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Can you Listen?

Customer-centric supply chains have been the dream.  Technologies are making it more feasible, but can you listen?_____________________________________________________________________________________________
In most companies, the group named customer service is mis-named. While the department  is named “customer service” , it really is a group of order takers. Next week at Altitmeter Group’s first conference, The Rise of Social Commerce, I will be presenting on how social technologies have evolved to driven enlightened engagement.  …to put true Service into customer response.   …to accelerate  innvoation.  Consider these two stories from my research for the event:

If only I had the Clout of  Dooce

For leaders (Dell, REI, Newell Rubbermaid), Twitter can enable a customer service transformation. Customers WANT to be heard. Twitter is an enabler. The struggle is helping the organization to Listen.  Sometimes it takes a baseball bat.  The ability to listen happens only through failure. 
Meet Dooce.  When Heather Armstrong (@dooce)’s Whirlpool washing machine broke down, she called the Maytag repair man.  When her calls to the customer service, and the subsequent visit by the repairman did not resolve the problem, she turned to twitter.  Dooce advised her legion of over a million twitter followers to not buy Maytag.  Her first tweet :  “DO NOT EVER BUY A MAYTAG”, was followed in three minutes by a tweet of “ I repeat: OUR MAYTAG EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE”, was followed by “Have I mentioned what a nightmare our experience was with Maytag?” arrived into the inbox of the newly formed Whirlpool’s customer service team It was the team’s 12th tweet.  The incident made national news.
Dooce had an impact.  Today, the Whirlpool customer service team has been transformed to listen to the customer. They meet weekly cross functionally – marketing, customer service, field service and product management—to listen the voice of the customer from Twitter and Facebook.  Unlike @Dooce, I had a great response from Whirlpool customer service.  I had bought a Kitchen Aid mixer that did not have an instruction manual.  I tweeted for help, and had a great response within an hour.  This experience was far different than the one that I experienced with Delta on a delayed flight out of Atlanta on my birthday.  Here is an excerpt from the tweet stream:
@Delta.  You are killing me.  Delta flight 9869 is delayed.  Moved gates in ATL 3X. I will arrive home 7 hours late and miss my birthday party. #travel
@lcecere.  Your flight is not the responsibility of Delta.  It is a code-share partner.  Take up your issue with them.    
Imagine how I felt, siting at C-gates on what was supposed to be my birthday party.  If only I was @Dooce with over a million followers, maybe I would have gotten a more positive response. Unfortunately, for 80% of the companies I interviewed, this is the case.  They are not ready for Dooce. Most are unaware that danger lurks ahead. They are unaware that they can now have meaningful consumer dialogue.

Don’t Wash Your Vegetables

In the research, 20% of companies are using twitter as a listening post for customer sentiment in new product launch.  Consider the case of Newell Rubbermaid’s Product Saver launch presented at South by Southwest by Social Pioneer, Bert Demars:

In short, consumers were using the product without reading  the instructions, and not receiving the desired results.  Without watching the Facebook feedback and having the benefit of syndicated reviews from Bazzarvoice, Newell would have never known.  Because Newell could listen, they were able to reverse the negative consumer sentiment and save the new product launch.  The answer was simple, “Don’t wash your vegetables”.
The connection of twitter stream, syndicated review feedback, and facebook dialogue to R&D happens the most often in consumer durables, high tech and electronics and the largest Consumer Packaged Goods companies (CPG companies).  The use of social technologies as listening posts gives us the ability to listen, but few are up to the task.
What do you think?  Have you seen some great case studies in this area? Are you up to the task?  Customer-centric supply chains are today’s new reality.

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