Dear Facebook: Please Give Us A ‘Sympathize’ Button

dislike button

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

By Vinay Iyer, Vice President, Global Solution Marketing, SAP

I recently complained on Facebook about having to do the dishes by hand when my dishwasher was in its death throes.

Several sympathizers posted consoling comments. My Mother-in-law, though, “Liked” my status!

Now, maybe there is a deeper Freudian slip there for me to analyze, but when I asked my dear Mother-in-law about this, her apologetic response was simple: “I was trying to show sympathy, but ‘Like’ was my only option.”

There are many situations where “like” is the antithesis of the response we may be trying to convey (think about Facebook status updates involving illnesses, lost jobs, a death in the family. What is there to ‘Like’ about these?). There’s a real need for a “Dislike” or “Sympathize” button, but each of these is really only a springboard into a more interesting question about what we actually mean when we are forced to respond with such limited options.

Our opinions are falling through the net

There are all sorts of rating, recommendation, and opinion tracking systems on the Internet. Some are very simple: “Like” and “+1,” for example. Others are slightly more complex: Netflix uses a 5-star rating system to enable members to rate movies they’ve liked. The widely used Net Promoter Score surveys use an 11-point rating system to indicate how likely a respondent is to recommend an Internet site to a friend or colleague.

What each of these systems fails to capture, though, is why we have responded as we have—and that insight is critical if we have any intention of interpreting this input seriously. One vendor may view me as a fan because of the 10 I gave them in response to a recent support experience —even though I may have given them a 10 because they provided me with a return merchandise authorization quickly after I complained that their product quality was terrible. Am I really likely to recommend them? Hardly. More to the point: are they going to gain any real, actionable insight into the reception of their products and services based on my response to their survey? Not a bit.

The opportunity with adaptive feedback

To understand what an individual’s response to a given prompt really means, we need more insight. A “Dislike” or “Sympathize” button may do for Facebook (and there are discussions about a ‘Want’ button) but even that won’t really provide a company with much actionable insight when it comes to product reception in the marketplace.

What if we had more contextual and adaptive response instruments? As my friend Rajeev Shrivastava, VP of Product Management at Satmetrix likes to suggest, it is time we find smart ways to “mobilize the promoters” and “recover the detractors.” Let me explain this idea.

You might present the customer with a simple question: how likely are you to recommend our products or services? Then, you might immediately follow up on that question with a second contextual question, one based on the customer’s response. If they are likely to recommend your products, your adaptive survey instrument might then invite them to provide an online testimonial. You could even offer a reward, such as loyalty points for going the extra mile. You will learn much more about what they like about your products and services, thus “mobilizing the promoters.”

Conversely, if their response identifies them as a detractor, your adaptive survey instrument could respond in context with a message saying “We’re sorry you’ve had a poor experience. Would you like to exchange or return your product? Click here to initiate a return process.” Your response to a detractor might even take the form of a real-time chat session with the buyer in order to discover what went wrong and how you might make it right. This experience might change the customer’s entire opinion of your company for the better, enabling you to “recover the detractors” and not lose their value entirely.

Capturing the real 360 degree ‘Voice of the Customer’

Long term, is it critical for companies to capture and make sense of this customer input—and to ensure that this input is not stored in disconnected data silos but instead is made available throughout the company, regardless of the channel through which it arrived. It’s particularly important that these snippets of customer input be associated with the customers who provide it—and that anyone who subsequently interacts with these customers can see, instantly, all the input that each customer has provided.

Making it easy and painless for customers to give you relevant feedback—and making sure your customers know that everyone they deal with has seen their feedback—will go a long way to getting the right feedback in the first place!

Ultimately, it’s the 360 degree Voice of the Customer—that history of interaction and input from multiple customer engagements and channels— that is going to give you the insight into the aspects of your products and services that are truly important to your customers. You can get beyond the simple numbers and the “Likes” to understand what your customers really like—or dislike. You can use that insight to improve your products, refine your services, and strengthen your relationships, which in turn will help you stay ahead of the competition.

Otherwise a “Like” may not mean what you think it means. Just ask my mother-in-law if you need proof.

As Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP I am responsible for 360° Customer Experience thought leadership, social media marketing, go-to-market strategy and execution and customer engagement.  Follow me on Twitter @VinayIyer.