Listening to consumers/audience members: How do we do that?


November 2, 2013

Customer service

Many companies receive emails, Tweets, or messages through company websites. Sometimes, the consumer/audience member has a question. Sometimes they find a mistake or a user issue on the company’s website.

How we respond to those messages shows how well we listen to those voluntary contacts from the public and that can make a big difference in:

  • Engagement – we might gain an advocate based on how helpful our response was.
  • Usability improvements – we might be able to improve something that isn’t working on the website and that we weren’t aware of.
  • Learning – we might learn something new about our audience, their interests and likes.

How do we respond when somebody Tweets, emails or contacts us through our website? First of, the response needs to be timely. Tweets – in a perfect world – are responded to within minutes. That’s not always feasible. Even I don’t respond to social messages 24/7, and I often respond quickly when I’m awake. Secondly, listen to what the sender is really saying in the message.

“Hello, your link to (INSERT A PLACE YOU LINK TO HERE) isn’t working correctly.”

That’s some useful usability information and there are many reasons why links stop working.

Just a couple of examples:

  • If it’s an external link, the other site may have changed something.
  • If it’s an internal link, the post may have been deleted or something changed in the site’s link structure. I once changed the WordPress permalinks from including dates to no dates and that sent some links to error pages. It was an easy fix once I installed a WordPress plugin that redirects those kind of links.

When messages are received, I recommend that we slow down and really read them. What’s the sender’s intent? What were they trying to do?

For example, somebody says: “Your Facebook button isn’t linking to your Facebook profile.”

They probably weren’t just testing my links but were trying to connect with me on Facebook.

Solution/suggested response:
Thanks for letting me know. I will fix this right away.

Many online users never correspond with us through messages where they share a thought, concern or question. When they do, let’s make the most of the interaction. It’s a chance to build a connection.

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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