A recent Los Angeles Times business column looked at a new company called ReviewerCard that issues IDs to “prolific online reviewers” to presumably help them get better service from hotels and restaurants.
According to the
snake-oil salesman “entrepreneur” behind this venture, people who “post lots of reviews on websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor don’t get enough respect from the businesses they write about.”
A legitimate reviewer does not ask for respect. They assume it will be given to them because they are a customer. And if it isn’t, that will be reflected in the review they write.
A legitimate reviewer will not demand good service – they will expect it. And if it is lacking, this too will be captured in their review.
And a legitimate reviewer will not announce their presence by waving a card and demand outstanding service or free upgrades. That’s not what reviewers do. It’s what assholes do.
I always thought that the point of a good review is to remain anonymous so you DON’T get preferential treatment. That way, you can write a review that accurately reflects the experience that every customer will get.
What the ReviewCard offers, in my opinion, is the opportunity for subtle blackmail. By waiving this card in a staff member’s face, you’re implicitly saying “Give me preferential service or I will write a nasty review.” That is not how this review thing works.
Get Satisfaction bills itself as a “direct connection between people and companies that fosters problem-solving, promotes sharing, and builds up relationships.
Get Satisfaction was created as a place where customers and companies can come together to answer each others’ questions: questions about shipping, pricing, fulfillment, the product itself, and myriad other details. By putting all of these conversations in one place — and holding nothing back — we’ve created a new way to not just handle customer service, but to explore all the things we collectively love and hate about our favorite products and services, and the companies that offer them. [Italics mine]
This hits all the cornerstones of what good public relations are built on – relationships, conversations, connections. Sites like Get Satisfaction facilitate discussion between an organization and its publics. Where brand messaging once flowed top-down, it is now a two-way discussion.
While most corporations are wary of being transparent, it is only a matter of time before transparency is thrust on them (if it hasn’t happened already). We are living in a time where conversations are happening about companies – doesn’t it make practical business sense for them to listen, join in and learn from their customers?
Some already do; it is not surprising that the first ones on the bandwagon are organizations operating in the social media space. Twitter, along with PBWiki and Seesmic, is just one of the companies who “get it.” Twitter has 10 official representatives (including their chief operating officer) and four employees “listening and participating.” Their profiles also include other ways to reach them: their blogs, Twitter or personal websites.
Questions and problems appear to be answered reasonably quickly. If they aren’t, the void is filled in by other users. So, not only are sites like Get Satisfaction fostering discussion between companies and their customers, communities of users are being formed as well. Got a problem? Chances are good that someone will help you. If this doesn’t make you feel included, I don’t know what would.
(Side note: There have been heated discussions on Get Satisfaction and other sites about a problem posted by Ariel Waldman (“Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service”). Twitter’s reps were engaged with Waldman from the beginning. Whether their decision was right is debatable and the subject of another forum.)
The other company I am following is Dell. Not that there’s much to follow. The company has no official representatives. This is ironic since Dell has worked very hard to repair the damage their customer service suffered a few years back (anybody remember DellHell?).
That isn’t to say they aren’t responsive; a problem posted earlier this month was commented on by a Dell community liaison for laptops:
My name is Bill Bivin, and I work at Dell. I am the Community Liaison for laptops. Has anyone at Dell yet resolved this for you?
Why isn’t Bivin an official representative? Why hasn’t Dell “sponsored, endorsed, or joined the conversation yet[?]”
Overall, the site is easy to navigate. Not only was I able to sign up within minutes, I have even posted a few replies. (I dare anybody not to throw their two cents in on the Waldman issue after reading all the posts.) Get Satisfaction also has potential for other uses. For example, Twitter uses the site to update its users on shutdowns or other technical difficulties. How about opening it up to not-for-profits, professional associations or government organizations? Can you imagine posting a problem about your garbage pickup or property taxes and having a city counsellor respond?
Get Satisfaction represents a new kind of customer service – interactive and dynamic – that gives a powerful voice to consumers.
The people have spoken. And they expect to be listened to.
Update: Dell now has a representative up on Get Satisfaction. (It’s a start.) Did I have anything to do with it? I’d like to think I played a small part.