Blog monitoring for proactive customer service
What's the point of monitoring blogs? I'm not referring to reading blogs that interest you, or that are relevant to your business. I'm referring to the practice of using search tools and feeds to discover blogs that mention you, your company, or your products.
The obvious answer, which is supported by popular examples such as Dell Hell and the Kryptonite bike lock debacle, is to be aware of negative comments that can gain traction in the blogosphere long before they appear in mainstream media. Catch 'em early, and you have an opportunity to correct the problem, defuse the complaint, and avert the crisis. Miss it altogether or react badly, and "why you're bad" becomes part of your image online. That's the "paranoid defense" school of blog monitoring, though the standard paranoia observation applies (just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you).
David Churbuck has suggested blog monitoring to provide proactive tech support (via Naked Conversations):
A month ago I posted a modest proposal of using blog monitoring to proactively deal with service issues rather than using monitoring as a paranoid defense against assaults by product haters.
...So, on a daily basis, me and a bunch of people look at Blogistan to see who is saying nice and naughty things about us and our products.
(Go to the original post for the long, but very worthwhile, explanation.)
Now, if your product is a high-end PC (Churbuck's is the ThinkPad), your market is more likely than most to include bloggers (and highly-opinionated customers). But it's a great approach to interacting with blogging customers. Just extend the notion of tech support to customer service as it applies to your business.
If you already plan to monitor blogs in the defensive mode, catching these opportunities to provide customer service is a tiny additional effort. As you screen the results of your vanity feeds for PR opportunities, forward the customer service items to someone who can take care of them. Your blog monitoring activity becomes another point of contact into your service activity. Do this well, and you could even start generating the other kind of blog PR—the positive kind.