Web 2.0: The New Better Business Bureau


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As marketers we are pondering how to tame the web 2.0 beast and span it in front of our wagons. And why shouldn’t we, if a way could be found! But the aspects of web 2.0 that are about consumer empowerment, consumer generated content and social networking make that really tricky to do.

As my colleague at Unica, Andrew Hally, put it: With TV advertising we could shout but not listen. With the new, new media we can listen but we cannot shout.

Many conclusions and action items can be derived.

One of these is well known. Thanks to blogs and YouTube, customers can bring all our dirty laundry to light. The AOL example where a customer tried to cancel their account will probably always remain the stereotypical example of what – not – to do. (Sorry AOL guys, even though you long since improved your practices, so I hear.)

There is an analogy here that I wanted to suggest.

Economists speak of “externalities” when they refer to the fact, for example, that companies are likely to pollute the environment because the rivers, air, and climate don’t cost anything. The costs are external to the economic system.

Well, it seems that in web 1.0 companies could get away with treating the customer experience almost like an externality. A bad experience did cost something, namely the customer’s repeat business. But, especially on the Internet, it seemed as if you could always go get new customers. And customers could read but they could not shout (ouch).

Well, now it is the customers who are shouting. So a bad customer experience is no longer an externality. One would hope that this will foster better business practices. Just like there is hope of fostering better environmental practices by putting a cost to carbon emissions.

Just a fun thought.

P.S.: See Peppers & Rogers’ Return on Customer for a reality check on the idea whether there really are always new customers to go and get.


  1. Akin,

    I like Andrew Hally’s statement that TV allowed marketers to shout but not listen and Web 2.0 let’s them listen but not shout. However, if we are to create a sustainable buyer-seller relationship it needs to become a conversation. At present, most of the conversation is peer-to-peer. But sites like getsatisfaction.com and the companies that openly participate are encouraging a multi-way conversation.

    In essence getsatisfaction.com let’s customers raise issues they have with a company and its products. Other customers chime in to help them have a better customer experience. Savvy companies support the site and assign people to listen, learn and take action. The first action is to help the current customer. Next on the agenda is to fix the underlying problem.

    Becoming part of the conversation and taking responsibility will likely define companies people like to do business with.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.


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