Tuesday, 7 August 2007

How do you rate the raters?

One of the good things about Amazon and sites like it is that you can see all feedback from purchasers (check out Ben McConnell re adding review to e-tail); one of the not-so-good things is the activity I call 'adverfeedback' (adverts thinly disguised as feedback) which devalues the whole concept.

Now let's consider RateItAll where you can provide feedback on products and services; not only seeing who is providing feedback but selecting your own group of trusted or like-minded reviewers. Nice.

Also worth looking at is Jeremiah’s feedback and post concerning GetSatisfaction.com.

Not that I always agree with consensus; while 'Cheers' and 'The Golden Girls' were indeed fine programmes surely there's been some sort of mistake in the RateItAll list of top 80s TV. How can the smooth yuppie soap 'ThirtySomething' be placed in 76th position while 'Magnum P.I.' currently sits in the no. 11 spot? Can an undeniably fine moustache and exotic surroundings make up for an astonishing startling lack of plot or is irony a big factor in this chart?

Maybe the endorsement effect is exponential; the top results are a very clear indication of quality while there may not be much difference between position 10 and position 50 (or 76 in this case)...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

It's a long way from collateral to community

Recently while attending a reference conference in Berkeley (oh yeah, more fellow reference geeks than you could shake a stick at and a great time had by all) I watched the reaction to a presentation given by Jeremiah Owyang concerning the implications of social media for customer reference programmes.
This where things got a little strange; Jeremiah did a great job however I quickly became aware of an overwhelming reaction from the audience of 'how does this affect me?' or ' this is not my job'.

Now while monitoring the blogosphere to seek out and respond to posts may not fall into traditional reference activities we are talking about customers making positive or negative references and prospective customers are listening.

Surely the fact that we have a new way of interacting is a good thing; anything that can drag reference programmes from collateral to community is worth investigating.

'Web 2.o' and 'social media' may not be all that some would have us believe (there is a lot of 'so what' yet to be answered) but I believe that if we are not yet at he tipping point we should at least have a map for how we get there and know what we're going to have for lunch.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, that's creativity.

When I was first tasked with investigating the world of customer references, I thought all my horses had come in at once.

Here was a really simple concept - Mavis enjoys a fantastic week’s holiday in the Greek Isles. Six months later a friend is looking for a new holiday destination – does she ask the travel agent to recommend somewhere? Maybe, but she would take their advice with a pinch of salt because they are blatantly biased and desperately keen to sell that bum trip to a goat colony in Outer Mongolia. So instead she turns to a trusted advisor – her friend and colleague Mavis.

Mavis has no reason to lie about her travel experience, no reason to say something was great when it wasn’t, and having had an extraordinary time on her holiday she is actually keen to share the experience with her friend - influencing her buying decision by proxy. Easy.

But that’s just one person recommending one holiday to one other person, increasing the travel agent’s bottom line by one measly holiday - what real impact does this have on business? Multiply this conversation by 1,000, 10,000 or 50,000, and your travel agent is laughing all the way to the bank.

Over the last ten years all manner of businesses have started to aggressively harness the concept of word of mouth referencing through formal strategies, and guess what? It’s working.

The figures are staggering. More and more companies are proving that customer endorsements are influencing the success of millions of pounds/dollars/Mongolian tögrög worth of new business every day, and with more businesses jumping on the customer reference treadmill, the competition is getting fiercer by the day.

I was right about one thing - the concept of a customer reference is easy. The reality of businesses gaining critical proof-points and endorsements from customers and supporting them with metrics that tie into a company’s growth and financial goals is a different story altogether…