and input matter.
Nothing can hurt your company more than asking your customers for their opinion and then going silent. It's what you do with their feedback that will show your customers how serious you are about real engagement.
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