I’m increasingly struck by how helpful contemporary consumers are willing to be for the companies that queue up to take money out of their pockets or otherwise capture them as part of their target market. To some extent this is fuelled by an online world in which opinions can be shared, suggestions made and bugs reported. But this seems to go so much further than the ‘markets as conversations’ idea that the Cluetrain Manifesto foretold, in which companies were more typically being told to pull up their socks by irate customers (see this classic example on United Airlines) rather than engaged in thoughtful, time-consuming and positively intended conversation. Call me cynical but I’m interested in the way this new sort of conversation does much to counter the No logo and anti-capitalism arguments made these days in which passive consumers are pitted against companies trying to outwit and hoodwink them. This is more like a mentoring conversation with the customer or user trying to help out in anyway they can. An inversion, if you will, of the Tesco strapline in which they claim to do what they can for us as consumers because "every little helps".
I like this example from fffound attempting to give Subway some advice about the construction of their Subs.
I also spent some time poking around Get Satisfaction last week. This is an example of a service designed to take the conversations circling around the web, and this new breed of caring, compassionate consumer (committed to improving the product and profitability of companies). It doesn’t appear to have got critical mass right now but some conversations seem richer than others. See this one on Dopplr – the social networking tool for frequent travellers.