Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend....

After a very different four or five weeks I am back in Sydney and life is returning to normal. Following my attendance at the IBM Partnerworld conference in St Louis, I was able to add a couple of weeks leave in the US and a swing by the UK before getting home. Lots observed and plenty to blog about, but sometimes one needs to take a break from the keyboard and this was one such welcome break.

As one does, I have been reflecting (with a slight sense of melancholy), on the whole experience I had on this trip and how much Digital Services affected the way our holiday unfolded. There was the usual stuff, travel bookings made and managed online, hotels researched and bookings made and so on, but the internet changed the our activities during the holiday quite substantially.

If you haven't been to New York City for a while, it is a BIG place and there is lots to do. As the dream-girl was quick to point out, there are unlimited choices for activities, sights and of course meals. Making sure you get the most out of the time there means making sure that you have all the information you need to make good choices. This is where Digital Services came in.

Take dining for example. With so many choices for so many good restaurants, decisions about where to eat came down to an anlaysis from a number of sources. Of course, the restaurant website presented a certain view, but we found ourselves soon looking at a rang of sources to verify and rate the claims made. While we cared a lot about wat the critics said ( and for exampe provided a range of formalised ratings systems etc) of equal, and perhaps higher importance was the opinions of 'others.' We quickly found ourselves looking at 'public' reviews and ratings., and the reviews posted on portals such as and reviews indexed by Google all provided us with the feedback of the connected masses.

These reviews mattered - we boycotted restaurants with complaints of bad service and mediocre food (and one which had a whole site dedicated to the claims of one patron that they were beaten up by the maitre de - described as a "very angry Frenchman"). We sought out restaurants that had delighted and impressed the visitors. These opinions certainly mattered.

This is not a unique phenomenon. Social sites rely on the references of others to create introductions, music stores allow users to rank songs and the video sites rely strongly on user-ratings to drive traffic and engage consumers. I guess it took my own experience of a short period of high reliance on these user opinions to guide purchasing decisions in unfamiliar markets to help me realise just how important this "referential marketing" can be.

I love the fact that this sort of transparency is possible. Corporations need to be aware that the silent masses really aren't so silent - bad customer experience and poor service are noted and communicated for all to see.

The maxim used to be that a satisfied customer will tell four others and a dissatisfied one would tell ten. Nowadays these opinions go to thousands (or more) ... another way in which digital services have changed the world.

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