Business Intelligence From Your Customers


by Samuel Greengard

You're probably used to me moaning about breakdowns and mess-ups in corporate America's use of IT. The companies I write about notice, too.

As they should. If you're not using tracking features such as Google Alerts you might as well be working in a time warp. I'm not even sure how market intelligence worked back in the dark ages--prior to the introduction of the public Internet in the mid 1990s. I supposed that a company like XYZ Corp. hired something like 1,437 people to read newspapers all over the world and send in coffee stained tear sheets?

Still, I'm impressed that over the past several months I've received responses for several blog postings after I've called companies out on perceived mess ups and failures.

Last December, Martin McClanan, president of online clothing retailer Sahalie sent a personal e-mail apology after I wrote about a glitchy website. Then, after I ranted about a seemingly unsolvable Wells Fargo ATM problem in March, the problem was suddenly fixed. Finally, after I wrote "How to Lose a Paying Customer" a few weeks ago, I received a personal call from a representative in the Chase Card Services Executive Office. She offered to refund a disputed finance charge on a credit card and open a new account. Offer accepted.

Kudos to these companies for paying attention and reaching out to fix problems. I'm a member of the press, and that can certainly serve as motivation to respond, but the smarter organizations will apply lessons learned beyond one squeaky wheel, and continue the listening and response with customers.

The reality is that there's no way to avoid the gritty reality of customer complaints and things gone wrong. The sooner you view the Internet as a valuable market research tool and a way to fix broken systems and processes the better off you'll be. Set up Google Alerts, use trackers for Twitter and take the bullets.

Then, once you discover a problem, make amends with the customer and fix it.