HP: Monitor External Conversations about Your Products
Tara Bunch, VP of Global Customer Support Operations, Imaging and Printing Group, HP, gave a keynote this morning at our Technology Services World Conference about consumer support in a down economy. The fascinating part for me was how HP is leveraging Web 2.0 media to understand customer attitudes about their products and brand, and to engage customers in conversations. Though 57% of SSPA members now have a customer discussion forum, few of them are proactively monitoring what customers are saying about them outside their firewalls. There is a forum for just about everything out there–especially consumer electronics–and according to Tara, just because you don’t own that forum doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active in it.
Her example was how when a consumer complains about a product in an open community that allows anonymous postings, people tend to “pile on” a negative post complaining about any and all things related to the vendor or product. Rather than ignore these forums, HP tracks these external conversations and takes part when lots of activity occurs around an HP topic. Reaching out to frustrated customers in the forum with an offer of assistance usually stops the ‘piling on’ immediately, and typically there is a rush of customer posts afterwards complimenting HP for caring enough to monitor what people say about them. She also suspects they are receiving extra credit from younger customers for even knowing about these sites and caring enough to get involved.
About an hour later I was leading my first Innovation Tour of the Expo, an hour long guided tour of the booths of the Recognized Innovators. One of those partners, Attensity, demoed some technology that fits in perfectly with what Tara was talking about. Using their text analysis engine, Attensity analyzed all the user reviews posted on popular travel website Hotels.com. Using a fun UI, you can drill into hundreds of concepts about a particular hotel brand, looking at complaints, compliments, or more specific areas like room service, cleanliness, personnel. The technology automatically categorizes every comment so you have a one-stop understanding of positive vs. negative feedback, and the level of activity around any topic.
I think it is becoming increasingly important that product companies, both B2B and B2C, leverage innovative technology like this to better understand what customers are saying about you–when you aren’t listening. My advice, and Tara’s, is to step in anytime a cluster of customers ‘pile on’ to complain about you to diffuse the situation and hopefully turn the customer around. But even if they are saying nice things about you, you should be mining those conversations for business intelligence. Think what you can save in customer focus groups?
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