This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
Never has the nature of interactions between customers and vendors been so easy, yet so complicated, thanks to the rise of social media. I’ve written previously about the need for companies to monitor social networks, like Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert), and now Google+, and how they can mine those social media interactions to improve their businesses.
The mobile revolution, however, in addition to making the major social networks more relevant to customer service, has also introduced a new level of complexity to the equation, thanks to the growing number of targeted apps available to consumers. Market-specific apps make it easy, on the one hand, for customers to rate and comment on their experiences and, on the other, for other potential customers to make purchasing decisions based on such feedback.
This can be a tremendous benefit for businesses, assuming positive feedback, but knowing it is impossible to satisfy every customer all the time, it can also deter new customers.
Take, for instance, the restaurant business. There may not be a more feedback-centric business market, as friends, colleagues, family members, and even complete strangers rely heavily on personal reviews when making their dining decisions.
At our recent editorial open house in San Jose, the TMC (News - Alert) team had a chance to hear about two apps created specifically for the purpose of allowing diners to provide instant feedback on their dining experiences – Bizzy and Nosh.
These two are prime examples of how the mobile app market is empowering customers – and the new breed of complexity and customer feedback challenges businesses must face.
Both Bizzy and Nosh are designed to quickly and easily allow customers to rate their dining experiences – from overall experience to specific menu items – even making it easy to post pictures of menu items. Likewise, the apps make that feedback available to other users. For instance, when you’re in Austin, Texas, next month for ITEXPO (News - Alert) West, you may find yourself looking for a suitable place to dine with clients. With apps such as these, finding a facility, based upon location, cuisine, and reviews, makes the process significantly simpler – both in determining where to eat and which venues to avoid.
For businesses, what it means is, not only do they now have sort through comments on the “big three” social networks, but they should also develop strategies for monitoring smaller, targeted micro-social networks, such as Bizzy and Nosh for the restaurant industry.
As applications such as these continue to be developed and as their adoption grows in countless industries – many will, undoubtedly fall by the wayside, but others will grow in popularity – businesses willing to dedicate efforts towards monitoring them will find themselves in possession of a valuable data set, perhaps even more important than Facebook updates and tweets.
Users of these targeted apps are going to be more focused and potentially more objective in their feedback, with the likelihood of fewer impulse posts. Rather, users that have downloaded market-specific apps are going to provide more valuable feedback, and are also more likely to have a stronger impact among other users of the same apps.
Likewise, businesses that follow and monitor these apps will have a better sense of which products are successful… and which aren’t. With Bizzy and Nosh, for example, it can be easy to determine which menu items should be highlighted and which should be replaced, as well as identifying candidates for new selections based on trend data.
Particularly for small, local business, which rely on social feedback and commentary, mobile apps can become an asset, if they are willing to commit the resources to collecting and mining that data – as well as communicating with customers that have provided feedback. One of the greatest traits of social media is it is a two-way medium, allowing businesses to react to commentary on an individual basis.
Targeted social apps aren’t going to become as big as Facebook or Twitter – they can’t, by their nature – but they offer an opportunity for entrepreneurial minds to leverage the growing desire for consumers to share their thoughts and experiences, and to grow their businesses by leveraging the information their customers willingly offer.
As such apps gain momentum, businesses must not only acknowledge them, but they must also recognize them as an extension of their advertising channels. Advertising comes at a cost. In this case, the cost comes in the form of dedicating the time and effort required to collect and analyze the feedback that is publicly available.
For more on Bizzy and Nosh, check out these videos from our San Jose trip:
· Interview with Bizzy founder and president, Gadi Shamia: http://tmcnet.com/59035.1
· Interview with Firespotter’s head of business development Falon Fatami: http://tmcnet.com/59036.1
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter @elinask.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi