The Wisdom of the Crowds Is Wrongby Anvil on March 12, 2009Economy
So what do your customers really think?
Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry (or probably any industry for that matter) has heard the standard “the customer is always right” speech. It seems lately, especially with the trend of a more social web, that many companies are taking this to heart by implementing communication channels in order to listen to customer feedback. By aggregating the opinions of customers, companies are able to act on “the wisdom of the crowds” as it is often called.
Although I could get into the benefits and drawbacks of such communication channels, what I want to discuss in this post is a more fundamental question: is the information gathered from your customers (the “wisdom of the crowds”) really representative of all of your customers?
Consider Dell’s website Ideastorm, where the company has created a way that customers can suggest improvements to Dell products. Customers vote on the best ideas so that Dell can see what customers would most like changed about their products or services.
Despite the fact that most marketers (and probably customers too) will agree that this website is a good idea, I believe that Ideastorm really does not provide Dell with the changes that most of its customers would really appreciate.
Why the Wisdom of the Crowds Is Flawed Online
The common idea of the social “wisdom of the crowds” is inaccurate because only a handful of users on the Internet actually feel the need to comment online. According to Forrester Research, only about 37% of US online adults are “Critics.” That is, only 37% feel the desire to comment on other’s social media properties.
In other words, the “wisdom of the crowds” is really the wisdom of 37% of online users.
Now, I realize that demographics change from company to company, but nonetheless, I think it is fair to suggest that although communication with your customers via online social avenues is very positive, the insights gained from such interaction should not be taken as the true opinion of your customer base.
Although the population is becoming more and more involved in online social media, companies should take information gathered from these mediums and combine with offline methods to gain a better representative sample of their customer’s opinions.