Tracking the voice of the customer in the modern day focus group

Tracking the voice of the customer in the modern day focus group


In recent years, the monitoring of social media and news content has become a major aspect of business intelligence strategies, and with good reason too. Analyzing the voice of the customer provides extensive and meaningful insights on how to interpret and learn from consumer behavior. With over 2.3 billion active social media users out there, there’s a wealth of information being generated every second of every day, across a variety of social channels.

Direct access to consumer opinion was traditionally only available in closed and controlled environments like surveys and feedback groups, but today it’s accessible everywhere on the web; on social media, in reviews, in blogs and even news outlets. Hence why it’s been dubbed the modern day focus group.

Across social channels, a staggering 96% of people will talk about a brand without actually following its social media accounts. So while a company may be actively responding to direct messages and queries to its own channels, if they’re not paying attention to what is being said elsewhere, they’re missing out on a goldmine of useful and often freely available data and opportunity.

So why isn’t every company out there keeping track of every mention of their brand or products online; there’s simply too much information out there to manually keep track of. Not alone does the average Internet user have 5.54 social media accounts, but the sheer volume of chatter and content generated among them is so vast, it would be impossible to even attempt keeping up with.

When talking about a company or brand online, in some cases, the consumer will aim their message directly at the company Facebook page or Twitter handle, where it can be picked up and acted upon by a customer care rep. But what about the comments that aren’t written as a direct message?

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Depending on the size of your industry, following, or customer base, there could be thousands, if not millions of similar messages scattered across the various social media channels and online review sites. It’s a mammoth challenge, but one that is being conquered and taken advantage of by savvy organizations out there. Enter Text Analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Recent advancements in Text Analysis and NLP are enabling companies to collect, mine and analyze user generated content and conversations, a level of insight and analysis at a scale that was previously not possible. If you’re not tapping into the wealth of data out there and monitoring each and every mention of your company, brand, product line or even competitors online, you’re missing out on a number of key business opportunities;

  • Crisis prevention and damage limitation
  • Research and product development
  • Customer support and retention

Crisis prevention and damage limitation

While social media is, for the most part, a public forum, many interactions between a customer and a company online will not be seen by the greater public. In many cases, direct messages to companies on social are handled swiftly and taken to private messaging, out of the public eye, where they can then be handled via email or phone call. However, it is also vital to track, compile and analyze each non-direct interaction and mention of your brand in order to spot any potentially dangerous trends that may be developing. You may, for example, begin to notice a sharp increase in the number of customers complaining about a specific aspect of your product.

What begins on social media as a customer complaint or grievance, can very quickly snowball into something far more serious, and wind up in mainstream news media, which is truly the last place you want to see your brand being portrayed in a negative light, as it’s reach and potential virality holds no bounds.

Let’s look at Samsung’s recent exploding battery crisis. On August 24, a report of an exploding Samsung Note appeared on Chinese social network Baidu. While it received some attention, one-off stories like this are often attributed to be exactly that, a one-off.

One week later, however, a second and similar report emerged from Korea. These reports were suddenly no longer refined to social channels as mainstream media quickly picked up on a developing story surrounding one of the world’s leading tech companies.

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While Samsung were left with no choice but to recall and cease production of the Note 7, this is a prime example of how a crisis can begin with a couple of posts on social media channels and ultimately end up as one of the biggest crises the company has ever had to face.

Although the problem lays in the production of the Note 7, what is interesting to observe is the period of 6-7 days after the initial report of an exploding phone in China. Looking at news sources from this period, there appeared to be no increase in negative publicity for Samsung. In fact, the number of stories about Samsung decreased in the days following the post on Baidu.

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The volume of stories written about Samsung trebled almost overnight after reports of a second Note 7 explosion in Korea

As soon as that second explosion was reported in Korea, however, the number of stories being written about Samsung trebled almost overnight.

The successful launch of a product or campaign relies heavily on the initial consumer reaction.. Early negative reviews can be difficult to recover from, but by monitoring consumer reactions you are giving yourself a golden opportunity to spot problems early, resolve them in a timely manner and prevent any initial negativity from snowballing.

You can quickly get a picture of what your customers are talking about, what keywords and topics appear most frequently in their commentary and whether the overall sentiment is positive or negative. This doesn’t stop with your own customers, however. You can learn just as much by monitoring mentions of your competitors and their products online.

Product research & development

From that initial lightbulb moment to the day of product launch, many opinions will be voiced about the direction this process should take. While many will have their say and provide their input, decisions that are made based on solid research data will give the product its best chance of success, both on launch day and beyond. It can be crucial, particularly in the early stages of the process, to identify trends and perform audience segmentation to help define the scope and direction it will take.

Initial research focusing on the consumer need that is to be addressed with the new product or service can focus on a number of key areas, to help pinpoint that market niche. By monitoring the voice of the customer and their reactions to existing competitors, you can quickly develop an understanding about what they are doing well, and what they (or you!) could improve on. By monitoring their  comments at scale, it’s possible to spot certain product or service aspects that are pain-points for your potential customers and react to those business insights.

A great example of this strategy in action was when L’Oreal used social listening to track the challenges people faced when dyeing their hair, what kind of tools they were using and and the color effects they desired. Not only did they uncover the trends consumers were following most, they also gained a solid understanding of the issues potential customers faced – which they could solve with help from the company’s R&D department. The resulting launch of their Feria Wild Ombre product proved to be hugely successful and helped L’Oreal widen their market as it appealed to consumers who had previously not been hair-dye users.


L’Oreal’s targeted social listening campaign proved highly successful with the launch of their Feria Wild Ombre range

Monitoring for product development doesn’t stop on launch day, however. Consumer reactions and opinions going forward are equally as important as they were pre-launch. You may be their hero today, but things can very quickly take a turn for the worse, so it is important to continuously track these opinions, learn from them, and ensure your product evolves accordingly.

Customer support and retention

People love sharing on social media. Whether we’ve just bought a shiny new car, adopted a pet or passed an exam, the chances are that many of us will share our joyous news online. However, should our new car suddenly break down, our resulting online complaints are likely to be seen by twice as many people as our initial positive posting. It’s a harsh reality that companies with an online presence simply have to accept. However, how they chose to monitor and manage such instances can be the crucial differentiator between keeping a customer or losing them to a competitor.

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Clearly, it’s essential to keep on top of negative mentions online and provide a quick solution. We say quick because social media complainers aren’t willing to wait for 1-2 business days to get a reply. In fact, 53% of people expect a brand to respond to their Tweet in less than an hour. If you’re not listening to your customers, your competitor soon will.

It’s not all about fighting fires and resolving customer complaints on social media, however. A report from the Institute of Customer Service showed that 39% of consumers surveyed actively provide feedback to organizations online, while 31% make pre-sales enquiries. These are positive actions that companies can not only profit from, but also analyze in the same way they would negative actions. By looking at and analyzing every angle, a 360 view of consumer perception can be obtained, which enables a company to spot trends and establish their strengths and weaknesses.


Bringing it all together, we hope that we’ve provided you with some food for thought in relation to how important social media and news monitoring can be to the (initial and ongoing) success of an organization. From idea generation, to tracking your competitors and pleasing/retaining your customers, it can help you to make sense of large amounts of unstructured data online and uncover insights and trends that can boost decision making, influence the evolution of product development and help minimize the risk of damaging press from emerging.


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