Some brands are overwhelmed by the amount of feedback they receive; they are rendered paralysed by it and they end up ignoring every type of input, thus disconnecting from their current customers, potential customers and other opportunities. We've talked about how feedback is important, but when the amount of feedback is just too much you may start finding it contradictory or it may become too difficult to choose which feedback is relevant to your organisation and your audience. Below, I present a few ways to choose which feedback is the most valuable and how to read it correctly.
Not really a contradiction
We have analysed the problems that arise from feedback in online communities in several work sessions with managers from different companies. All problems seem to stem from the same place in every case: ignoring feedback that opposes the company's way of thinking, which leads to greater discomfort within the community, who then feel voiceless and marginalised. This can even lead to users becoming trolls or them leaving the community and no longer being users of our product.
This is the case I experienced with the managers of the telecom company Orange, whom I advised a while ago. For instance, they complained of the little value their community contributed to their fan page. Their argument was that the feedback and interaction of users on their official Facebook page wasn't very useful to them because of all the criticism they kept receiving. What these managers and the online media professionals they worked with weren't realising was that all that negative criticism occurred for one reason only; it wasn't that the users had simply decided to speak up against the brand. In this case, the reason was the lack of communication between brand and audience in regard to customer service: claims, billing issues and a shortage in the technical services provided.
The three stages of feedback
On an online community, you may generate leads and make online conversions, the numbers may be fine and everyone may be happy but the community feels you don't care enough about them or your customer experience team believe that more work in brand-community interaction is needed.
As sales teams always say: and objection or a contradiction, a negative feedback (claim) is a sales opportunity. This also works for neutral feedback and, of course, positive feedback (where you can dig deeper into your good points, beyond flattery). You simply need to detect it, process it and convert it. This is a key you can implement in digital media.
1. Detect: seek out any feedback that has no malice, isn't rude and is looking out for a solution.
2. Process: don't ever get over-emotional, deal with the matter in an elegant and polite way and provide a timing for action. Make your answer to such feedback clear and direct and within the community. State that within a given number of days (or hours) they will receive an answer, publicly or privately depending on the seriousness of the issue at hand. Doing it in private is usually more appropriate and is an indication of professionalism.
3. Convert: respond to that feedback, take action (for instance, review the bill, check the order number, or answer the technical question regarding the functioning of a TV). Most importantly, register the action in an interaction report that will allow you to follow up and monitor interaction with the brand: from which social platforms and in what way (private messages, comments, images, videos, public mentions).
Here is an example of an interaction report devised for one of the brands we work with.
This is also a great way of defending ROI as regards the "invisible" work of feedback and interaction. Fully deployed using suitable parameters, it can help us identify the best means for our users to reach us and even what the most common problems are, making it possible to implement improvements in our services, products, website, landing page subscriptions or podcasts that aren't working.
Take a look at the source
Be careful with anonymous feedback. This usually comes from people who hold a grudge with the brand or organisation and their aim isn't to help but, rather, to damage the brand. Internet makes it easier for us to be exposed to anonymous feedback as anyone can give it. The point will be how much importance is given to this type of feedback by those in charge of decision-making as regards information processing. This is a personal decision. Our advice, always, is to consider only the opinions (good and bad) of those people who can be identified and contacted as they can be considered to be real or genuine.
Feedback from an anonymous source (a comment to a news item, for instance) is completely different to feedback from a customer who shops regularly at our online store. This is simply because it is the regular customer who needs to be charmed and who requires certain things from you.
Some people in your community can find it hard to provide valuable feedback, so imagine what it's like for them to be questioned further. In my experience I've learned something useful: the more contradictory the feedback is, the more useful it becomes. For instance: a customer is really happy with how they were treated by your staff; another left upset with how they were treated. When this is the case and the person shows this concern (for instance, by mentioning your brand on Twitter or in a blog post comment regarding a product update), ask that person to give you an example of what it was that upset them. Then ask the other person for an example of what gave them a positive impression. Do this every time and contrast your results.
Furthermore, ask specific questions that can offer you the information you're looking for.
Work on constructive criticism
Accepting positive feedback and finding an excuse to discredit someone who is critical is part of human nature, and this increases on the Internet, where saying things loudly is easier than ever. Resist that temptation; try to stay rational and cold-blooded. Assess such feedback as if it belonged to another brand or person. Test the most critical feedback and try to extract something valuable without getting 'emotionally' hurt. We have found that the best feedback comes from the greatest haters in different online communities.
For instance, take a look at the failure of the Kitchen Aid team, who let their excitement get the better of them by giving feedback of a personal nature in the name of the organisation.
Trust your community engagement person
At the end of the day, the person reading the feedback makes the decision. When the decision reaches top management, the view on the matter is already biased. So you have to trust the person who is responsible for community engagement in your organization. Just make sure they do not take things personally: see if you or they can remain 100% human without dragging your emotions into it. A difficult feat, indeed. More so if you don't keep your promises as was the case with Taco Bell and how their people reacted.
Create systems to improve your feedback
Instead of asking, writing down and communicating what your organisation is doing, find appropriate questions that can give you what you really need. "The information obtained from our community isn't clear enough to understand their priorities. Could you please tell me what your priorities are exactly?" A system based on clear, direct and honest questions will yield more interesting results than vague questions on whether you're doing something right or wrong.
Remember that feedback isn't personal. This will help you evaluate it for what it's worth: suggestions "to improve your product" or "to point out that the widget in your website doesn't work." They aren't a statement about your organisation's existence in this world.
online feedback / shutterstock