A hidden value of Social Conversations: Recognize the Suck

[Originally posted on NewCommBiz]

This isn’t a post about how, as @MegFowler puts it “If you make a crappy product and treat your customers badly, all the “connecting” and ‘conversation’ in the world won’t save you”. We have lots of posts about how Social Media raises the expectations of customer service, and those whose non-digital customer service is sub-par will run into bigger problems.

This also isn’t a post about how Social tools magnify both the opportunities and the flaws inherent within a company’s structure.


This is a post about Recognizing the Suck.

The most valuable feedback a company gets, be it through twitter, Facebook, customer service hotlines, op-ed pieces, ANYTHING is this: Your product sucks.

“But Jeremy!” I hear some of you already starting to scoff “Our products are great. Just look at these revenue charts for FY ’09 vs FY ’08!”

You’re wrong. People buy stuff that sucks all the time. Anyone who has paid for a hot dog on the streets of New York can attest to that. Quality and Sales have very little (if anything) to do with each other. If they were always linked, the New York Philharmonic would be giving a tribute to the music of Justin Bieber.

There are many reasons totally unrelated to quality that lead a person to make a purchase. Here are but a few.

  1. Lack of options – If you are the only act in town, or my only choice (see: Health Insurance).  Chances are, I resent having to give you my money
  2. Price – This is a big one.  If you’re the cheapest of my options, and I don’t really care that much, you may get my money.  This is an important point, because while you may get my money, what you don’t get is my loyalty.  Next time, the other brand of frozen pizza may be on sale, and there goes your spiffy charts.
  3. TrendSlap Bracelets. Nuff said.

“But Jeremy!” I hear some of you saying, a smug smile on your faces “What do we care why people give us their money. We have shareholders to think of. Have you seen our charts?”

Here’s the reason you care: People are talking about the Suck. And everyone can see it.  And people who are on the fence about whether or not to buy your product are reading it, and being influenced.  Don’t believe me? do a Google (or a Twitter) search for “mybrandname +sucks”. See what people are saying.

In the 20 minutes I’ve been writing this post, there have been 1800 new twitter postings containing the word ‘sucks’. Make of this what you will.

Here’s where we get into reactivity.  Maybe your first thought is ‘how do we take these sites down’.  Maybe it’s more like “Who cares?”  Well, at least some percentage of the 2+ billion people online do.  For sure people looking into making purchase decisions do.

Lest you think I’m all doom and gloom, I’m about to get to what this post IS about.


Learn to Recognize the Suck.

Take a step back, breathe.  This is a learning opportunity.  This is free. This is a way to optimize your products to maximize ROI.

You don’t have to build out an entire community dedicated to suggesting product improvements, as Starbucks did.  Just listen.  This is customer insight you used to have to pay millions for.

Its not the customers who have a sucking problem. We do just fine. We’re just the ones pointing it out. We’re trying to help.  We want you to listen and hear us and fix it.  If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t complain.

Do you have the humility, the savvy, the smarts to take it seriously?  Will you act on easy fixes, will you build upon your customer foundation, will you listen in order to create a better experience for your customers in order to build loyalty in order to build advocates in order to have them market on your behalf in order to keep those precious charts headed in the right direction?

Or will you let the suck win?

That’d be a shame, considering how easy it would be to, you know… not suck.

[Now read part 2 of this blog, about sucking less.]