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For Sale: Customer Activism in a Web 2.0 Era

Posted on : 17-11-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media

Tags: , , ,


I am a firm believer that Customer Service and public discussions on the web will be an alternate channel similar to phone, email, or chat.  At the same time I was not surprised to learn that the Consumerist on Friday announced that their parent company, Gawker Media, was putting the web property up for sale.  Recently Get Satisfaction started a pay program to provide more control to companies.  Will websites such as these ever be a profitable place?  Are they even needed with all the blogs and other website out there?



Well let me start of by saying I regularly view the Consumerist, and I have for a long time.  I think Ben and Meg are great and they really are trying to get companies to think about their Customer differently.  The trouble to the model is the website is ad supported, although the ads are minimal.  It looks like most of them are google ads that pay on a per click basis.  I am sure more money would be available if the ads were sold directly, but what company would buy ads in that space?  It would have to be an against the grain company.  Would there be a perceived bias towards those that purchase ads.  I know that it would not impact Meg or Ben, but if a company was blasted for something, would that mean that they would pull the ad?  Would a subscriber model work better?



Get Satisfaction recently started an effort to make money by offering an advanced moderation services to companies paying a fee of $49 per month or a better package at $120 per month and a pro service at $349 per month.  I applaud their effort to make sure the business model is profitable and long lasting.  It is important for any company to try to be successful.  The team at Get Satisfaction built great tools and have the ability to really expand on that.  The trouble is in this economic environment I am not sure I can justify the expense to my employer.  Especially since complaints and compliments are not limited to one website, but rather throughout the internet.  I will continue to watch the website and consider it as the tools advance.  At the same time I am not sure enough companies will pay that much to make the company sustainable.   This is especially true in the current economic environment where everybody is cutting back on expenses.  I wish them well in this effort!

Another website, and one of the original for providing feedback, is one I have used called Planet Feedback.  The way this website works is you fill out a letter to the company.  You also answer a number of questions, like would your recommend, would you like to share the letter publicly, mood, propensity to tell others, etc.  This is a fun way to tell a company what you think and I will say from personal experience it works.  This website was originally founded by Pete Blackshaw, and went through a few other owners, with Pete’s continued involvement.  Again the website is back in Pete’s hands.  The question is how can a website like this be financially feasible?  The concept is great, but many people have access to email company leaders by doing a simple google search.


I think these are different models for consumer activism that are present today, and truthfully I hope for a long time to come.  The trouble is they are not necessarily going to have the best way to make money.  I think a website like the Consumerist would do better using a subscription based model, but would their readers pay that?  I know I would, but not sure if it would make enough money.  Get Satisfaction and Planet Feedback are interesting websites with some strong data available for companies.  Get Satisfaction would do best by building analytics centered around all web 2.0 spaces talking about a company.  They already involve Twitter.  That would be something worth paying for and creating the ability to centralize it.   Planet feedback could consider developing a method for companies to collect and analyze feedback from other sources.  They could also consider creating a program for companies to manage letters and emails.  The trouble for these websites is they are competing with personal blogs, forums discussing companies, twitter and many other websites where the Customer may already be.


What is the best way for these websites to continue to exist?  Should they consider being part of a non-profit dedicated to Customer Satisfaction?  Would you pay to subscribe?  If you were a company would you pay to use the service?