Friday, November 27, 2009

How tech is affecting consumer feedback

Well, first off let me direct you to the image above.

Take a moment to let it sink in.

Have you taken a guess of what it is?

A hint: it's not regurgitated material.

It's, simply, a fish bone... a very BIG fish bone... relative to what you would normally find in a cooked meal.

Me and my girlfriend went out tonight for some dinner, since she just arrived back in Lisbon. We went to this little place inside a mall that had "normal", non fast-food meals. I ordered pork chops and she had what we call "bacalhau com natas", literally translated as codfish with cream.

Anyway, as we were eating the meals, she started to notice that there were a lot of fish bones in it. She went as far as to complain that every time she took the fork to her mouth, it was sure to have a fish bone. And the top right portion of the plate above pays testament to that statement.

As she was about two thirds through the dish... she quite literally DUG UP that colossus from the depths of her plate. I did what any man would do: be surprised, laugh, take a picture. Not necessarily in that order, but hey.

And this was the part where the idea struck me: this situation, in my book, is quite unacceptable (not the part of it having fish bones, but the presence of such a huge piece of that poor fish's anatomy). What you normally do in that situation is call the manager and demand the complaint book... but then again, it's an effort to which you don't see any real results. You write your complaint (under the vindictive eyes of everyone around you, mind you... I really don't get it about the Portuguese people. We like to complain so much, yet heaven forbid if you actually pick up a pen to make your complaint official) and... well, nothing. You pray and hope that that particular complain will fall under the faux pax list of the regulative entity... and that's it.

Having this in mind, I quickly looked down at my hand, at the instrument that allowed me to take the picture. And I looked at my girlfriend. Then back at the iPhone and began touching the screen. Scroll to other menu... click on app... upload image... type text... voilá! And I showed her my latest Facebook update: the uploaded picture and a small text saying where it had happened.

Now, this might not seem like much, but think about it for a moment: places like restaurants live off their reputation and how much the clients love it and go back and tell their friends. This power is, effectively, in OUR hands. Then why should we be scared of declaring a negative experience with something, so that other people can be aware of it and decide for themselves if they want to risk it?

Social networking opened up a whole world of possibilities and one of these is to actually extend customer feedback on a quasi real-time fashion to our friends and followers. This, however, can also be abused... and the volatile nature of "online identity" means that some people might use this in derogatory means... but I have no doubts that someone will find a way to hang those people up through the legal system.

Even still... in the internet, public judgment is always present. Even if a company or a person gets legal retribution, the harm is done because you have exposed a person or an entity to the "internet police" (aka vigilantes) that has no fear of downright smiting you with all the power of regurgitated angst and thoughts.

I'm afraid to stop making sense, so I'll try to summarize: using social networking as a way to complaint about goods and services, a good thing or a bad thing? Will it get regulated via slander lawsuits? Will it actually be useful to push for change if you can reach the right people for a specific situation?

I guess only time will tell!

I'll see you around! ;)

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