What’s New in Consumer Web – September 17, 2010

GetSatisfaction gets another $6MM in funding to build out its enterprise, Twitter launches a “new” interface for better filtering topics, and Coldstone Creamery teams up with Make a Wish Foundation to offer donations when buying select flavorings of ice-cream mixtures (not obviously by any diabetic Make a Wish Candidates). Companies are getting more social media “creative” but it doesn’t seem to distract the consumer from the basics: helping others and getting helped. The other day I ordered a bucket of chicken wings from a very intelligent man at KFC who probably had more grad degrees than me decades on this planet and I couldn’t help but wonder: is the consumer experience going to get better or worse? I think the true outcome will be the scariest: educated consumers dealing with educated customer service representatives. Imagine that, the consumer experience becoming a priority in corporation expenses, next to sales. Talent is soon going to rise in these once non-important departments like customer service. The bargain minded buyer must beware–costs are going to start to increase, dramatically and fast.

What KFC Can Tell You About the Economy

The other day for a team meeting someone requested KFC for food. For the first time ever, in my life, I experience a KFC drive-thru. The menu was confusing, I didn’t really understand what I was suppose to order and well, I just wanted a “bucket” of “chicken.” The rep who talked with me had very specific questions and even the way they were phrased were as if he had a vested interest in me knowing exactly what is being ordered. Laughable, maybe. But here is what is interesting: for all we know this person has a master’s degree in some obscure sector of business or science. Some areas have been hit less hard, but the reality is national unemployment is now in early double-digits and securing the most mundane or entry level position is becoming more difficult. What this means is that even previously less respected positions will inherently have a higher bar of acceptance. The good news: most consumer facing reps will soon have graduate degrees. The bad news: long-term consumer facing department costs will increase to retain talent.

Why Consumers Hate to Call

No consumer enjoys making phone calls to companies. Phone trees and call centers are the next dinosaurs in business. With Twitter, mobile apps, online submitting and even text (SMS) messaging why bother spending an unknown amount of time on the phone spent mostly “verifying personal information” and repeating issues. Call centers for the most part have been designed to filter the determined customer from final resolution or contact, only the determined customer now knows there are alternative routes. Good bye India.

Collaborative is the new Depression

In times of need its common people band together. GroupOn was only a glimpse of what we will see in online collaboration. People are collaborating both online and offline and the concept of ‘joining together,’ just like Biddingforgood this week raised $98MM in donations for good**. Consumers are going to start turning towards each other not just for recommendations but help or support. Instead of over-consumption mindsets are already turning towards adequate-consumption. The good news: we may save the planet. The bad news: our entire concept of economy will need to be re-written.

So, can I pay my rent in Facebook Credits? Not yet. In the future? Maybe. Eventually there might even be special pre-approved online accounts that were setup leveraging data from other online accounts like PayPal or subscriptions and applied with stronger risk and fraud predictions. Think ultra-debit. Far fetched? Credit Card processors have been studying purchasers behaviors for years and while becoming eliminated to the consumer game (mobile is just a temporary oasis to the inevitable) what current processors know about purchasing behavior could easily be leveraged for online purchasing.

Just saying, start watching and thinking about what you buy and try to be nice to your local guy at KFC.

**Updated 9/20/10: BiddingForGood reached $98MM this week in dollars raised over the course of time, not specifically within a week. They raise money in forms of bids for auction items not donations. For more information visit their official site here.