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An easy way to start listening to customers

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Improving your customer service can be as easy as listening to what others are saying about you and your business. For many small business people, the whole concept of social media feels overwhelming. You are curious about what customers might be saying about you online, but the idea of trying to track it seems like a technological mystery.

A simple first step for many business owners is Google Alerts. It's free, it's easy and, true to its' name, it will quickly alert you when someone says something about you on the Internet.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Open your Web browers and go to www.google.com/alerts
  2. In the "search terms" field, put the name of your business in quotation marks (e.g. "William's Widgets"). The quotation marks tell Google that you're only interested in the complete name of your business. If I didn't use the quotation marks in the example I just gave, I would end up getting alerted any time the name "William's" is used online, which could be a lot.
  3. You can choose what type of Web information you want Google to monitor for you. You might start with leaving it as "everything" and then refine it if you find that you're getting alerted to things that you don't care about.
  4. Choose how often you want to be alerted and if you want "all" or only what Google deems to be the "best results" for your search terms. Again, it might be best to choose "all" to begin with and then back it off if you find that you get a lot of junk references in your alerts.
  5. Put your e-mail address in the appropriate field and click "Create Alert."

By following these simple steps, you'll be alerted via email any time your business is mentioned on line in a news article, on a blog, or in an on-line discussion.

Why is that important?

Let's say a customer complains on their blog about the poor service they received from your business. You get the alert, read about their experience and then immediately contact them to respond to their complaint. The positive word of mouth (w.o.m.) you can generate with that blogger's family, friends and readers can pay huge dividends. Instead of being an uncaring and deaf business owner, you are suddenly a plugged in, responsive business owner. You're the kind of business person with whom people want to do business.

Setting up a Google Alert is free takes only about two minutes of your time. For business owners who care about what customers might be thinking and saying, it's a no brainer.

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