A few weeks ago, RetailWire published a Braintrust Query, “Do you hear what I hear? – Listening to Best Customers.” The article made a good point about the need to make it easier for your best customers to share feedback with you. The article gave three ways for companies to make it easier for these best customers to share: Start a Facebook page, call the best customers every week, and ask for feedback after every e-commerce transaction.

It’s good to see that companies are beginning to understand just how important customers are, but aside from starting a Facebook page, these methods are still far from “best practices.” Soliciting feedback from either a phone or email survey is an interruption. Yes, consumers want to be heard and they love to share, but it’s important to realize that they want to share on their own time, and in their own way. They don’t want marketers calling them during dinner anymore. Plus, consumers want to be entertained. It’s important to make your methods of listening engaging and fun. Sharing has to be beneficial to both the retailer and the consumer. Asking for feedback in an intrusive way makes consumers feel used, not appreciated, and could quickly turn best customers into worst.

There is also an often overlooked issue with Facebook pages, too. According to Inside Facebook, a site that tracks growth and leaders on Facebook, in August 2009 the average retailer had over 2,100 fans. If all of these fans are sharing with your company – through comments, messages, and discussion boards – how do you aggregate and act upon what they are sharing? If you aren’t able to do this effectively, you’re hearing, not listening. Actively listening requires retailers to be able to separate the noise from the meaningful feedback, and then to turn this feedback into action. And action requires more than sending a short note thanking or apologizing to the customer with a coupon attached.

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