Everyone's A Critic: The Splinters Of Our Discontent

I had a bout of inbox convergence today. Just as I was speculating what this week's Search Insider might cover, two separate emails surrounded a juicy little topic and delivered it to me on a platter. First, a post from Ad Age about how marketers are reluctant to use online conversations as a source of customer feedback: "'Listening' ostensibly has become the rage in consumer research, but the Advertising Research Foundation is finding that many marketers view what would seem one of the digital age's biggest gifts to marketers -- the torrent of unsolicited consumer opinion -- as more of an added expense item than a blessing."


 And then, a small blog post on Echouser got me thinking: "It's a concept for what an iPhone app designed to measure experiences (any experiences, from surfing a website to hopping on BART) could look like... Can you imagine if we were able to rate experiences on the fly, all day every day?"



Customers are Talking...

There's been a lot of talk about the shift of control to the consumer and empowerment. As 2009 drew to a close, I talked about the shape of marketing to come. One of the key foundations I identified was participation -- actively engaging in an ongoing conversation with customers. The two posts in my inbox start to get at the potential of this conversation.

In the first post, ARF laments advertisers' reluctance to tap into ongoing online conversations as a source of customer feedback. Valid point, but I can understand their reluctance. This is unstructured content, making it qualitative, anecdotal and messy. Marketers balk at the heavy lifting required to mine and measure the collective mood. Some tools, such as Collective Intellect, are starting to take on the hard task of migrating online sentiment into a dashboard for marketers. The easier it gets, the more likely it will be for marketers to actually do it. Until then, we're stuck with consumer surveys and comment cards.

...Anytime, Anywhere...

But it's the second post that really got me thinking. Always-on connections have already given a voice to consumers, one that's heard loud and clear. But what if we did indeed have a convenient and commonly structured way to provide feedback on every single interaction in our lives through mobile connections? What if marketers could know in real time what every single customer thought of them, based on the experience he or she just had? Some cringe at the thought. Others are eager for it. The second group will inevitably prevail.

Given the level of investment required on the part of the user, I suspect this channel would only be used in extremely negative and extremely positive circumstances. We don't tend to take the time to comment on things that come reasonably close to meeting our expectations. But even so, it's a powerful feedback channel to contemplate, giving the truly user-centric company everything they could ever wish for.

...So Listen!

Last week, I talked about the mother lode of consumer intent that exists in search query logs and how we've been slow to leverage it. This week, we have an equally valuable asset rapidly coming down the pipe -- a real-time view of our customers' sentiment.  That's a one-two punch that could knock the competition out cold.

5 comments about "Everyone's A Critic: The Splinters Of Our Discontent".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., January 14, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.

    Anyone who's married can see why attention paid to momentary flickers of sentiment can become dysfunctional. The ability to do so is one of the pillars of intimacy. But over time, you get more benefit from attending to real values and long term habits. Likewise in business, overdosing on data and getting all emo has little to do with good work.

  2. Vicky Czarniecki, January 14, 2010 at 5:06 p.m.

    Thanks for mentioning our company! As you’ve noted, sentiment is a tricky thing to pin down. Even at a human level, no one is ever in 100% agreement on sentiment. We are always working on our methods and researching new ways to increase accuracy at a post level.

  3. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, January 14, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.


    I agree...but those "flickers" are a lot more feedback than anyone is getting now. And those flickers tend to average out to a pretty accurate assessment of overall success.

  4. Jan Van den bergh from Holaba, January 14, 2010 at 9:08 p.m.

    Dear Gord,

    This is not an advertising post disguised as a comment, since we're only in Chinese and in China. But I' d love to tell you we’re about to realize your dream. Holaba is a platform built around a publicly available database with +50,000 products and 5000 brands. A platform of real reccommenders who use it indeed to voice their positive or negative opinion based on their own experience – they are not per definition extreme?. Holaba is permanently online - which means all data are in real time. All Chinese netizens can go there, rate a product and review any brand based on their own experience (we also explicitly ask for their experience level). For our registered users the level of time-investment to recommend brands is indeed very very low. A couple of seconds. Those who don’t score and review, use it a shopping guide/index. And for the subscribing brands it is indeed a tool to listen and talk back. It is very convenient and very well structured and we will soon be on mobile too. I hope this is at least the beginning of what you have in mind - no?

  5. Shyam Kapur from TipTop Technologies, January 15, 2010 at 6:55 p.m.

    Excellent post, Gord. I think you'll also love what we are doing at TipTop with regard to mining user sentiment from social media, review sites, etc.

Next story loading loading..