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The Case for Open Comments on Corporate Blogs

On New Year’s Eve, Richard Rabins, cofounder of Alpha Software, posted a thank-you to readers on his blog.

“Your suggestions, advice, criticisms, peer support and sweat equity were crucial to expanding the Alpha Five universe in 2007,” he wrote. “Every new application you deployed, every peer you supported in the Alpha Forum, every feature you requested, every idea you shared or issue you flagged — it all made the Alpha Five ecosystem stronger.”

To be sure, it sounds much like a corporate holiday letter that customers or suppliers might read. This is no one-way corporate missive, though. Rabins’ blog is very much interactive, open for real-time comments — both positive and negative.

“We allow people to comment and we encourage our customers to post, although we do review,” Rabins told CRM Buyer. “If a comment is critical, that is OK — we try to be transparent as much as possible. Also, we have a message board where people can post anything they want. If a comment is unreasonably critical, we find it is better for our other customers to come to our defense anyway.”

Created Equal?

It’s 2008, and if your company doesn’t have a corporate blog, it might as well not even bother having a Web presence. Of course, not all corporate blogs are created equal. Some are clear byproducts from marketing departments — glorified platforms, in other words, for press releases.

Increasingly, though, more and more companies are blogging with more than just PR in mind.

On a blog at Ticketcity, as one example, employees are blogging about sports and related events.

“There have been a couple of news stories this week about professional sports leagues signing deals that will allow their fans to resell tickets via a ticket exchange,” one posting reads. “First the NFL announced that it was partnering with Ticketmaster in a deal rumored to be around (US)$20 million dollars per year. At the same time, the NHL announced a similar exclusive, multi-year deal [that] will let Ticketmaster offer an exchange for hockey tickets. Back in August, Major League Baseball announced a similar five-year deal that put StubHub in-charge of the league’s online ticket reselling. So what do these deals mean? And what is a ticket exchange?”

The blog goes on to explain in some detail.

Corporate blogs tend to fall into two categories, Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, a customer satisfaction survey company, told CRM Buyer. “One category are those blogs written by marketing; the other are engineering and product development originated.”

The latter, he said, tend to be “a little more honest and engaging.” The former, not so much.

How Open?

Other criteria emerging for corporate blogs, though, is not just who writes them but how open they are. To be fair, it is easy to see why a company might want to monitor and even censor comments. One unhappy customer can bring in the open questions a company might not want to answer or even have an answer.

For this reason, few companies allow their official blogs to remain unmoderated. Some forward-looking companies, though, are thinking ahead to what they will do if they do receive a complaint via their blog.

Checkered Flag Motor Car Company, a regional auto dealership group based in Virginia Beach, Va., launched its blog several months ago and is delighted with the feedback and sense of community that it has generated, not to mention its bolstering of Checkered’s search engine ranking, said Alex Snyder, the director of e-commerce for the company. In fact, the company is in the process of redesigning its main Web site to serve as the blog.

The dealership hasn’t received a complaint — yet — through the blog, Snyder told CRM Buyer, but if one does come through, “we will either address it in the public forum or take care of it before we post the complaint and our solution to it publicly.”

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