It amazes me when savvy companies neglect to monitor social media for product feedback so they can things around. It’s a missed opportunity to turn negative into positive.

Tonight I went online to catch an episode of a show I missed while traveling earlier this week. Normally I use Hulu to catch shows online, but this show wasn’t there. After a quick look at Google, I went to SideReel.

There was no obvious way to view the video. After several minutes of clicking what looked like the most likely things to get the show playing to no avail, I opened a new tab in my browser and went back to Google to look for help, and ended up on SideReel’s help page on GetSatisfaction.

Following a generic question entered by an employee is a detailed explanation of how to watch a show, however this lengthy answer didn’t really answer the question. Following this are numerous other comments from confused users, and replies from (presumably) SideReel employees to give answers. There are a total of 101 comments, all of which are asking how to use the site and expressing frustration. Here is a comment that nicely sums up the users’ experience with the site:

This must be the most confusing website I have ever used!

And here is a typical response from SideReel:

Hi, sorry to hear you’re having a hard time navigating the site! Please refer to the instructions above, and if you still have any question, please write back!

What Can SideReel Do?

I see two valuable lessons for SideReel here.

Taking the easiest one first, if you provide an answer to a customer’s question and yet people are still not figuring it out, you should assume that there is something incomplete about your answer. Don’t just tell people to read the answer you already wrote… they probably already did. Do some research and see if there’s another way you can answer the question. Do serious research to hunt down why these customers are having this problem and document the solution. Rather than being the target for frustrated questions, be the hero who supplies the right answer!

Next, when a customer takes the time to send you feedback, this is an asset. And if you have many customers sending you the same feedback, this asset becomes very valuable. Take this feedback seriously! Bring it to your product manager and get your programmers working to upgrade your product to address the customer concerns. In the case of SideReel.com, they obviously have usability issues and need to make changes to the site to make it easier to use.

The moral of the story

Customer feedback is a free market for product research!  Do whatever it takes to get your customers the answers they need, and watch for trends in the feedback to steer your product managers in upgrading your product.

Update

I just came across an excellent slidedeck from IBM that explores 10 social media failures that explore this customer-support angle — it’s a must-see: http://www.slideshare.net/HorizonWatching/social-media-101-social-media-disasters

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