Some managers are beginning to monitor discussions that take place on the Internet to find out what customers are saying about their products. Internet users frequently seek advice regarding their everyday activities or activities related to specific interests, hobbies or sports. Newsgroups, electronic bulletin boards and mailing lists can be scanned using keyword searches if one knows that company’s product is of interest to participants in certain activities, hobbies or professions. Ideally, messages that compare a company’s products with those of its competitors can be uncovered. In the newsgroups, it is best to read the views and discussions of others and not intervene in the discussion with the organisation’s perspective on the product or service. Intervening will most likely end the discussion. Monitoring interest conversations are timely, the cost is minimal and it can be a source of creative ideas. One of the drawbacks of monitoring Internet conversations, however, is that the conversations can be unfocused.
There are even Internet sites that take consumer complaints and compliments about businesses and give organisations grades based on their ratio of complaints to compliments. For example, planetfeedback.com also sends letters to companies on behalf of consumers. The organisation’s Web page also provides an easy way for customers to e-mail the company with their thoughts on the organisation’s products and services. Computers can be used to detect patterns in seemingly chaotic data. For instance, the sales data from a convenience store chain showed that the peak hours for selling diapers and beer were the same. The diapers were put next to the beer and sales increased for both.