Google’s new universal commenting system called Sidewiki is about to cause a major change to customer satisfaction, marketing, product launches, and public relations.  Any company or organization that has a web site is impacted: even  websites that are only used internal to your organization.

Why is this announcement important?

This new tool allows internet users to post comments about your website, your products, your services,  that then appear next to your website when others browse there.  Subsequent users can view those comments and rank them.  Unhappy customer comments will be there for all to see. And there is no way for the hosting website to remove those comments as they are not stored on hosting website. They are stored on Google’s server. In fact, your organization may not even know those comments are posted there, unless you are checking!  This means every organization will need to develop a social media strategy and strengthen their customer satisfaction strategy. If you weren’t checking what people were saying about you on social media before, you will need to do so now AND learn ways to improve customer satisfaction  and thrive.

What is Google Sidewiki?

Google’s introduces this new concept with 2 major questions:

  • What if you could easily contribute to any web page and help others?
  • What if you could learn from others who have visited a page before you?

Watch Google’s  introductory video

Google says they will use an algorithm to decide which comments will be posted first on the Sidewiki, which means the most recent comment will not be at the top.

How does an internet user engage  Google Sidewiki?

You need a few prerequisites to use Google Sidewiki. You need a Google account and you have to be signed in. You have to be running either Internet Explorer or Firefox and you need to download Sidewiki into your toolbar. There are plans to have this feature enable with Google Chrome. Then when you go to any web page, you can click on the Sidewiki icon on your tool bar and a comment screen appears on the left. There you can see comments left by others and you can rate those comments (Useful, not useful, report abuse or share by email, capturing a link, Twitter or Facebook) or you can add your own comment.You will not be anonymous because you must be signed into a Google account, so Google knows what you wrote and it will appear in your profile.

What does a company or organization need to do now?

1. Companies and organizations need to realize that the control of the image of the corporate website is shifting to customers. Every web page on your corporate website, intranet, and extranet can now be social. Anyone who accesses these features can now rely on their friends or those who contribute to get additional information. the power of word of mouth has been extended exponentially. even beyond what existing Social Media provided because prospects visiting your site do not have to migrate away from it, or search in another window to see comments about you, your company, your brand, your products and your services.

2. Marketing is going to need to change! Competitors can link to their competing product, consumers can rate or discuss the positive and negative experiences with your company or product. It is possible (still unknown at this time if a competitor could pay Google to run a competing ad on Sidewiki about their products, while a prospect is visiting your site. You maybe looking to do this with your competitors.

3. Develop a social media strategy now! Your website will need to extend from being a provider of corporate and product and service information to enable customer satisfaction listening, responding, sharing and communicating.

4. Invest in resources to monitor and respond. With every web page now potentially social, you need to develop a process, roles, and policies to ensure

a. You are monitoring the conversation

b. You are participating as you would in blog discussions,

c. You are influencing the discussion.

The hardest part will be the work to develop an internal strategy,  and educate the social media resources and then monitor and improve over time.

5. Customer Satisfaction processes will need to adapt.

a. Survey strategies and complaint processes will need to be examined and the new information will need to be integrated with existing feedback data.

b. Fix customer problems quickly  and communicate back not only to the customer but to the ‘social network’ that problems have been addressed and fixed.

c. Address known problems publicly.

d. Notify customers early of issues that might impact them before they are affected.

e. Intensify the work effort to seek out root causes of problems and fix them before the impact the customer.

6. Put preventive programs in place to ensure customers will receive what they expect. Examples would be education of the customer before they receive the product, or a focus on the best possible documentation based on feedback from service calls.

7. Ensure management systems are watching over customer satisfaction and social media sentiment and making policy, product and service decisions that are needed to enhance customer experience with the products. Customer relationship management, public relations, marketing and sales, product development and customer service management will all need to be involved.

8. Strengthen the feedback programs to customers using your normal processes plus the ‘Owners’ sidewiki space which will always be shown at the top of your website Sidewiki. See How to claim your Website’s Google Wiki

Additional useful information

Google’s Sidewiki isn’t a new concept. other companies such as AddaTweet and Kutano have been introduced recently with similar functionality and will need to be monitored as well. Don’t be surprised if other search engines or platforms come up with something similar.

Summary

Customer Satisfaction strategies and processes will be significantly impacted by this new announcement by Google.  Those who has relied on Reputation Management firms to help with negative comments on complaint sites will need to rework their processes. At the core, every company will need to listen to its customers and address customer satisfaction issues. The customers have much more power now.

The good news is that not EVERYONE will jump on board this new opportunity to comment about your company or organization. There will be a period of  adoption, while customers become aware of the tool, download the software and start using it. So there is time to get your organization’s customer satisfaction processes aligned.

I welcome all comments, suggestions, observations and suggestions.

P.S. Special mention to an article by Jeremiah Owyang that let me to many other comments on the web on Sidewiki. His full article may be found here.

Update 09/30/09

I found an excellent site that describes in more detail how Sidewiki will work, how user comments will be assessed for their relevance and how some comments will be categories as ‘less useful’. Also note that Owners comment will not be able to take over  the real estate in the Sidewiki. See this article for details

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

6 Responses to “Google Sidewiki impacts your Customer Satisfaction Strategy”

  1. Are Customers really expressing their Satisfaction using Social Media? | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    [...] negative comments on their own blogs, they do make comments on social media  and when the use of Sidewiki becomes more common, this propensity to comment will likely expand.  Customer Satisfaction can no [...]

  2. Enchanced Google Sidewiki - More customer satisfaction feedback | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    [...] If you missed the announcement, check out the two articles I wrote when it first came out.  Google Sidewiki Impacts your Customer Satisfaction Strategy and  Update on Google Sidewiki Impacts your Customer Satisfaction Strategy.   This is a fairly [...]

  3. jd webb Says:

    Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed the read

  4. varionet reading glasses Says:

    I was looking for an article about this subject and this one is just the most informative I’ve ever found.

  5. Google discontinues the Sidewiki Customer Satisfaction tool | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    [...] 1.  Google Sidewiki Impacts your Customer Satisfaction Strategy [...]

  6. Customer Satisfaction: Groubal assembles Customer Petitions | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] this organization and this concept. I believe the idea will gather steam over time. Google Sidewiki had a similar objective. I  believe the biggest problem is consumer awareness. Groubal has created […]

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