Your business relies on strong customer loyalty and high customer satisfaction, and you go to great lengths to measure it. But you can’t know what customers are saying at all times, even with a crack team on the job. Online forums, however, come close to filling the gap.
In today’s digital world, there’s no such thing as regular business hours; people place orders, recommend products and issue complaints wherever and whenever, whether the company headquarters are open or not. The best way to be that fly on the wall when customers are talking about you is to provide an online forum where they can go to talk.
Why Create Online Forums?
Online forums come in many forms, including discussion boards, comment boxes, and social media. Even though they take time and money to manage and monitor, online forums can pay huge dividends for your company:
Unfiltered Feedback: Just like a company verification service doesn’t sugarcoat its assessment of online dating scams , online forums let you see exactly what people are saying about you when they think no one is looking.
A Central Location: Customer feedback is a lot harder to collect when it’s scattered all over the Web. Hosting online forums allows you to see more of this feedback firsthand, making it easier to collect, analyze, and address.
Another Communication Channel: Responding to an unhappy customer on a third-party discussion board looks strange, almost like you’re stalking your customers. Responding to customers on your online forums, however, makes good business sense.
Choosing the Right Online Forums
There’s a wide range of feedback forums, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all. If time and resources are precious, focus on the forums that are easiest to monitor. At the same time, keep in mind what kind of chatter your customers will provide.
Social Media: This has become the default engagement tool for most businesses, but it has to be handled the right way to be effective. For example, you need to visit frequently to assess the general sentiment of your customers, and you need to quickly respond to their comments.
Discussion Boards: These boards are great when your customers like talking to each other and have lots of different things to say. But they can also be prime spots for spam posts, and without rules of etiquette your forum can turn into a flood of offensive or inappropriate comments.
Customer Reviews/Comments: Many sellers allow customers to give good (or bad) reviews of their products to make recommendations (or warnings). But remember that these reviews are for you as well as other buyers, so implement this only if you have a plan for addressing the notes.
Customers are talking about you all the time, whether you’re reading their posts or not. Don’t let their comments go unheard – create a set of online forums where people can go to provide the kind of honest, constructive feedback you need to make your business a success.
Photo credit: UN Women Gallery
Giving your customers a forum in which to air their opinions is the best way to learn about your consumers.