Dave Cooke has a terrific post on his blog about getting feedback from your customers. Dave said:
Why don't people talk to their customers more about their general businesses issues, best-in-class service offerings, and things that they wish they were getting from their suppliers that they are not?
Dave, you've just described one of the most useful aspects of blogging. A blog can provide all that and more. In ClueTrain we learned that Markets are Conversations.
Hugh MacLeod has explained it as well as anyone I know. To paraphrase: Everything inside the outer circle 'Y' is your market. Area 'B' is the external conversation going on in the world about you and your products/services.
The smaller, inner circle 'X' representes your company. Area 'A' is the internal conversation going on within your company about your products/services.
More often that not, the internal conversation and the external conversation bear little resemblance to each other. For example, you think your product is wonderful; The rest of the world thinks it has a fatal flaw. That circle 'X' acts as a membrane keeping the two conversations separate.
You gotta blow holes in that membrane. In Hugh-speak, you must make that membrane porous. If the world thinks your product has a fatal flaw you need to know it. To hide your head in the sand is suicide. Quite frankly, if you are avoiding this conversation because you are afraid of what you might hear then you are committing professional malpractice. Your customers deserve better, your employees deserve better, and you deserve better.
Nothing blows holes in that membrane better than blogging.
Did that last survey reveal a problem? Get on your blog and admit it! Talk about the problem and what you are going to do about it. WIthin reason, air the dirty laundry. You'll be surprised at the benefits. Once you open up about your fallabilities, your loyal customers will confide in you and you will learn all sorts of things you dind't know before.
Not only that, if people are thinking bad things about your company or product, then they are probably saying those same things on a blog somewhere. Set up some search-driven RSS feeds (your 'Driftnet') and find out what other people are saying.
This isn't rocket science. It's easy. It's inexpensive. Yes, it takes a little time, but not much. and it's worth it.