The tale of Dave Carroll, the Canadian songwriter whose 2009 YouTube video "United Breaks Guitars" went viral, is well known among social media watchers. If they hadn't already gotten the message, everybody should have learned from the clever video and its popularity that, when used effectively, social media resources can deliver a damaging blow to a company's global reputation faster than a CEO can say, "Explain to me. How did this happen?"
Social media amplify the voice of the customer, as Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, told community editor Shawn Hessinger in a recent post. (See: VOC: Business Enters the Fourth Dimension.)
"Identifying expectations and problems in social media conversations is the easy part. The hard part is listening to what those customers are really telling the company," Hessinger wrote.
Carroll, who's become a bit of a cult hero, aims to help make the listening part easier -- and, no, he's not pulling out his guitar and leading a mass singalong.
Last week, Carroll and his cohorts launched Gripevine, a complaint resolution site for consumers and businesses. At Gripevine -- what a great name -- consumers can share their stories of customer service woe with the assurance that they're not going to fall on deaf ears.
As described on the Gripevine site, the company uses automated response technology to notify a company about a posted complaint and issue an invitation to review the gripe. Should the company fail to respond promptly, the complainer can then ask social network friends and followers to up the ante by clicking a "support member" link on the gripe. "The more times your gripe is viewed and the more people you share it with, the more the company will be motivated to work with you to resolve your issue," Gripevine reasons.
A company response opens the opportunity for public discussion, via either the comment thread on a gripe or a private messaging system available through a Gripevine dashboard. Members also can rate the quality of the resulting customer service and earn credibility points for positive actions, the company says. In other words, the site is about the fruitful pursuit of resolution, not simply lashing out at a company.
That's all interesting. But what really stands out for me is Gripevine for business, a platform companies can use to receive "legitimate consumer complaints in a drama-free, finely categorized, highly organized, easy to assign and manage format."
We've talked a lot here at AllAnalytics.com about the difficulty companies face in assessing the value of customer voices among the social media chatter about themselves and their brands. Monitoring the social sites is one challenge. Analyzing the sentiments expressed is another, and discerning which comments have merit and which don't is a third. Another challenge is knowing when and how to engage customers as they voice discontent on social sites.
Gripevine founders say they have the answer for all of this:
Gripevine offers a civilized environment where your company can proactively engage with your customers in public without fear of being sullied by brand-damaging profanities or obscenities. We encourage customers to seek resolution through proper gripe etiquette.
The key is transparency, the company says in a video explaining how Gripevine for business works -- transparency increases trust, which fosters loyalty, which ratchets up lifetime customer profitability. As they resolve customer problems through the platform, companies can improve their customer satisfaction index.
A real-time dashboard helps manage complaints, even at volume, the company says.
The goal behind Gripevine, now in beta, is to give meaningful, valuable, and actionable data to companies on their customers, competitors, and markets. And that, of course, is the goal of social media monitoring and analysis in general.
I think Gripevine has a lot of promise. How about you?