Most companies would prefer that if you have questions or comments regarding their service, you would send them a nice e-mail to their support staff, or post it to a company-sanctioned, moderated forum. But as we all know, sending e-mail to busy support people can be a guessing game as to how long you'll wait to get a response, if you hit the right person, or if they will answer your question at all. I've found the absolute fastest, sure-fire way to talk directly with people at Web-aware services is through the blog.
Blogs are the future of company to customer communications. Those companies that allow the highest transparency to customers to management or rank and file employees will win the much sought after "hearts and minds of the people." It's already worked on me a number of times in the last few months, with small companies like Technorati and LinkedIn to larger companies like Google and Yahoo! subsidiary MyBlogLog, as you might have seen over the last few days.
Google Reader Example:
In March of 2007, I listed ten improvements I hoped to see from my RSS go-to destination, Google Reader.
A little more than a day later, Google responded, with Mihai Parparita, an Engineer working on Google Reader, writing in the coments, "Funnily enough, the Reader team just had a big all-day brainstorming session about where to go next, and ideas similar to many of your suggestions were discussed."
I've since been told that the post is occasionally referenced within Google and helps add signal to the noise of user feature demands. Though I was initially nervous they would take my suggestions the wrong way, I am glad they recognized I was and remain quite positive on the service.
Later that month, I offered similar suggestions for LinkedIn, the leading business-focused social network. Steve Ganz, of LinkedIn, later wrote to let me know that some of the suggestions had just been implemented, and more were to come! As he kindly wrote, "These are all great ideas. Thanks so much for the great feedback, Louis! Stay tuned."
Despite Technorati's occasional issues and recent management changes, I enjoy the service. But the downtime can make users weary. In June, I noted another outage, and not too much longer after my post, Ian Kallen wrote to say "We're bringing our systems back online now".
In April, I was eagerly awaiting the new issue of Technorati's popular state of the Web and openly speculated it was imminent. Then-CEO David Sifry took time from his busy schedule to say "LOL, keep your eyes on the blog.", and later returned, after 2:30 a.m. to say "The new State of the Live Web is now up!", which was very cool.
And that leaves one more, for now:
On Monday, I discussed what the future of MyBlogLog would be after their acquisition by Yahoo!. While I wasn't overly glowing in my comments, two MyBlogLog employees offered their comments, with Ian Kennedy first saying "We're alive and well thanks and have been busy...", and later, Robyn Tippins coming back, offering thanks for the comments, and unexpectedly, a free Pro account! Of course, I recognize I'm being wooed, but I can take it. Now I'll have an even better chance to look into MyBlogLog's services and can speak more directly to what they're doing well and how they could continue to improve.
Not every company comes by when I make comments. Apple doesn't, and likely won't. Microsoft hasn't yet, and neither has TiVo. That could be due to internal policies on communication, PR, customer service and blogging, or they aren't as in tune to the Web's power to connect customers with companies. I appreciate the extra effort taken from Google Reader, LinkedIn, MyBlogLog, and Technorati to talk to me directly and openly as individuals, and outside of the corporate firewall. I look forward to more, and encourage the rest of you bloggers to be comfortable in analyzing what you use every day and thinking aloud about how you could make change and make a difference.