Monday, October 18, 2010

Gripe Gives Bad Service Some Bad Publicity

Have you ever been stumped by bad service at a hotel, a restaurant, a car rental agency, or your local dry cleaner? A new website called Gripe, at the trick url, lets you instantly badmouth businesses for free to everyone who follows you on Facebook and Twitter, in hopes the company will make amends to you.

Gripe’s method is simple. To post a gripe about a business, you either use Gripe’s Web interface, or one of its apps for iPhone and Android phones. (A BlackBerry app is in the works.) You log into it with your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Gripe lets you create an entry on its Web site that identifies the business by name and location, details your complaint, and lets you upload photos to back up your claim. It then posts the URL for the gripe in a status update to your Facebook and Twitter followers, using your own accounts there. Gripe encourages them to retweet the gripe and repost it on their own Facebook pages. It’s a safe bet that if you post a gripe, a lot of people you know will see it.

The idea is to embarrass businesses into appeasing an unhappy customer by showing them that hundreds or thousands of people have read the customer’s gripe. Unlike a blog post or message board entry, a gripe is a high-profile complaint because it goes out on Facebook and Twitter, rather than waiting to be found. To turn up the heat, Gripe employees actually call and e-mail businesses to let them know they’ve been griped about. Gripe plans to make money by charging these companies for an account with which to track and manage customer feedback.

But Gripe offers businesses a carrot as well as a stick. When a disgruntled customer fills out a gripe, they’re asked to state what the business could do to make them happy. If the business makes good on the customer’s demand, Gripe asks that the customer change the status of their complaint from a red gripe to a green “cheer” for the company, which will be seen by anyone who follows the old link. A high number of cheers send the message to Gripe visitors that the cheered-about company takes care of its customers.

You might think opportunistic customers would use Gripe to make steep demands on hotel chains and restaurants. But as it turns out, the most common customer request on the site is more modest — most users just want an apology.


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