Trend: Companies join the conversation with Feedback 3.0

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The last few years the Internet has changed from a monologue into a dialogue. People have started blogging, discussing, responding, commenting, etc. This resulted in a digital version of ‘Power to the consumer’, where we decide what to do and buy upon the opinion of other consumers. But where were the companies? Until now they stood at the sideline, not sure what to do. In 2009 this will change, it’s time for Feedback 3.0.

customers have started already, companies... keep upThat’s what Trendwachting.com is telling us in their latest trend report. They believe that in 2009 companies will finally join in the conversation. When customers start writing about their products, they will listen and respond. But even better, the companies themselves will start up conversations… asking for the thoughts of their customers. They will finally understand that being open and showing interest doesn’t cost money, but earns you money.

Although I’m hoping that Feedback 3.0 will happen in 2009, it’s still much to late. Ten years ago Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger already preached the need for companies to start listening and conversate in The Cluetrain Manifesto (read the book online for free). They stated:

Markets are conversations
Talk is cheap
Silence is fatal

But let’s not stay negative. Listening too late is still beter then never. As long as they are really willing to listen and learn. Not when they see it as a good PR method.

Here is a good breakdown of the different fases of Feedback, according to Trendwatching.com:

  • FEEDBACK 1.0 (one of those early web phenomena) saw outraged individuals posting scathing reviews, feedback and complaints, often to the delight of other netizens. Brands remained unaware or chose not to listen, dismissing these outbursts the way they’d dismissed any kind of customer dissatisfaction for decades.
  • FEEDBACK 2.0 (which we’re in right now) is about these rants—and some raves—having gone ‘mass’(no, make that MASS!). The long-predicted conversation is finally taking place, albeit amongst consumers and not, as intended, between corporations and consumers. Companies have started to take note, but to a large degree still choose to listen, not talk back, trying to ‘learn’ from the for-all-to-see review revolution. Which is surprising, to say the least, since a quick and honest reply or solution can defuse even the most damaging complaint.
  • FEEDBACK 3.0 (which is building as we speak) will be all about companies joining the conversation, if only to get their side of the story in front of the mass audience that now scans reviews. Expect smart companies to be increasingly able (and to increasingly demand) to post their apologies and solutions, preferably directly alongside reviews from unhappy customers. Expect the same for candid rebuttals by companies who feel (and can prove) that a particular review is unfair or inaccurate, and want to share their side of the story.

Photo by Orange Beard

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

4 comments on this article

  1. Frankly, this “companies will join the conversation” meme is nonsense. Have you ever had a conversation with a company? Did you enjoy it? Are you looking to have more such conversations?

    Conversations are between people. Always. That’s why many small companies are extremely successful online and many bigger companies fail completely. Dell’s IdeaStorm and Starbucks’ MyStarbucksIdea are not conversations. They are just some people typing stuff in forms, much like I’m doing now. What’s the chance that your opinion is taken into consideration? What’s the chance that somebody sits down with you and listens to you?

    No very big huh? Then how can it be called a conversation? Companies will pop out of the ground that excel at conversation, and whose businesses are designed around having conversations. Those companies will do extremely well. And it won’t be Dell. And it won’t be Starbucks. It won’t be Google nor Amazon. It will be companies you’ve never heard of that are suddenly rocking.

    Steven

  2. CoCreart on

    David Armano’s “Experience Map” may help us a bit along the way, but I agree with Steven, people talk, not companies. A company is created by individual thought and collective action based on agreements, it may be more than the sum of its parts (we hope), but a company is not a person with human rights. See also corporation2020.org

  3. @Steven: thanks for your insights. Good read. On one side I agree with you, it’s people that talk. But I still want to think of an ideal world where companies/institutes understand that they have to change the way they communicate. It may not be Dell or Starbucks, but what about (for example) hospitals? I can imagine that they will change the way the operate, going from a monologue to a dialogue. It just has to be one person in a company who talks, to change a company. And it shouldn’t be the pr guy, or the owner who was told to talk (by the pr guy). It should be the people who create the products or services. They should be SO curious and interested, that they want to talk.. discuss and share.

    I don’t have all the answers. But I do believe that it’s possible. IT HAS TO! :)

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