Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who Complains Online, and When It Makes Sense

Why do some unsatisfied customers choose to air their grievances online rather than directly to a store employee or manager? Wouldn't going directly to the source be more efficient, more immediate, and more satisfying?

Well, maybe not. My highly unscientific analysis revolves around certain dangerous personality traits that a company definitely does not want (but can't always avoid) in an unsatisfied customer.

The Trifecta of Troublesome Customer Traits

Passive aggressive
A passive aggressive personality resists following logical behaviors in interpersonal or occupational situations. In my opinion, passive aggressive behavior is most obvious when one chooses to avoid direct conflict but still seeks to make their feelings known though circuitous channels and indirect modes of communication.

Highly Emotional
Highly emotional folks are tied to a personal exchange in a way that would make a more temperate person cringe. They take things personally and may overthink a situation ad nauseam. During a heated debate, or even a civil disagreement, a highly emotional person's lip might quiver, they might trip over their words, their palms may sweat, or their voice may shake. This person definitely wants to avoid face to face confrontation.

Web Savvy
Really, you could take either of the above traits and pair it with a web savvy proclivity to end up with a PR and image problem. It's this combination that makes an unsatisfied customer dangerous in an online day and age. Because this (not so) fictional person won't keep their agitation and anger bottled up for long. It must be let out. Either on friends and family, or more efficiently to the faceless -- though interested and listening -- masses on the web.

And being web savvy nowadays is not what it used to be. It's almost painfully easy to make a web page, post a comment, write a review, etc. Using a search engine is not daunting to most people, and finding a place to vent is relatively simple.

I recently blogged about the variety of ways the average web savvy consumer can complain online*. In a nutshell, beyond the predictable company website feedback page, leave your complaints at both well-known and niche feedback and review sites. Blog (or vlog using a site like Utterz) about a bad experience. Create a simple web page (and use some basic SEO best practices to improve page rank). Make a video and put it on YouTube. And let loose on your social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and my personal favorite not-quite social network, Twitter.

When Complaining Online Makes Sense
It may be cathartic, but complaining online may not always be your best bet to get you whatever you're looking for (attention, compensation, progress, etc).

For large CPG companies, for instance, losing your business really isn't that big a deal. You're one in a million (or 10 million, for that matter) customers, and even if you email a friend or complain to your spouse, your dissatisfaction most likely won't make much of a dent to the company's bottom line.

This type of company doesn't have the incentive to keep you, personally, happy, and may be less inclined to go through hoops to make sure you're satisfied. If you challenge yourself to meet face to face with the enemy, it may yield wonderful results. But it may also only get you a weak apology, or even a bored look of annoyance.

[I think this attitude may be changing, as companies are becoming more aware of the increasing consumer movement to social media sites, and the impact those highly personal exchanges are to their business.]

On the other hand, if you are one of a very small customer base, as in a B2B environment, that company has an incentive to bend over backward so as not to lose your business. As long as your business makes economic sense to their vision and goals. Passive aggressive or emotional people may find a more sympathetic ear in this circumstance.

The Customer Experience Goes Both Ways

Finally, these customer traits could wind up being a blessing, because feedback can be both negative and positive. One only needs to look at the Zappos story that was gained a lot of attention last year to see how great customer service can really pay off.

*I'd like to mention that my online complaining paid off, literally, while my earlier letters to the managers and company executives yielded nada.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'm No Good

I'm no good. I've been out of touch with this blog for too long. I love writing it, but am focusing right now on finishing up my MBA -- statistics, financial management, simulation modeling, and mastery of execution (I love the name of that course) are demanding a lot of time. I promise to be back. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Web 2.0 Directory for Early Adopters

I just happened upon, a visual directory of over 2000 web 2.0 sites. Their About page claims it's a site for early adopters. I don't know if that's true, but I love being an early adopter -- it's so seldom that can say I am. But I like this site because it reminds me that there is SO MUCH out on the web that I never knew I was missing.

Simply scroll over a logo, and a little blurb about that site appears. No lag time, no clutter, no sales pitch. You can also search within a category via a tag cloud. My only wish would be to have a rating system in order to make some sort of judgment whether or not to click thru.

The simple design of the site makes it painfully obvious of the appeal or lack thereof of a logo design and name. I found myself scrolling over the cool looking logos or the logos that had a name with some reference to a topic I was interested in.

An unintentional benefit of is that a new web 2.0 company could use it as a quick and dirty brand appeal evaluation tool, by comparing their logo/name to their competitors in the same space. A survey using the resulting page would give a company some insight over their logo design/name strength, which could be useful for initial sales or adoption efforts.

For the record, I found this link via Jeremiah Owyang via a tweet on Twitter. Finding cool stuff that other people endorse is one of the reasons I love Twitter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Twitter Google SuperTuesday Mashup Is Cool

I know it's a weak title for this post, but the Twitter / Google mashup map is cool, and I wanted to talk about it briefly as I am engaged with it. (map courtesy of TechCrunch)

As I sit on my couch watching coverage of the primaries on CNN, I'm also following the map on my laptop. People from all over the world are commenting -- from California to Maine, to Brazil and Spain.

I love the instant connection of commenting and talking to others on my twitter feed. But to actually see people's locations pop up every couple of seconds on the map makes the circle that I follow feel even more personal. It not just an avatar I can relate to, but a place, and that place no longer feels so distant or removed.


On a more business-y note, an article on Techcrunch talks about Google collaborating with Twitter on this mashup, despite purchasing a Twitter rival, Jaiku, last fall. I like that Google values the Twitter audience, and recognizes something special about us (our numbers? our locations? our influencer status? our early adopter behaviors?).

Does this mean Twitter will become more mainstream (if it isn't already)? I love the connections I make on Twitter -- the authors of the blog feeds I follow, and the people I talk to on Gooruze are on Twitter. I value their opinions, and like that I can find them all in one place. For professional development, its a huge influencer and guide.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kia's Making an Effort, Social Media Made it Happen

I wanted to write this before I forget. My Kia issues have been resolved. After just 2 weeks of venting my Kia frustrations via social media outlets, they finally contacted me to help us move toward a resolution.

Suffice it to say, my happiness can be bought. Essentially, I'm a cheap date, and I'm a sucker for some nice words and a little effort. I'd rather be in a positive relationship than a negative one, so I'll keep up my end of the bargain if they will. Are you tired of the cliche's yet? I'll move on.

Anyway, the Kia customer service representative who I'm working with said something interesting during our talks. Though Kia received my complaint letter via snail mail back in August 2007, it wasn't until they saw one of my numerous social media posts that they acted. Apparently, there are some sites Kia monitors, and one of my rants came to their attention.

He alluded to the fact that Kia, and other companies he was familiar with, are still trying to wrap their heads around these types of conversations being posted on the web, and how to go about mediating them. Given my interest and research into the topic of companies using social media, I'm not surprised.

I'm only disappointed that it had to go this far. That I had to invest the time and effort to post my grievances online -- all the while getting more angry -- to finally get their attention.

But I was a little surprised (and very pleased) that the customer service representative didn't ask me to remove or update any of my posts. I've decided to update them voluntarily, because I feel it's the responsible thing to do.

Batman and Cross Industry Viral Techniques

I've been thinking about Batman lately. More specifically, I've been thinking of the way the entertainment industry leverages social media and viral marketing campaigns months (years) before the launch of a movie -- like Warner Bros has with the upcoming Batman movie -- and if this strategy could be used in other industries.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Heath Ledger and how his death might affect the Batman viral advertising campaign, seeing as how Ledger plays the Joker, and it is largely centered around his character. This campaign, designed by 42 Entertainment, began last May at, touting a Gotham City politician, and slowly blossomed into focus on the Joker.

The campaign is centered on user participation, encouraging fans to learn more about the movie by sending them on scavenger hunts and playing games. Popular film news sites were also supplied with updated viral information, and microsites devoted to different aspects of the movie were created. Participants in the Batman journey were rewarded with trailers, posters and photos.

Viral campaigns are designed to create word of mouth promotion in an under the radar sort of way. It is becoming the norm, especially with big-budget movies, to attempt to generate buzz early on hoping it will help recoup some of the enormous financial costs associated with movie production. TV shows leverage this kind of engagement with the audience also -- both Lost and The Office (two favorites of mine) make use of participation-based social applications to promote their shows.

But I'm wondering if viral advertising like this can be used for non-entertainment industries. It obviously appeals to a certain type of consumer -- one who has a vested (obsessive?) interest in a product/service and who is not only web savvy but is willing to sacrifice his or her disposable time to this activity.

The industry, too, must have a product/service that lends itself to the elaborate, complex, and extended-timeline qualities this type of viral marketing entails.

So, what about fashion? Trends in fashion are not easily predicted a year in advance, but a fashion obsessed consumer might feel privileged to get a sneak peak on the direction of next seasons colors or silhouettes.

Education? Universities may be able to build excitement for prospective students by targeting high school students (male athletes?) with snippets of messages or podcasts featuring prominent athletes and coaches, or encouraging participation in complex online games with rewards like sporting event tickets (I can't help it, I'm thinking of my alma mater, Ohio State University and the football team here -- Go Bucks!). Sporting organizations in general are comparable to the entertainment industry, and could certainly leverage viral campaigns, if they don't already.

Apple, Harley, Disney -- these are some companies where "elaborate, complex, and extended timeline" could fit into their marketing advertising strategies. I'm still fuzzy on how these qualities apply to other industries. CPG? Healthcare? But I just wanted to put my thoughts out there before I move on to my next random idea.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Use Your Name Wisely, Have No (few) Regrets Later

How often do you leave a comment on another blog? A review site? A forum? Do you use your real name? Or something off the wall, like kittyclaws39, 123abc, or buhby (these just came to mind...for the record I do not use these names).

I use my name. But not Kathy Milette, the name most people know me by. I use Kathryn Milette. Why? I don't know...I just started and stuck to it. If you do a search for Kathy Milette, you'll most likely find out about my rowing career in college. If you search for Kathryn Milette, you'll find my social media involvement. If I really analyzed it (it doesn't take much effort), I use the name Kathryn Milette for professional reasons. I only post comments and thoughts that I won't (hopefully) regret anyone seeing, either now or 10 years from now.

I sometimes imagine the political impact if our current presidential hopefuls used social media outlets when they were kids. It's already relatively easy to find dirt on any one of them. But what if those hopefuls had had MySpace pages where they posted racy pictures of themselves from a frat party? (I wish this were the case for a certain Oregon mayor who shall not be named, but hers were posted intentionally and recently.)

Or if they posted some strong, questionable opinions to a political forum? Opinions that youth, idealism and naivete influenced, but came roaring back to bite them in the you know what 30 years later.

When choosing to use your real name in social media circles, you are essentially etching your opinions and thoughts in stone. Only this stone is indexed by search engines and is highly retrievable.

It may sound premature and doomsday-ish, but I think this is a good lesson to teach our kids in this online, engaged, interactive day and age. Not only is it safer for children not to post personal information online, but it's probably a wise career move, too. They won't care now, but they will probably (definitely) regret some of the things they made public when they were just being stupid kids.