Listening to the Groundswell

In chapter 5 of Groundswell, Li & Bernoff (2011), explain how listening to consumers, or in other words, market research, helps businesses understand what customers want, what they like, and what the business can improve on. We were introduced to two successful examples from the NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network), and MINI, that used the idea of listening to help promote and drive business. These companies used market researchers and surveys to figure out what their customers were saying about their company.

We were also introduced to the idea that “your brand is what your customers say it is.” (Li & Bernoff, 2007, pg. 78). By listening to your customers you will be able to figure out what they think about you brand, and what they associate with it. Ricardo Guimaraes, founder of Thymus Branding, explains that “brands belong to customers, not companies.” (pg. 78). I do agree with this, as you don’t have a business without customers, and they are the ones that are buying into your product to keep you going. Companies create this idea of a brand, in hopes of something that they want to be. Now, they can go get the best quality products and market as much as they want, but if customers don’t buy into it, then there’s no value to it. Customers are the ones that are buying the products, and if they like it, will market for you by word of mouth, by writing reviews or blog posts, and will continue to buy your product; that is value. If it’s a bad product and no one buys it, no matter how much time, money and energy you put into it and how great you think it is, if customers don’t like it then it’s a dead brand with no value. Again, this all comes down to listening to what your consumers are saying about the products, and working with their feedback to improve or stabilize your products.

When it comes to the restaurant industry, we can listen to our consumers by monitoring our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), as well as the obvious review sites like TripAdvisor or Google Reviews. Review sites are becoming more and more popular to write good or bad reviews, and by listening to what customers have to say on these sites, we can figure out where the issues are and what we are doing right. Not only is it important to listen, but also to respond and create a solution to problems being presented to us. By taking the time to respond to these reviews on these sites, we are showing our customers that we care about their opinion, and can hopefully resolve the situation.

Unless you are a huge restaurant franchise that is bringing in sufficient revenues to invest in these companies that do market research for you, then it can be quite out of the budget. Although the information is very useful, it is a little pricey for most restaurants to use. Managers also don’t have thousands of hours to search through sites to see what customers are talking about, as the restaurant industry is very hands on and time consuming. Managers should however still be listening to their customers, and set time aside to search the internet in hopes of finding helpful information and reviews. Some tips from Groundswell (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 93-96), to improve your listening include:

  • Find out what your brand stands for and how people perceive it.
  • Understand how the buzz is shifting, by what people are talking about.
  • Find out who is influencing your market the most, and on what sites people are talking the most.
  • Manage crisis early to avoid them spreading, and resolve situations sooner rather than later.
  • Figure out your technographics profile of your customers
  • Dedicate certain people\to manage this online presence, preferably one with expertise.

If your company has the money and resources to invest in expert companies that can manage this online listening, then great, invest in it and use it to your advantage, as this will only benefit the company and the consumers. If the company doesn’t have the money to do this, then using the simple tips listed above will help improve your listening and help you improve the service for your customers. Simply scanning social media and review sites will be a great place to start listening to your customers!


Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. USA: Forrester Research