Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Smiley stars or advisory council?

I've been reading a few reviews of the new book by Andrew Keen, The Internet is not the answer and I must say that I feel inclined to order and read the whole book. The big question is - do I do it over amazon?

One of the big themes of the book is that the openness of the internet has, ironically, compounded economic and cultural inequality, and has created a digital generation of masters of the universe. For all its convenience and benefits that I have enjoyed on a personal level, there is no denying that amazon has destroyed markets and exploited many of its workers.

Despite the talk about the internet facilitating our need for connectivity, it seems more and more apparent that an increase in the breadth or quantity of connections has been at the expense of a decrease in depth.

When it comes to the big internet-based brands, many of these have such pared-down staffing that it is almost impossible to connect to another human being for queries outside the normal FAQs. I recall an incident involving PayPal a couple of years ago where the only way I got my worrying query attended to (someone had hacked into my account) was by sending a letter via the postal system to Luxembourg!

Brands make a big deal of "being customer-centric" and "listening to their customers" but all too often this means one tick on a 5-point smiley star rating scale.

It was refreshing, however, to be invited to apply to be a member of the Commerzbank's Kundenbeirat the other day. Beirat is one of those strangely German words which is best translated as an "advisory council". This conjures up a vision of wise, respected people, whose opinion is sought. Not the type that are content with quickly ticking off a smiley star. The Commerzbank have been running their Customer Advisory Council since 2009. The members have a 3-year term of office and are involved in the development of banking products and services. I think it's a voluntary post, but they do get to meet the board of the bank - and to make a difference.

Better than finding out which toilet cleaner fragrance I am on Facebook, I think.


Barbara Fisher said...

I ask myself the Amazon question at least once a week. I love the ease of ordering, but I hate myself for doing it! I should be buying from my local book shop or a small independent online retailer – I know that but Amazon is always the first name that springs to mind. How did they get that much power over us all?

Congratulations on your appointment to the Customer Advisory Council but do make sure you leave enough time for the Facebook quizzes – life would be so much sadder without them!

Sue Imgrund said...

I don't know - I think amazon is becoming more of a Marmite brand than Marmite!