Gripe – word of mouth is powerful – Making Complaints Count

January 17, 2011

in COMsumers, Networks, Knowledge and Social Media, Strategic Foresight

For years I’ve been interested in crowdsourcing complaints and how P2P systems can aggregate and shift power. Today @mrblog (David Beckemeyer) introduced me to Gripe a solution that’s using “word-of-mouth power to share public complaints or cheers that get heard!” The team at Gripe has done a great job! If you look at their resumes they aren’t exactly new to this space either. I sense they are going to get off to a good start.

There’s some learnings here.

  • They’re using Facebook and Twitter – to back the profiles and will use/tie-in to other services later. Eg Yelp, LinkedIn etc.
  • It’s focused at the mobile level. Eg GPS / location and thus Gripes on-the-spot. They also do a great job in bringing in local businesses via google (even while I’m sitting here in Mumbai!).
  • They’ve created a simple to use template which retains the real value within Gripe.
  • Companies are notified for each complaint. This is an important step – as is their ongoing ability to broker an answer and follow-up.

In all things, it is nice to see a simple focus. David and I explored this space while developing options for Phweet and Twitmart amongst others (now both closed down). In Phweet we’d seen a way to enable businesses to call a Tweeter and resolve their issue without ever exchanging a phone number. In Twitmart we enabled both long-form classified like space and the ability to thread comments. We also experimented with “real-time” notifications.

An important element is sometimes understanding the Gripes your competitors get. After all, if your competitors are learning from gripes why shouldn’t you? Even general Gripes in or close to your local if you are a local business champion / rotarian / chamber member!

I’ve also tracked Comcast and other large companies on Twitter. I’m cynical. They don’t want the complaints public. The first response is always send me your account details by DM so we can handle. Then the complaint goes underground and off the radar.  I’m yet to really learn how Gripe will organize complaints – complaints by location, by company etc. Also what the timeframe is. Resolved performances etc. Should they be there for all-time? How were they handled etc? It will be interesting to see how this transparency aspect evolves.

Location solves many of the problems of – when did this happen (on the mobile probably just now) and where (see where I’m standing). Add in the photo capability in the app and it makes for a powerful statement.

@mrblog we should get playing with the Gripe team, and consider:
1. A service to enable merchants to initiate a call request to gripers without further exchange of details.
2. Present the call request / response from a merchant with both gripe, merchant ID and details. (Not all merchants will want the cost of a call… but sometimes the insurance of going to a call is just priceless! And perhaps even more important with customers that have a real WOM factor.
3. This VoIP functionality could be built into the iPhone Android client without requiring any additional details from the user and could be routed to any callcenter worldwide.

Basically I believe when “complaints” are registered in public they become more powerful. Now years ago it was bloggers that had power to complain and it got action. On a lower level Twitter helped that process. While I might like to post my gripe to my blog too, the most important and empowering aspect of putting a complaint template on a mobile is making it simple.  Most complaints never make the post, or the call.. we crib to a few friends and tell the story a few times. Gripe potentially makes us each a little more powerful. So I can’t wait for….

  • The companies with the most open complaints.
  • The locations with the most unhappy customers
  • The municipalities with the most needed repairs or where government isn’t working.
  • The listings of complaints about bad business practices.
  • etc….

Why? Because word of mouth is powerful only when we all learn faster from it. Today most of the complaints (gripes) appear to be location based (what happened). Yet equally product or model#complaints (gripes) are possible. Gripe still has a long way to go. What they need first is a lot more interested parties. Then who knows… in the future a few of us may want to opt in to local notifications – eg I’m in the are – are these gripes still gripes (the pothole in the street?) and to raise a “cheer”!

Yes I wish these guys well. I can’t help closing with… a link to a post I put up in 2002. Gripe seems to be a nice simplification and initial implementation of what I saw. A world in which consumers own the complaints and customer service is effectively controlled by them. See Antiport. That day is now coming some 10 years after I wrote the first little scenario. It’s not a recipe for today’s Gripe – just interesting in a comparative way.

Similarly it fits with the philosophy I wrote up in “The Consumer Manifesto“. Where we have a right to our data and the same transparency and brokerage that Gripe provide around complaints enables “all of us” to have a little more say.

Previous post:

Next post: