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Does Web 2.0 Change Companies’ Ability to…Huh? They Said What?

Posted on | December 8, 2009 | No Comments

There’s no ignoring the fact that Web 2.0 has raised the level of interaction with customers to new heights – allowing free-flowing feedback to emerge like never before.  But I wonder how well companies are adjusting to – and using – the font of wisdom customers are spewing forth.

In an age where customers are able to speak back to companies in countless new ways, I wonder: have companies changed the way they L-I-S-T-E-N?

Listening 1.0 in the Age of Web 2.0

For many companies ‘listening’ is one dimensional.   Senior execs are often called upon to listen to customers – generally – complain when something isn’t working.  The information is used to solve the individual customer’s problems, but sometimes it becomes a ‘proclamation’ for new product features or new processes that affect customers – staff and sales channels – globally.  Why?  Because the CEO said so.

These are characteristic Listening 1.0 practices:  Narrow feedback, shotgun decisioning, and – oops! – employees and customers are saying, “Huh? They said what?”  Even though organizations have clearly flattened out, there’s been little democratization to the status of “some listeners rank higher” … even when the message may not be totally valid…or vetted.

The reality is there is generally a whole other phalanx of people listening to customers.  And, while they’re not at senior levels within the company, their interactions with customers are just as valid. I’m talking about the often-hidden “listeners:”  support desk folks, PR people who interview customers for case studies, the person who runs the user group, sales admins, shipping folks, etc.  Rarely is their input ever asked for or used.

With Web 2.0, ‘crowdsourcing’ – or, perhaps, ‘customersourcing’ – has found a broader sounding field.

Now, there’s no ignoring ‘lower level’ feedback. Customers who want to can go beyond these ‘staff’ intermediaries to make all their comments public.  Smart companies can raise their standards of listening to utilize all the feedback – good and bad, ‘low’ or ‘high’ level – to improve their products and services.  (In an age where homogeneity often rules, it’s frequently service which is the uncommon denominator.)

"Listening Post" listens to a number of online chat forums in real time. It extracts lines that contain the words “I am…,” displays them and uses text-to-speech to speak them out. “Listening Post” listens to a number of online chat forums in real time. It extracts lines that contain the words “I am…,” displays them and uses text-to-speech to speak them out. 

Web 2.0 technologies for collecting input – for example: online surveys, Twitter and blog post monitoring, even online contests which reward customers for feedback – can elevate Listening 1.0 practices to Listening 2.0 levels.

But will companies step up?  There’s a lot of hierarchy within organizations and, in this economy, not a lot of budget for implementing Web 2.0 platforms or processes for collecting and processing the ‘collective customer wisdom.’  But when companies figure it out, Listening 2.0 will be a winning path to new product ideas, better service delivery, and improved customer – and employee – relations.

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