Hello? This is your customer calling.
For "quality" purposes, a consumer recently used his iPod mini to record and podcast (define) a conversation he had with a brand's consumer relations representative. Absolutely fascinating! Below is the transcript.
Joe Consumer: Knock knock.
Consumer Relations: Who's there?
Joe Consumer: Joe Consumer. I have feedback!
Consumer Relations: Have you checked our FAQ?
Joe Consumer: You're not listening. I have feedback.
Consumer Relations: OK. Go on.
Joe Consumer:I have an amazing idea for your brand.
Consumer Relations: We can't accept ideas. You must have missed the fine print on our Web site.
Joe Consumer: Say what?
Consumer Relations: If you have a great idea, we could be liable for compensating you, which is just too much hassle. We already pay agencies and consultants for great ideas.
Joe Consumer: But I'm someone who actually uses your product! Who could possibly have greater credibility and authority to shape new ideas?
Consumer Relations: Listen, if we listen, we're liable. That's what the lawyers tell me. I just work here.
Joe Consumer: But your execs are quoted on the Web site and in "The Wall Street Journal" as saying you always want to hear what the consumer has to say.
Consumer Relations: That's marketing spin. This is the consumer relations department. No one really wants us to listen to the consumer. Didn't our online feedback forms give you a clue?
Joe Consumer: Whoa, horsy! Listening is marketing! Hear me out, and you won't need to work as hard to make me smile or to convince me to share the love.
Consumer Relations: Tell that to the media buyer. He's got all the cash. I have squat, and this conversation is already setting me back.
Joe Consumer: But your customer service mission statement says I'm in charge.
Consumer Relations: Theoretically speaking, yes.
Joe Consumer: Can I at least complain to you?
Consumer Relations: There's nothing you can tell us we don't know already.
Joe Consumer: Did you know I have a blog?
Consumer Relations: A blog?
Consumer Relations: Should I care? Some other group handles online.
Joe Consumer: You're not listening. Everyone reads my blog, including friends, family, and even the media. You have the power to shape the consumer-generated media I create based on how well you manage this conversation!
Consumer Relations: Your blog could become a front page article in "The New York Times." I still won't get a star on my forehead. What's your complaint?
Joe Consumer:: Well, for starters, you keep bombarding me with advertising.
Consumer Relations: That's because we want your attention.
Joe Consumer: But you have my attention. Right now!
Consumer Relations: This doesn't count.
Joe Consumer: Doesn't count? I'm giving you my undivided attention on a silver platter! Go ahead -- sell me something!
Consumer Relations: I get promoted faster by minimizing your attention.
Joe Consumer: Good God! Do you mind if I blog this conversation?
Consumer Relations: Blame the marketers, not me. Anything else?
Joe Consumer: I have one more piece of feedback.
Consumer Relations: Make it quick! Clock's ticking.
Joe Consumer: I absolutely love one of your products.
Consumer Relations: Listen, if you're angling for coupons or freebie merchandise, we aren't obligated to give you any free stuff. Nor are we obligated to respond to compliments.
Joe Consumer: Don't you care that I'm raving about one of your products?
Consumer Relations: That's very sweet of you. Is there anything else?
Joe Consumer: One final idea.
Consumer Relations: Did you get the memo? We can't take free advice.
Joe Consumer: Puh-leez. Take a chance and just hear me out.
Consumer Relations: You have 30 seconds before my supervisor tells me to end this call.
Joe Consumer: I'm the boss, and you're treating me like an intern. Your company is schizophrenic! Your consumer relations group is a stepchild in your organization, with little reward managing word of mouth. Meanwhile, the media folks are hording all the cash on the premise paid media is the only way to build and promote the brand.
Consumer Relations: I'm listening...
Joe Consumer: You need walk up to your marketing and media folks, slap them a few times, and take a slice of their increasingly inefficient advertising budget. Be opportunistic! Rarely has media spending been so vulnerable and difficult to defend. Then put some real love, care, and respect toward conversations like this. And turn your online feedback form into something that looks like you give a hoot. Remember, I'm a far better and more trusted advertiser that you are.
Consumer Relations: Will management buy this?
Joe Consumer: Pretty soon, you'll be able to tell the management team about how your department, the one they always considered a resource drain, has boosted sales, engaged in a hugely successful online marketing campaign, and provided highly important new-product data and suggestions to the product development team. You can also score immediate points by telling your CEO I'm the blogger Merrill Lynch keeps citing in analyst calls. You'll get stars on your forehead all right!
Consumer Relations: I'm intrigued.
Joe Consumer: But are you game?
Consumer Relations: Hell, yes!
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Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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