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Customers are taking to social media to share feedback. Are businesses listening?

Published February 22, 2024

With customers responding to surveys less and less, companies are looking to AI to analyze nontraditional sources of customer feedback.

It’s no secret that survey response rates have plummeted in the past 20 years, putting businesses in the predicament of trying to gauge their customers’ experience with insufficient data. 

Customer experience leaders are now looking to nontraditional sources for customer feedback — from social media and third-party review sites to speech, text and site session behavior. But the massive volume of raw data garnered from these sources would be hard for any one person to analyze. 

A slew of AI-powered solutions have recently come on the market to address the issue, from Chatmeter’s PulseAI: Signals to Glassbox’s Voice of the Silent.

Glassbox’s Voice of the Silent solution, which was unveiled Tuesday, uses AI to analyze customers’ session data, including page visits, clicks, struggles and more.

Chatmeter, a reputation and CX management brand, launched Signals last month. The AI-powered tool analyzes a range of reviews, social media posts and surveys.

“AI-enabled tools like these radically increase efficiencies in addition to providing insights linked to things like advanced sentiment analysis and ‘hidden voices’ from passive interactions,” Michael Hinshaw, president of CX consultancy group McorpCX, told CX Dive in an email.

Cynthia Sener, president of go-to-market at Chatmeter, told CX Dive that gathering consumer feedback is a process ripe for AI use.

Leveraging AI “makes it consumable because otherwise it’s just this volume of data that nobody can listen to, nobody can engage [with], nobody can take action,” Sener said.

Businesses using the tool can type queries into Signal’s interface like “Why is X location performing badly?” and get insights into customers’ experiences at the location and potential action items. 
Social media and third-party review sites

On average, businesses only hear from a fraction of customers when something goes bad. Many simply leave. Over half of customers say they reduce or stop buying from a brand after a very poor experience, according to recent research from the Qualtrics XM Institute. 

But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t talking about their bad experiences. Many go to social media or reviews to share their frustrations.

Companies that don’t look at social media to see how customers are responding to their service or product are “completely missing the boat,” Sener said. “Consumers are not filling out your surveys nearly [as much as] they are engaging online with sharing people about their life in general.”

More than 9 in 10 people say they read reviews before purchases, according to data from Brand Rated. That makes missing the information provided in reviews all the more costly.

Listening to customers on social media and third-party review sites like Google and Yelp is “critical,” Hinshaw said.

“[This is] in part because social is pretty much an ‘always on’ unfiltered stream of customer opinions and perceptions,” Hinshaw said. “And third-party reviews tend to hold more weight with both consumers and business buyers than brand-driven testimonials.”
Not a magic solution

But these tools aren’t a silver bullet, Hinshaw said. Not only do AI-driven solutions face the problems of privacy regulations and bias, they won’t solve the challenge that many brands still run into: actually taking action.

“The biggest problem is that not all brands listen to all their customers in ways that drive meaningful action that benefits customers and the business,” Hinshaw said. “Bottom line, human oversight is still necessary to interpret context and intent behind the data and help drive brands towards actionable insight.”

For now, Hinshaw urges customers to see these tools as complements to — not replacements for — traditional methods like surveys and focus groups.

And despite decades of suggestions that surveys will die, surveys remain an important source of customer understanding, says Augie Ray, research director at Gartner.

“Surveys remain popular, however, because they permit the great opportunity to know the customer and diagnose customer experience opportunities,” Ray said in an email. “Correlating feedback data from surveys with data about the customers and their interactions creates the strongest opportunity to recognize which customer segments are served well and which are not.”

The problem isn’t always that companies have insufficient feedback, according to Ray. Sometimes it’s that businesses aren’t making effective use of the information they already collect.

“If you can’t turn feedback data into attention, knowledge, and action, then adding nontraditional sources of customer feedback will do little to affect customer-centric outcomes,” Ray said.

This article was original posted on Customer Experience Dive.


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