Home > Social Business > The Absence of Noise

The Absence of Noise

In my previous post, I focused on Listening versus Hearing, a distinction I feel is very important, others seem to as well. Friend and colleague Scott Rogers expanded the thought to Listening versus Understanding. In his post, Scott relayed  the following; the dollar value the average person thought a minute of their time was worth comes to well over 3 times the national average income.  In other words, we must cherish the feedback customers give us, because it shows how much value it had to them to provide that feedback.

Customer feedback comes from those whose desire to give feedback exceeds the personal constraints for giving feedback – time, place, personality traits, etc

What about all the people who do not want to talk?

I am working hard to back into shape, so I have been getting up a little earlier and going out for a morning run. This morning was one of those classic Vermont mornings. A little crisp, but not too bad, very little wind and sun would duck behind some high puffy clouds every so often. It was really quiet, as well. During the run, I was actually thinking about what post I should write today. What I noticed was it was a little too quiet. I can usually see and hear the morning airplane traffic leaving from Burlington, headed to either NYC or Detroit. The reason is simple, and nothing to worry about. When the wind is out of the North, that is the direction the planes take off and not towards my neighborhood, thus it is quieter. But, the key point is that the planes were still flying, I just had to look a little harder to see or hear them.

We have all witnessed the never ending supply of blogs, articles, white papers (yeah, I am guilty) telling us to listen, engage and converse. What about those people who either have nothing to say, or do not want to spend the time, as it is not valuable to them. Or, all those people who are a little social, but are really hard to “engage”. In doing a little bit of research, the folks at ExactTarget always seem to put out fun and entertaining infographics, like this one:

Here is the thing with this particular graphic, and I might be reading WAY to much information into what is presented. I am not going to jump on the obvious, rather try to look at this from another perspective. One part that I believe people need to realize is that it is difficult to call email ‘engaging’. My comments with regard to engaging are to take my thoughts on listening over time, that is engagement. Email is not even hearing, it is talking, even a call to action is questionable, but I am sure I will get beat-up for that one.

Absence of Noise

If we were to think of this graphic as a classroom in grade school, would that help the conversation? The Subscribers are the ones paying attention, but not saying much. The fans are the kids paying attention most of the time, but they are doing some talking, you could say that they are more engaged. The followers, the ones on Twitter, are more interested in picking out the pieces they think are important, and honestly, talking more than listening. What is missing here? That percentage of the class who do not appear on this graphic. What percentage of the class is not represented, I am not sure, but it is likely a big number (40%, 80%+, anyone care to hazard a guess?)

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post  – Do Giraffes Make Noise – In the post I put forth some facts, which I think are worth repeating:

  • The average business does not receive complaints from 96% of its unhappy customers;
  • At least 9 out of 10 non-complainers will not do business with the company again – they are gone forever;
  • Of the 4% of unhappy customers that do complain, 7 out of 10 will do business again with the company so long as their concern in handled properly, and 19 out of 20 if the grievance is dealt with swiftly.

Another great meme, one that has crossed the Twitterverse and Blogosphere and back many times is that “you cannot manage it if you cannot measure it”. What exactly are we supposed to do if we cannot measure it? Is all lost? A lot of information – data which provides insight, is gathered by taking surveys, <shutter> NPS and other metrics. Are all of these data elements skewed? If the customers do not want to talk to us, then they do not want to talk to us. Is there evidence that suggests a breakdown of the people who do not answer surveys fit a particular demographic profile?  This is where doing things the right way, the way we used to do it remains critical to success.

Michael Maoz, from Gartner stated the following, just the other day:

Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations….Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally.

The great monitoring solutions available to us (like Attensity and Radian6) are additional elements which need to be used. Just as Social CRM is an additional element on top of CRM. Social Media monitoring is not a replacement for good practices. Whether they are customer care, customer service or customer support. Has the pendulum swung to far in your organization, to the point that you putting too much energy into looking at the Social elements? Do not get me wrong, I like where we are going, just want to make sure that we do not forget where we have been!

  1. jayhawkscot
    July 30, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Mitch – Great post. Love the word of caution about swinging the pendulum too far (in either direction), and avoiding the newest Shiny Object. At the end of the day, understanding and caring about your customers and doing the right things, be it front office customer care, customer service or customer support, or the back office infrastructure, processes, systems that support that, is paramount.

    Thanks for the mention and continuing the conversation.

    • Mitch Lieberman
      July 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm


      Thanks for the comment, and for building on my previous post. What I think is awesome, really awesome is not only do we comment on each others posts, but as we explore these new concepts, and build on the old, we create new posts and figure it out together!



  2. TheMaria
    July 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Mitch!

    First of all, thanks for the Attensity shoutout!

    Secondly, I love your caution against jumping into social without knowing where you’ve been and where you are going. I’m sure you’ve seen this post by Martin Schneider yesterday http://www.crmoutsiders.com/2010/07/29/dont-let-social-derail-traditional-customer-support-goals/ – I love the analogy of social being a bandaid to bad service. You need to examine your product (so you have to minimize the times that the customer needs service), as well as improve your service. Social is amazing for listening and engaging and helping, but if you don’t have the right DNA and process to actually do anything with this information. If you are in fact customer centric (not just lipservice) and employ best practices, social help will come natural to you.

    – Maria Ogneva.
    – @themaria

    • Mitch Lieberman
      July 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm


      I did see Martin’s post. As a matter of fact, I was getting ready to write about Michael’s post, and we were chatting on skype about it (I pointed it out to him). The next thing I know, Martin wrote that post . I can say it like that, as Martin and I are good friends and ribbing comes with the territory!

      As Graham Hill likes to say, “the best customer service is no customer service”. However, interactions are part of the customer experience, from the purchase through to the next one, and maybe the renewal. A great product does certainly trump all! We still need to be cautious that a large part of the world is not social, and not talking. Balance is key.

      Thanks for the comment, it is appreciated! See you in NYC in a few days!

  3. davidalston67
    July 30, 2010 at 2:36 pm


    I love this line above – “In other words, we must cherish the feedback customers give us, because it shows how much value it had to them to provide that feedback.” So often I remind people that even with compliments towards a brand companies must take the time to thank people. Frankly they didn’t have to invest their time to do it but they did so they should be appreciated.

    I also like how you point out the ‘silent majority’ and how “The average business does not receive complaints from 96% of its unhappy customers.” Again, the most vocal bunch can be the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for companies – pointing out the areas products, services, experiences etc…need to be improved. And it is the vocal crew that also may be vocal about the help they received, all while the silent majority looks on.

    Great post. Hopefully I’ll see you next week in NYC. Let’s try to bump into one another.


    PS. Thanks for the Radian6 mention. It’s very much appreciated.

  4. July 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    great post Mitch.

  5. Mitch Lieberman
    July 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm


    I agree, I do like the words, they speaks to the concept eloquently – as does much of Scott’s post as well. In addition – ‘Thanks for stopping by’ 🙂 Saying thank you, or recognizing people for their efforts on your behalf is a crucial component. I would also like to hope that we can help customers to realize that the value exchange is also worth their time – for companies that do it well.

    The early indicators (canaries as you say) are something I have thought a little about, but not enough. WIth solutions like Radian6, and a process behind these events the hope is that companies can get ahead of issues. The question is how to reach out to that quiet part of the audience – what channel, what frequency? Of course, that does depend upon product, vertical, culture etc.,… but, that is worthy of some further thought.

    Thanks for stopping by, I am sure we can figure out a time to get together in NYC!

  1. July 30, 2010 at 11:24 am
  2. July 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm
  3. August 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm

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