The pen *is* the sword

Some very smart people at Blast Radius (my former employer) have started up a new project called Sutori.

The project is the brainchild of Marketing Radian John Ounpuu who has this to say about the project:

“(U)ltimately the meaning and value of (a company’s products and brand) is not determined by engineers, designers or marketers, but by customers—based on their own experiences. We’re developing Sutori in an effort to bridge the gap between companies and the customers they exist to serve.

For customers, we hope it will offer a chance to make your voice heard, to tell your stories, to connect with others and assert your collective power.

And for companies we hope it’s a chance to listen and learn.”

John describes Sutori as an opportunity to:

  • Tell stories about your life as a customer.
  • Join in by voting on stories, adding comments and connecting with friends.
  • Make a difference by sending a message to businesses about the things that matter to you

Intruiging experiment. So if I understand correctly, I can testify to my experience as a customer, and invite the community to comment on my story, as a kind of jury of my peers. I wonder if companies will pay attention? How will the community handle differences of opinion? I’ll be watching with interest.

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10 Responses to “The pen *is* the sword”

  1. Brian Says:

    1) Makes you wonder how this differs from some other, already existing, forums for unhappy customers: One only has to Google, “stories of bad customer service” to find a few thousand relevant hits.

    The problem is never about customer feedback, and the problem is seldom about capturing it. The problem lies in sorting, interpreting, and getting the right employees to *listen* to it without spin.

    2) If your company is profitable, it is difficult to be persuaded to listen to customer experience stories (good or bad)–even though it could leave you more profitable. For their part, customers don’t like talking into a vacuum, so you’ll only ever get one shot at hearing their tales anyhow.

    3) By “telling stories about your life as a customer”, you must surely mean the horror stories only. I’ll explain:

    Listening to customers extolling the virtues of your company is only good for clumsy marketing campaigns and if you want to make yourself feel good. What’s better is to listen to other peoples’ customers’ happy tales and compare them to your own customers’ bad experiences.

    (Hmm … if I came to a comptetitor and said, “tell me what your customers hate about you” they would laugh as they had security escort me to the exit. I wonder what they would say if I asked, “So what makes your company so popular? What makes you so great?”)

  2. Brian Says:

    1) Makes you wonder how this differs from some other, already existing, forums for unhappy customers: One only has to Google, “stories of bad customer service” to find a few thousand relevant hits.

    The problem is never about customer feedback, and the problem is seldom about capturing it. The problem lies in sorting, interpreting, and getting the right employees to *listen* to it without spin.

    2) If your company is profitable, it is difficult to be persuaded to listen to customer experience stories (good or bad)–even though it could leave you more profitable. For their part, customers don’t like talking into a vacuum, so you’ll only ever get one shot at hearing their tales anyhow.

    3) By “telling stories about your life as a customer”, you must surely mean the horror stories only. I’ll explain:

    Listening to customers extolling the virtues of your company is only good for clumsy marketing campaigns and if you want to make yourself feel good. What’s better is to listen to other peoples’ customers’ happy tales and compare them to your own customers’ bad experiences.

    (Hmm … if I came to a comptetitor and said, “tell me what your customers hate about you” they would laugh as they had security escort me to the exit. I wonder what they would say if I asked, “So what makes your company so popular? What makes you so great?”)

  3. Fergusson Says:

    I can’t say that I know for sure what Blast has in mind for this forum, but I know that I don’t mean horror stories only.

    Firstly, I disagree with what I’m sure is an unintended implication in your comment (but is there nonetheless) that a) customer stories are either good or bad, and b) are only useful if they’re bad. I personally have had plenty of customer experiences that I consider neither “good” or “bad”, but merely interesting. (Again, without knowing exactly what Blast has in mind) I do wonder if people between the poles will take the time to tell their stories.

    Secondly, I think it’s an intriguing idea to have the community say whether and how much another person’s experience matches with their own.

  4. Fergusson Says:

    I can’t say that I know for sure what Blast has in mind for this forum, but I know that I don’t mean horror stories only.

    Firstly, I disagree with what I’m sure is an unintended implication in your comment (but is there nonetheless) that a) customer stories are either good or bad, and b) are only useful if they’re bad. I personally have had plenty of customer experiences that I consider neither “good” or “bad”, but merely interesting. (Again, without knowing exactly what Blast has in mind) I do wonder if people between the poles will take the time to tell their stories.

    Secondly, I think it’s an intriguing idea to have the community say whether and how much another person’s experience matches with their own.

  5. John Ounpuu Says:

    John Ounpuu from Blast/Sutori here.

    Brian, I think your absolutely right that getting companies to listen is an important part of the equation–and a tricky thing to do. Here’s what we’re doing to try to address this issue:

    When users submit stories, we will ask them for 1) a company name and 2) the level of goodwill they have towards that company (there is a little goodwill slider they can use).

    The idea is that over time each company will accumulate an overall goodwill score, which will go up and down over time. Part of the site will display this information and let users compare companies to each other and dig deeper to see what user stories have helped or hurt the score.

    Our hope is that eventually this part of the site will be visited and used by companies. It’s intended to make listening easier, and maybe even encourage a bit of competition among companies.

    I’d love to hear your feedback on this idea.

  6. brian Says:

    You’re right; I didn’t mean to imply that customer experiences are only good or bad, I was only thinking about those because of their exceptional nature: I can’t remember how many times I bought a sandwich at the corner deli, but I can sure remember the time I had a bad experience or a particularly good experience doing it.

    I also agree that perhaps the biggest value in such a proposal would be comparing experiences in an online community; something I believe people already gravitate toward now anyway (just read the conversations of a forum populated by people who all own the same motorcycle or television or blender … sometimes they are doing just what the smart people at Blast are wanting to more formally capture: Compare experiences with a company).

  7. brian Says:

    You’re right; I didn’t mean to imply that customer experiences are only good or bad, I was only thinking about those because of their exceptional nature: I can’t remember how many times I bought a sandwich at the corner deli, but I can sure remember the time I had a bad experience or a particularly good experience doing it.

    I also agree that perhaps the biggest value in such a proposal would be comparing experiences in an online community; something I believe people already gravitate toward now anyway (just read the conversations of a forum populated by people who all own the same motorcycle or television or blender … sometimes they are doing just what the smart people at Blast are wanting to more formally capture: Compare experiences with a company).

  8. John Ounpuu Says:

    John Ounpuu from Blast/Sutori here.

    Brian, I think your absolutely right that getting companies to listen is an important part of the equation–and a tricky thing to do. Here’s what we’re doing to try to address this issue:

    When users submit stories, we will ask them for 1) a company name and 2) the level of goodwill they have towards that company (there is a little goodwill slider they can use).

    The idea is that over time each company will accumulate an overall goodwill score, which will go up and down over time. Part of the site will display this information and let users compare companies to each other and dig deeper to see what user stories have helped or hurt the score.

    Our hope is that eventually this part of the site will be visited and used by companies. It’s intended to make listening easier, and maybe even encourage a bit of competition among companies.

    I’d love to hear your feedback on this idea.

  9. Fergusson Says:

    The danger with a mechanism like that, which gives an “overall” score, is that people may consciously or unconsciously “compensate” for other people’s scores. e.g. I think Apple is great, and I think they should have a higher score than they do, so I’ll give them I higher score than I think they deserve to try and skew the number higher.

    The people out on the “poles” of opinion (the lovers and the haters) may have a tendency to game the system. It’s the authenticity of the feedback that will make this valuable, IMO. Perhaps you don’t think this is such a problem?

  10. Fergusson Says:

    The danger with a mechanism like that, which gives an “overall” score, is that people may consciously or unconsciously “compensate” for other people’s scores. e.g. I think Apple is great, and I think they should have a higher score than they do, so I’ll give them I higher score than I think they deserve to try and skew the number higher.

    The people out on the “poles” of opinion (the lovers and the haters) may have a tendency to game the system. It’s the authenticity of the feedback that will make this valuable, IMO. Perhaps you don’t think this is such a problem?


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