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 Talking and listening to customers pivotal focus for businesses

Talking and listening to customers has become a dedicated focus for businesses, particularly retailers, as markets have become tighter and competition at an all time high since the economic crisis.

According to Gary Wheelhouse, social media director at Harvey Norman, never has there been a time where customers want to talk more – a fact that may be attributable to conditions globally around financial markets.

Wheelhouse is a speaker at the marcus evans Customers for Life Conference that will take place in Sydney on 4-5 November. “That is probably the thing I have noticed the most - customers are far more engaging now and they are using all of the tools that are available whether it be Twitter, Facebook, creating blogs or talking directly to us. There’s still a little bit of the traditional letters, faxes and phone calls but the vast majority of what we do and the way we talk to customers comes from the social media space and the web space. Whatever way you want to talk to us, by whatever means we will respond to that and push that information down through the stores.”

Customer feedback collected via social media channels is taken into consideration in tailoring the global retailer’s business approach, Wheelhouse adds. “When we talk to customers in social media they tell us the good, the bad and the ugly. They speak to us about what they like and what they don’t like. We see customers in three forms - they love us, they hate us or they want something. To that extent if customers are asking specifically for services in social media and that includes our website feedback also, which is a huge area of feedback for us, then we will take that into consideration and pass that directly over to the COO and the CEO.

“We have some really good internal tools for measuring those types of comments that our customers talk about and then we send that information back to the business and maybe back to the individual stores as well. It’s very much on our radar at the moment so the information that we send back is taken very seriously at the highest level. We provide all of our reporting to the Board of Directors.”

It’s crucial in today’s environment for companies to keep building on their social media presence, Wheelhouse believes. “It’s absolutely pressing for us because that is where our customers talk. They talk both about us and to us. It’s very easy to talk to customers who are talking to you but a lot more difficult to actually put your hand up to people who are talking about you and say ‘hey I see you have a problem how can I help?’ So it’s pressing for us to continue to be able to monitor all of those different locations better because the monitoring for us is all about time limits. The one thing that I do know is that the quicker you respond, the more favourable the response you will get from the customer so we will keep building and keep monitoring and if there is a new service that opens up tomorrow that involves listening to customers then we will be there.”

The marcus evans Customers for Life Conference will take place in Sydney, 4-5 November.


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