Thursday, January 29, 2009

Listen To Us !

I was hoping to get some rest but the Chinese New Year (CNY) period turned out to be rather hectic.

I did not really visit many friends and relatives but the few times I moved around places, I couldn't help but noticed that life on the street seemed quite normal. Many shops and eateries stayed opened. People walked around, not necessarily in their bright CNY new clothes. Decorations were toned down.

Time's bad, we all know that and yeah, it was a desperate "business-as-usual" for many.

This is the time when businesses are struggling to get as many customers as possible so as to stay above water. Every potential spender walking into a shop represents a ray of hope. To many retailers and restaurants, this festive time may be their last chance to ring the cash register before sinking deeper into the recession.

Since the economic downturn hit people in a big way, service personnel somehow just took a switch in their attitude towards customers. They became less pushy and more humbled.

It wasn't very long ago, the economy was experiencing unprecedented growth, especially in 2007. I frequently read about bad services in the newspapers and in the Internet. Singapore grew concerned that the lack of good customer service may cost some loss in tourist money. So they started some campaigns (as usual) to boost the service level.

In 2005, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and SPRING Singapore launched the GEMS movement (Go-The-Extra-Mile-For-Service) to encourage businessmen, service workers and customers to play their part in improving Singapore's service level.

Very often, companies who are keen to gauge their service level would engage consultants for assessment and advice. Approaches such as customer survey, mystery shoppers and focus group study are commonly relied upon to get some quantitative measurement.

I have no insight into these surveys but I am sure they do not come cheap. Typically, it would cost a company a hefty amount just to reach out to listen to their customers. After all the big moneys, the
effectiveness of the survey depends on the quality of the consultants as well as the commitment to improve on the part of the businessmen.

Actually, businesses do not really need to go very far to listen to their customers. Most of the comments they would like to know are found in the Internet if only they know how to mine them.

Two local firms, Brandtology and JamiQ, have developed software that helps companies track good and bad opinions about their products. The software would trawl websites, repackage data collected and generate detailed reports on Netizens' feelings towards a brand.

The newly developed program scans articles and postings in English, Mandarin and Malay, automatically categorising opinions expressed about a product, service or an individual into positive and negative buckets.

In this competitive commerce world, businessmen want to get instant feedback so that they can quickly adjust their strategies to win. If they wait for weeks or months to get to their customers via the traditional market survey, their competitors may have already cannibalized some of them.

Weak companies are usually weeded out during economic downturns and one of the ways to fight on and come out alive and stronger is to listen to customers promptly.

This is the time for companies to take stock of their financial health and also to take their customers' view seriously. Hopefully, online grumbles will no longer be dismissed as unimportant virtual rantings coming from the very bored .

Listen to us!!

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Kelvin said...

Thank you for blogging about us. Very interesting post. I am very excited about being at the forefront of developing technologies for businesses to better assess their reputation.

I read through your other posts and
I like your perspective on things.

Would you drop me an email at to continue the conversation?

Kelvin Quee

Rudi said...

Hi ,

Thank you for blogging about us! Hope you'll find our services of value and let us know how we can help you over a cuppa ;)

Rudi Seah
The Brandtology Team