I recently stopped participating in all the “crowd intelligence programs” that I had been invited to use. I’d learned enough and had had enough with them. Here’s the top reasons why I suggest companies stick with typical focused surveys and traditional analytics instead:
You can step in it.
Without dredging up the past, one cloud intelligence panel touted itself as a “customer council” for the company, which to the invited was conveyed as a panel that would help keep the company on the straight and narrow. But, when we found a problem – those who spoke out and objected to the company’s ethically-and-legally questionable plan… were shown the door.
And, those people then (knowing one-another) banded together… and went to the press. The company in question didn’t handle it well, and even threatened to sue the crowd intel participants for complaints. The lawfare threat didn’t work, and the press swooned to the ousted-participants very sympathetic position.
It was a pretty public situation inside the sector in question – and it was a major debacle for the company.
Bottom line, it’s very easy to tell consumers that they are change agents when joining a crowd intelligence platform – but it’s just as easy to antagonize your best and brightest customers by making them feel stabbed in the back too.
Customers are going to want to be paid, well, to give their best feedback.
Many crowd intelligence platforms promise freebies to participate. This gets people encouraged, but when they find out that not everyone gets equal device handouts or that they’re actually sweepstakes/prizes/etc for “winning” a contest after filling out a 20-page form… they’re going to sour to it all.
In the end, the people filling out those forms are going to be rushing through them, as quickly as possible, in order to get the best risk-for-reward ratio when attempting to win a prize.
The best and brightest are analysts for a reason
People that can charge good money for their opinions may participate in these panels, but aren’t going to give good feedback. One device manufacturer saw me on their list and felt they were getting a free ride… it created mixed messages when I then told them they would have to pay for my in-depth analysis.
Most savvy people won’t even sign up for these, but my point is that crowd intelligence isn’t going to produce the same analytics that a good analyst will. It’s going to be a watered down blur of mediocre consumers who are craving a particular freebie or device.
Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid…
Many crowd intelligence firms pitch that you’ll be making your most savvy customers happier, because they’ll see their advice actually implemented. Don’t bet on it. For one, most people are not that attached to brands that use crowd intelligence. Further, when companies (rightly or wrongly) pass on a consumer’s individual tips/advice, that consumer is going to get more frustrated the more they feel connected to a brand.
People will get angry, especially if it’s a good program
Those locked out of the crowd intelligence program, especially if they are loyal customers, will feel bitter. And, if you’re giving away tons of devices, they’ll feel even more bitter.
And rightly so – you weren’t smart enough to invite Loyal Customer X into the program.
Why I don’t use Crowd Intelligence
In the end, I want customers for a brand to feel connected, but on a level playing field. If I do use it, I do so with customers that have demonstrated high levels of interactivity (company forum participation, etc), and keep them on an internal list. I then send out individual offers to test something or respond to a survey. I learned this from Apple, yes, they do this, and you don’t hear about any “crowd intelligence debacles” or people getting ticked off that they’re not a “member” of some actually-mediocre community.