Brands: Lots of Talking, Not Much Listening

Social media is awkward for many companies. Source: AT Kearney

A few weeks ago Ted McConnell, EVP Digital at ARF, and I had a brief conversation where we talked about the ratio of talking to listening. He said, “if you divide the number of dollars spent on ads by the dollars spent on listening, including call center operations, you’d have a pretty good idea of how out of balance talking and listening are.” Even when the companies are among the top 50 in the world, most of them only know how to talk in social media, not listen.

That’s a high-level takeaway from recent studies by management consultants A.T. Kearney called Socially Awkward media and by Market Tools titled Voice of the Customer in the Enterprise.A.T. Kearney examined the Facebook activity of the top brands by Interbrand ranking. Taking one indicator, the ratio of consumer posts to company,  20 companies had ratios of 3:1; the remaining 30 had ratios of “nearly” 4:1. Shockingly, 89% of consumer complaints were not addressed. Not only are they not engaging but they are intent on controlling the message, treating their Facebook presences as “cyber-billboards” that present “digitally irrelevant” points. The study is worth reading for some of the progress marketers are making, such as cause-related activities and discussing products and services, but the overall conclusion is worth noting … and doing something about.

Networks such as Facebook grow, evolve and take on multiple lives of their own in real time. As evidenced by the A.T. Kearney Facebook study, they also seem to stymie the best-laid plans of classically trained one-to-many marketers. The old rules of marketing, branding and corporate communication don’t work on social networks, and the new rules are being written every minute.

Market Tools’ research looked at how enterprise companies listen to the voice of the customer and the place of social media in doing so. I was surprised to learn that 94% of companies don’t use Facebook, Twitter or other social channels, relying instead on email/online surveys (51%), “formal” phone calls (28%) and “informal” phone calls (28%). While more than 9 of 10 companies claim that customer satisfaction drives bottom line performance, less than half solicit feedback on a continuous basis, and more than one-fifth do so once a year or not at all.  Asked if they changed a business process in response to customer feedback, only 25% said they did so “often.” About 70% of the companies surveyed had revenues over $1b, 15% were in the $500mm to $1b range, with the remainder between $100mm and $500mm.

Apparently, even with scads of books on the wisdom of listening to the “voice of the customer,” sophisticated systems and tools, and CEOs in the loop, most companies still prefer “making and selling” over “sensing and responding” to their customers and prospects. Given the results of these studies, the uphill battle for listening practitioners is changing the culture.

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One Response to Brands: Lots of Talking, Not Much Listening

  1. Pingback: Top Brands Still Talking, Not Listening and Engaging | Listen First!

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