The business case for goodwill

Carolyn Y. Johnson has a great article about companies that listen online today in the Boston Globe. She mentions that Comcast and Southwest monitor Twitter for frustrated users and Dell for improving its customer service as well as providing a site called IdeaStorm where people can provide feedback. Dell has implemented over 50 of the suggestions from the IdeaStorm site.

I’ve talked about listening online before, because I think everybody at Google should do it to some degree. Google is pretty good at hearing outside feedback, although there’s always more we could (and should!) do. Here’s what I said last time:

Some of the most dynamic teams at Google are the ones that listen to bloggers and respond. ….

My ideal would be if every Google project had someone watching the blogosphere for feedback. It could start as simply as a persistent search in Google News and Google Blogsearch for mentions of that product. That would help us spot if a particular project is causing headaches for someone. We should get the listening locked in first.

Both Google News and Google Blogsearch provide RSS feeds for search results, so you can search for your product name, turn it into a feed, then add that feed to Google Reader to see new mentions of your products. If you’re logged in, you can even customize Google News to create a “Google” section or only news about your favorite topic.

I wrote the quoted paragraph above in 2006. In 2008, you’d monitor more places. Monitor Twitter with Summize, which can provide a feed for a query. Monitor FriendFeed by adding “&format=atom” to the end of a search url (hat tip to lifestream blog for getting that info from Bret Taylor at FriendFeed).

By the way, it’s not just companies that benefit from feedback online either — most organizations can get good suggestions. Ubuntu’s brainstorm feedback site just received its one millionth vote on an idea and has its own blog. You can even download the code for Ubuntu’s brainstorm project and use it yourself.

The fly in this ointment is how to make a business case for listening. What are the metrics that argue for having someone engage with a community, listen to feedback, and push for changes? Any smart person intuitively knows that good community relations are a solid idea, but how do you prove that? In a company of size X, how many people should pay attention to or be dedicated to community relations? I’d be interested if other people have thought about the business case for goodwill, or know of resources that discuss this.

42 Responses to The business case for goodwill (Leave a comment)

  1. While I agree about tracking companies via Google News, I would have to warn people against using the RSS feed alas, as it will repeat the same story time and time again.

    I used it for a while, and eventually had to switch to a media monitoring company as the flood of repeat news was overwhelming.

    Which was a pity as the underlying concept is very good – it just needs a bit of tweaking.

  2. Matt,

    “In a company of size X, how many people should pay attention to or be dedicated to community relations?”

    Lets talk about GOOG instead of a company of size X, shouldn’t we 🙂

    If we assume “community relations” only covers communities outside Google blogs/groups, we see (to my best knowledge and on the risk of being standing corrected :)) very few Googlers are paying attention or be dedicated to community relations; GoogleGuy, Matt Cutts, Adam Lasnik and Brian White.

    Sooo. Lets ask ourselves:

    In a company of several thousands like Google, is it enough to have only three Googlers paying attention or be dedicated to community relations?

  3. Hey Matt any comments or insights on the storm brewing at Valleywag with the Daycare issue you guys have?

    Is it true that Sergey Brin said that he has no sympathy for the parents and that he was tired of “Googlers” who felt entitled to perks like “bottled water and M&Ms”?

  4. Matt,

    I think it’s a problem that companies mainly listen for public criticism, or at least, that’s what they respond to. I know that the one time I heard from a Googler (by phone, no less), it was in response to a blog post I’d made suggesting there might be duplicate content problems caused by Google Books.

    The webinar a week or two was great, but I think what many of us would most like to see from Google and other companies is a feedback form that doesn’t start,

    “While we value your feedback, we’re so damn busy that we don’t respond to any of it.”

    At least leave the door open a crack so that submitting suggestions or criticisms directly isn’t a black hole. If somebody actually reads the submissions, how complicated would it be to give them a menu of canned finction key replies from 1 – 12, ranging from “Great idea, we may be in touch for a follow-up” to the classic bed-bug response on F1, “Thank you for your suggestion.” At least that way, we’d know if we’re just wasting our time.

    Yes, I appreciate that there are Google sponsored forums in which we can all talk to each other, but it reminds me of the old Simpsons show which shows a toll-call party line, and the TV screen splits into a matrix showing that all of the callers were men, asking, “Are there any beautiful girls here?”


  5. Matt,

    I forgot to respond directly to

    “how to make a business case for listening”

    Easy. Charge to listen. I’ve suggested this a couple times (with no response:-). Businesses and individuals who are heavily dependent on Internet search have no channel to reach Google AND HEAR BACK if some disaster strikes. Yes, Webmaster Console helps, and you’re getting better at helping websites recover from getting hacked and banned, but someday (if it hasn’t happened yet) Google will literally be tasked with the suicide of some poor schmo whose life was entirely wrapped up in their website and lacked the web awareness or technical know-how to get it fixed when you drop them.

    Why not set up an public ombudsman or just a couple Google interns on a telephone line who get a credit card number and charge $100 to pick up the phone. No results guaranteed, just a hearing. You could adjust the amount for different countries, it just has to be enough that you don’t get people wasting your time with requests to explain what’s happened to sites that were intentionally in violation.


  6. ianvisits, I’ve actually mentioned the “repeat story” problem to both teams, so my hope is that they’ll find a way to resolve that.

    Harith, I couldn’t disagree more about the number of people at Google that do community relations. You left out a ton of people who have spoken for Google’s search quality team, e.g. Shashi, Greg, Evan, Aaron, Maile, etc. Consider also this large team of folks who talk to webmasters internationally and are also extremely savvy about webspam and search quality: . Not to mention the 15-20 Googlers who participated in the recent webmaster chat. And you only need to read the names on the official Google Webmaster blog to see how many people participate there. That’s not even counting the German webmaster blog: or the Chinese webmaster blog: .

    By the way, that’s just on the search side; there’s a whole other group of folks that work to communicate with developers, e.g. at the Google I/O conference.

  7. ex-Yahoo, I don’t have kids myself; I truthfully have to admit that I haven’t been following this story (other than watching the report make its way from Valleywag to the NY Times this weekend). The nice thing about Google is that it’s filled with passionate people, and each of them can press Google to do better about the things that they care about the most.

    Morris Rosenthal, very interesting suggestions. I’ll have to ponder the idea of pricing the value of (free) community participation by how much people would be willing to pay for it. I think Google has always had a bit of philosophical objection to asking people to pay in that way; we typically try to find the most scalable ways we can to communicate with people for free.

  8. Matt,

    Glad you mentioned the great efforts of those dynamic Googlers. Power to them!

    However, I wrote:

    “If we assume “community relations” only covers communities outside Google blogs/groups,…”

    I.e places like Sphinn, WMW etc…

    Any Googlers names more than the three names I mentioned? 🙂

  9. Asking for a business case for goodwill is a little odd. You can’t put a price on creativity or fixing a problem you didn’t know existed but was annoying the crap out of your users.

    But I guess the business case can be made in the same way that applicants do it with VC firms. You look at the market and what can be gained through a competitive advantage. How much is it worth to Google to stay ahead of Yahoo and MSN and any newcomers?

    Then you factor in things like Google’s R&D budget. How much do they currently spend on R&D? How many good ideas are likely to come out of goodwill relations? What are those ideas worth in terms of saving R&D costs?

    The whole idea for making a business case is really based on conjecture but if you look at numbers and past performance, I think you can make a business case for it. Though in the end, it is one of those visceral decisions that you just know is good. Keeping an ear to the ground is priceless if the right thing comes along and you’re the first to know about it.

    How much would someone have paid for the ideas that started Google? If the right idea comes out of community interaction and Gogole takes advantage of it, the figure could be in the billions. 🙂

  10. Business case for goodwill? Here are a few… Metrics would probably vary depending on the situation, but some examples are included.

    1) Money saved researching what your customers want: Companies spend millions of dollars on research studies and customer outreach groups. Social media empowers customers to speak their minds and it is relatively cheap for companies to collect that information by monitoring blogs, twitter, etc. Metrics on money spent on research (maybe you can’t remove all of it, but you can remove some) vs. money saved by using community/goodwill could be used.

    2) Money saved from advertising: People are more likely to listen to reviews from their peers or from other customers (think’s review system). These reviews can make much more impact than money spent on advertising. If a company has their own community, the metric may be the number of visitors to that community. Another metric could be the increase in sales after community-driven efforts (perhaps to unique landing pages).

    3) Money saved on combating negative press: If you watch what people are saying about your company, negative press can be accurately and quickly addressed in an official way. Companies often find out about problems with their products much quicker on the Internet than through official channels. It seems like this would be priceless, but a metric could be estimated lost sales vs. time spent addressing the issue.

    4) Money saved on testing: For Internet products, releasing new features and versions quickly and getting feedback from actual customers can be much more accurate, cheaper, and faster than doing in-depth, in-house code testing. Metrics of number of versions, features, lines of code vs. hiring in-house testing could be used.

    Also, for further reading, Forrester Research recently released a book, Groundswell, which goes into more detail about business cases and opportunities in social media.

  11. Harith, given the scrutiny that any Googler’s comments will attract, it’s natural that listening comes first and commenting (especially out in the general blogosphere) takes more time. But I’ve seen John Mueller roam free in the blogosphere. 🙂 Also, Jen Chin (also known as MapsJen) has commented on non-Google blogs. And there are a bunch of Googlers carrying on on polite conversations with the web, e.g. see where Dion tackles an interesting claim by Dare, who works at Microsoft. Or check out how Kevin Marks represented Google’s take on Friend Connect. There really are a lot of Googlers tackling issues that require finesse. I think most people don’t realize how much non-Matt/Adam/Brian communication goes on. 🙂

    Nick – I think the original Nick here, I think it’s obvious to both of us how important community relations are. But imagine making the case in Dell or Southwest: “You want to hire someone to watch for complaints online? We already have great metrics from our phone lines — what would we learn online that we wouldn’t learn from our support team? You realize that if we hire this person, we wouldn’t be able to hire a software engineer/pilot/whatever person, right? How important is this whole position anyway?” Some companies have opted to watch for problems online, but I’m guessing that they’re in the minority right now. Meanwhile, many many Web 2.0-ish startups have blogs and are pretty savvy about monitoring the web for mentions of their products and responding to feedback.

  12. Hey Matt:

    I can attest that Jen Chin has done an awesome job in Maps Help and that I am very impressed that you guys are starting to address concerns of people like me.

    I do think however, it would be good to have a customer service phone number and an easier way for businesses to get problems resolved with Google Maps like false reviews, and re inclusion, etc.

    I think the Goodwill Google will generate by more openness, will create more money, users and sales, which in turn will enable Goggle to hire a software engineer/pilot/whatever person.

  13. Matt,

    “I think Google has always had a bit of philosophical objection to asking people to pay”

    Let’s say all of the doctors in the world only work at medicine because they love the job, and they work for free. If somebody has a problem that just isn’t interesting enough (like workplace stress over Google ranking), and doctors believe the treatment options are fully known (exercise, change your job, produce better content to draw organic linking) the sufferer could go postal while trying to find a doctor who cares. In reality, enough doctors are in it for the money that they are even willing to treat people who don’t have any problems other than being over-insured or hypocondriacs.

    As long as you make it clear that search ranking isn’t for sale and you aren’t selling absolution to sinners, a consulting option makes sense to me. It might even be an interesting exercise to try to write the guidelines for how it could function.


  14. @Morris:

    I think that is an awesome idea. I am on board.

  15. Matt,
    I’m a big advocate of listening to customers, and there are some interesting new tools available to help business and individuals do this. I recently wrote a post for small business owners suggesting ways they can be proactive around customer service. Even small companies can use free online tools like GetSatisfaction and UserVoice connect with and listen to their customers. I like how LaterLoop (built on Google App Engine) has integrated GetSatisfaction feedback directly onto their site to solicit ideas and feedback. My post has some statistics for how great customer satisfaction can affect the bottom line, which is one way to help build a business case for listening to customers.

  16. Matt,

    The best goodwill recommendation I can give Google is to stop messing with the SEO community. Do not turn your back on the SEO community and stop it with all the silly penalties and concentrate your efforts on stopping true spam, which is home business opportunity scams, affiliate scams, and unwanted porn pop-ups. I probably left out a few A——- but you know what I mean. The SEO community took part in building Google and if Google turns its back on the SEO community, then the first mention of another search engine and everyone will jump ship. Keep the goodwill and remove all these silly penalites. I understand penalties for cloaking and hidden text, but backlink penalties?? Now you are opening up a pandoras box of sabotage between competing sites and pretty soon your index will look like crap.

  17. This is actually my job (part of my job) at the company I work for. I have to be aware of what is going on in the industries we cover, what’s being said about us, trying to smooth over any negatives, and also own up to them. We are trying to be more transparent. I had to make a proposal to turn my position into what it is today and it was definitely worth the effort. So if you’re in any kind of marketing capacity, or something that could be remotely connected, you may want to consider making a case for paying attention to the online chatter about your company and industry.

    I think along the lines of taking suggestions from the public seriously that is good. If you go to the SBux site there is a little “postie” on the right to jump to that site if you have an idea. It’s sort of a “digg” type atmosphere but with more SBux involvement, including their idea blog.

    We have a “wish list” in our company forums for clients to submit ideas and we’ve gotten a lot from that as well.

  18. Fascinating post…

    On the subject of the business case for goodwill, you may want to read this illuminating post by Paul Graham of Netscape fame:

    Back on topic, Morris Rosenthal Said (paraphrased):

    “”I forgot to respond directly to

    “how to make a business case for listening”

    Easy. Charge to listen. No results guaranteed, just a hearing.””

    The people that do this are called psychiatrists. Even they have to justify being paid to just listen.

    Whilst a novel and ingenious idea, Morris, I think Google will have to constantly justify listening if they charged for it.

    It would cost more than $100 per request to deal with complaints about listening or non-listening…

    Still, happy to suspend judgement until I saw a demonstration…

  19. Bill,

    “I understand penalties for cloaking and hidden text, but backlink penalties?? ”

    To my best knowledge, there are no “backlink penalties” in general terms. However, there are penalties for paid backlinks or unethical attempts to acquire backlinks with the sole purpose of gaming Google PageRank system. I wouldn’t call such unethical methods to acquire backlinks as SEO at all. It is spam!

  20. I may be the only person in the world who feels this way, but I find this to be a silly idea for a few reasons:

    1) It feeds the “social media marketing” myth. When that bubble 2.0 bursts, there are going to be some pretty bloody lips belonging to virtual asskissers out there.

    2) Most comments made online are, at best, inaccurate. Quite often, they’re flat-out lies (do we remember the guy who wrote the fake story about the hookers on a few months back?)

    There were people at one point (and there are probably some still out there) that believed that I work for Google. I never started the rumor. I never did anything to feed the rumor. I never so much as hinted at any form of Google employment. But it got out there.

    3) A large percentage of online feedback, especially through something as useless as Twit, is of the one sentence “Comcast = teh sux0r” variety.

    4) The commenters are quite often anonymous, and may or may not have been (potential) customers/users at any point.

    5) Action is very rarely taken as the result of a single public commentary, and it would be extremely difficult and/or time-consuming to gather aggregate quantifiable feedback on how well a company is doing based on online commentaries. And as mentioned before, how accurate would it be?

    The only way in which listening online works is by the formal or informal creation of “focus groups”. If someone like Doug Heil speaks out, for example, there’s a pretty fair sense that at least his intentions are good. If you get a vested-interest anonymous complaint, on the other hand, print off the complaint and use it as a TP substitute.

    Take Bill a few commenters above me, for example. Relatively anonymous (there’s probably no real way to track who “Bill” is), whines that the SEO community is getting treated badly by big G (primarily because everyone doesn’t rank #1 yet), makes up yet another fictional penalty pertaining to backlinks (what’s this one, a -30, a -950, -11,248 1/2? What’s the new number for a penalty these days?) and then claims that the SEO community helped make Google and will singlehandedly destroy The Evil Empire once it gets out of hand (the only joke over 5 years old that keeps getting funnier every single time I see it). That…is a useless online commentary.

    So tell me again why companies need to pay attention to online commenters at large?

  21. A lot of these comments are really off topic. I think we should seriously consider the idea proposed by Morris Rosenthal above.

  22. I so wish at&t would open up and improve their customer service – I have complaints on file with the BBB, Rip Off Report (sorry about that one) and our local TV channel consumer reports here in Charlotte, NC

    All I did was sign up for wireless service for my mac so I could work outdoors and the wireless card wouldn’t give me a signal anywhere – I tried to be my pleasant jolly self at the at&t store only to be told “Early termination” ala Basil Fawlty and laughed at all the way out the door.

    I could hear the barstewards in the back scoffing.

    Sad really I really would like and iPhone……


  23. Ok, I don’t post to too many blogs, but I have been reading this one and actually have something to say. I think it is important for every company to pay attention to their customers/clients/consumers whatever… You are inevitably going to get feedback from users that is worthless, or just complaints. But, the real idea is always in there waiting for someone to “listen”.

    I can say as a company owner, that I have changed some policies because a client of mine had a great idea for me. I have also thrown out ideas that I didn’t like. But the one thing I do is make sure to listen to EVERYTHING everyone has to say. Now I have a smaller business than Google, but still, they should be able to have someone answer a question every once in a while.

    ~ Jim

  24. Hi Matt,

    I see where you’re coming from but my answer to that is simple. In the same way that people are brave enough to say all kinds of things online, you can look at the feedback the same way. You’re much more likely to get a raw, visceral response from people under the cover of the internet than you would from a support call. Many people are not comfortable saying what they truly feel to a live person. Just like at a restaurant. When the waitress comes buy and asks how the meal is, I automatically respond with “good”. It could be the worst shit I’ve ever eaten but I don’t want to take it out on her or risk the good old spit in the food if I send it back 😉

    So the chef may never know that his food sucks and the restaurant owner will also never know that his business is going to take a dive pretty soon.

    But I would post a review of the meal on a blog even if I don’t say anything at the restaurant. The more sources and the more honest those sources are, the better your feedback. Plus the cost of gathering info online is much lower than running surveys or other methods including polling the customer service staff.

    The feedback at customer service is not going to be from the same people that post online. Customer support is for dealing with problems and complaints. Somebody with a great idea or feature request is not going to call customer service and ask them for it.

    If a CEO can’t see the value in bleeding edge feedback from people that are passionate about their product/service either good or bad, maybe he shouldn’t be running the company.

  25. Nick:

    Yahoo! has awesome customer service and I have to say that I love it. I am a customer and I love customer service. Google is a publicly traded company. I would buy stock if I felt Google was addressing my concerns as Yahoo! does for it’s customers.

    I think a CEO needs to see the benefit of online listening, and from listening to people who are having major problems with the “iron curtain” that Google is known for being when they need to speak to a live person.

    Google has the best search engine, the best results, the smartest anti spam team and engineers. Once it starts treating small businesses and other regular folks like me as if they aren’t mere “fellows” trying to get over, but instead as real people, it will truly be able to say “do no evil” and be taken seriously.

  26. It must be stressed that these multi billion dollar companies are getting FREE advice and recommendations from Consumers who get absolutely no compensation for their contributions.

    The sad aspect to all of this is – why aren’t these high paid executives and high paid technologists not thinking of these ideas themselves?

    Think of the decades (before The Web and Web 2.0) that companies could only hire Market Research firms to do telephone or mail surveys to get some input about the attitudes.

    Now helpful information is continuously available for free or just a fraction of the costs.

    But is still does not answer the enigma – Why are these ideas NOT originating from the high paid , well educated Executives??????

    Maybe the environment in top corporate America exists to stifle making contributions that could be critical or analytical about someones else’s output. 😉

  27. Don Campbell, thanks for the pointer; I enjoyed that post.

    Chi-chi Ekweozor, somehow I missed Paul Graham’s essay too. Good stuff as always from him.

    Multi-Worded Adam, I completely agree that there are some noisy, noisy people online whose opinion shouldn’t carry a lot of weight. But it’s also where a lot of the savviest people I know are as well.

    Jim Gaudet, I know that we do get good suggestions from lots of different places online. Personally, doing Q&A sessions are much more interesting for me than doing canned presentations.

    Nick, I think we agree. It’s just interesting when there are people who want to see the business case for community relations. (I’m not talking about Google in this case; I think a bunch of people here understand the value of listening and participation).

    panzermike, I think a lot of times as a Googler it can be overwhelming trying to decide the right balance of talking to people vs. working to solve their problems so they don’t want/need to complain. That even applies to the balance of how much to write blog posts vs. respond to comments.

  28. re Morriss idea

    oops thats asking for trouble peopel will expectsomthing for the $100 and at the moment EVRYTHING Google does should be viewed in the context of

    “does this increase the likleyhood of Google being regulated” –

    your senior managments antics over the Microhoo saga just mistify me.

    I cant see Ian Livingstone provoking Ofcom in the same way in the UK and if he did i suspect his tenure as CEO might be rather short.

  29. @Matt Cutts:

    I think I get the message. Thanks bro. Semper Fi, Mike

  30. Hi Matt,

    With regards to language such as “the fly in this ointment is how to make a business case for listening” and “what are the metrics that argue for having someone engage with a community”:

    1. You imply there needs to be a business case for goodwill.

    2. Perhaps you should be asking if there’s a goodwill case for business.

    3. You definitely sound as if you haven’t read Jim Collins’ “Built To Last”, Jeff Bezos’ favorite business book. Recommended.

    I love Google’s approach to Bayesian classifiers. You’re asking interesting questions. I do find it strange (worrying) that you’re asking them now. Surely we’ve been there, done that?

    Thinking of Henry Ford right now, I would say he argued the goodwill case for business. I would say the same applies to great companies. There’s just not enough magic sauce in your soup to get people truly excited if you look at it the other way around.

    And if you like, perhaps the business case for “the goodwill case for business” is an easier abstraction to deal with than just “the goodwill case for business”? Perhaps it’s more boardroom friendly? 😉

  31. Another thing, George Orwell would tell you that you never, never, never, state anything in the negative.

    Take “Don’t Be Evil” as an example. You see it associated with Google’s name everywhere. It’s starting to be parodied. The trouble is, squint your eyes and you start seeing: “evil”, “google”. People always miss the negation. It’s like Versace telling Uma Thurman she don’t look ugly. You just don’t do it.

    Far better to extrapolate. Instead of saying “Don’t Be Evil”, point the way. Say “Be Good”.

    And besides, “Be Good” is one word less. 🙂

  32. That post of Don Campbell is really great. Got tons of ideas from it, but mostly, it shows the importance of customer satisfaction. I’m a partner in a small company (12 employees) and one thing that proves difficult is growing awareness of the importance of customer satisfaction within the group. Rationally everybody agrees, but when a customer complains about something, people tend to take it personally which put them in defend mode. (that’s a really bad thing if you want to increase customer satisfaction.)

    At the same time you see that us 3 owners of the company want to increase customer satisfaction without spending too much money (we´re still a start up without a big bag of investment money, we started with 8000 dollars to buy 3 computers, hire 2 young aprentices and pay the first month rent and some other stuff, from there we just grew and survived on and invested from, revenues only.)

    Though we are reasonably successful, this article made me realize that there’s a lot more to gain from the highest level of customer satisfaction than just happy clients. It’s a powerful marketing tool as well. That seems obvious but that it is so obvious is irrelevant because in order to increase customer satisfaction, you need to understand how to translate it into something practical.

    The initial logic is obvious: Make sure you do everything needed to make a client happy.

    At a certain point you realise that it is not possible to predict what makes a client happy. Then what?

    Certainly, being easy to contact definitely helps. That was easy to resolve. Just need more phone lines and a simple pabx to make sure the phone is never busy.

    But every time you do something to improve customer satisfaction, something else, that never existed, is all the sudden a problem and needs to improve. Like a never ending story.

    That post showed me the most important thing I guess. Besides the very important point of awareness within the company of the importance of customer satisfaction, there is one thing that’s even more important. Customers need to be aware that they have the power to change and improve our quality of service.

  33. Matt – I have “contact me” directly or over the phone all over my website and spend much of my day meeting specific needs of my customers. I developed a product around feedback. I have so much feedback (images, testimonials, questions) I can’t figure out how to display it to humans and search engines, help!

  34. When I met with some executives from Baidu, I told them if they really wanted to surpass Google worldwide, they should start by ‘googling’ the words ‘Google Sucks’. Find out what Google was doing wrong and then do it right themselves.

    Not sure if they listened though. Wonder if anyone at Google after does that search?

  35. I think that WHERE you are listening is more important than how many people you have listening.

    Lots of the public commentary is being done to gain “links” and “ad impressions” for person who is commenting. Some sites are built strictly for this purpose and those should be given low monitoring priority. Instead listen to satisfied users who talk about things that would save them time and money.

    Pay special attention to where regular Google users are giving honest feedback…. and if Google follows that feed back the income of the person making the comments would DROP. Sometimes these users are actually paying their own employees to do quality control that could be automatically done by Google. For an example look at the Adsense forums where lots of people are crying for a filter that would remove certain types of ads from their websites. I know of offices where employees manually check many pages of their websites to find these ads and add them to the competitive ad filter. However, if these same offices could instead add ten words to a filter that blocked any ad that contained one of those words they could save a lot of employee time. More important the integrity of their site would be protected because visitors would not see certain types of ads on a site where that type of advertising should never appear. I’ve seen many posts about this in the adsense forums but they have been unaddressed. These people are spending valuable employee time to reduce their income. They need KW filtering that will allow them to spend employee time on tasks that increase income.

    Another area where there are many satisfied google users crying for a “fix” is in Gmail. When we delete or file a post it takes us back to the inbox instead of advancing to the next message (like every other email program on this planet). Changing this would save a huge amount of time and frustration. This should be default or offered as an option. Millions of satisfied users will yell out their windows with joy when this goes live. Better to do it now than later when inefficient habits are formed in millions of minds. This will save lots of people many increments of time day in and day out.

  36. I know I certainly appreciated having a google representative drop by when we were flaiing about with Google problems, and went a long way to creating goodwill with the folks in my corner of the internet.

    But I don’t know that there’s a way that goodwill can be measured or monetized. As an individual or corporation, sometimes you just have to do things because you know they’re the right thing to do. The old fashioned word for this is “values”, and it wouldn’t show up on a spreadsheet, not even if your MBAs are from Whorton.

  37. I discovered that Comcast was doing this recently after I blogged about the an upsetting outage I had in my area. The next day I got a phone call from a Comcast corporate exec saying that he read the post and wanted to make sure the problem was corrected. I was happy, connection up and account credited.

    However, I believe it would have been better if I could have initiated that dialogue myself. There are times when I feel the same way about Google, times when an important issue arises that needs to be addressed privately rather than on forums. It would be great if we could initiate a question through Google Webmaster Tools, perhaps even cap it at one question per year. A conversation is better than feedback, IMHO.

  38. I very much appreciated when Google AdSense team provided an account rep to work with and improve our sites. I think the same should be considered for Google Search also. However Google search is free so Google can recoup costs by either:
    1. Using the same account rep for Google AdSense / AdWords to handle Google search issues also.
    2. Charge for the service as someone suggested above

    The business benefits of listening to customers accrue over the long term and over wide range of products. A customer having bad experience with Google Search is very likely to consider AdSense alternatives in monetizing their sites or use alternative advertising services. The non-communication (or minimal communication to be accurate) policy of Google search is making thousands and thousands of publishers really frustrated with Google experience (a Google search will be enough to find them; and the many publishers who are afraid that bad-mouthing Google will cause Google search to take it on them). And I am not talking about people with bad intentions trying to game the search engine. I am talking about honest publishers trying to make a living and yet finding Google search like a hegemonious dictatorship where the common people’s voice is not heard. Unless you are extremely popular and well connected you have no chance in hell of knowing what is going wrong, whether it is a bug in their algorithm or something they have done or something others have done to harm them etc. A customer recently contacted me to stop proxy sites from accessing his site which was causing Google to usurp his ranking and give it to the proxy sites instead. I am recently having a bad experience with one of my site where Google have kept the page rank but is only only indexing the front page and irrelevant tag pages and tons of incorrect pages but not the content pages from sitemap! What is going on? God only knows.

    Google search at this point is like an *essential service* for web and web economy. The lack of viable alternatives is making it more so. As such it increases the responsibility of Google to show more transparency and goodwill and fairness to all. Otherwise despite Google apparent hegemony at this time will not last and I hope it doesn’t come to that stage where government or other regulatory bodies are forced to intervene.

    A good company is not only about giving shareholder value but also helping the community at large. Google made a nice start with its do no evil mantra. It should consider investing more in listening to customer at least for maintaining what it promised – do no evil.

  39. It would be great if there was more interaction with the Gods at Google but looking at things practically- it would take much time and resource to deal with issues that could be resolved through the webmasters information Google publishes.

    It seems google recognise that as a global brand if they open a customer service line for one and all then they’ve opened Pandoras box!

  40. I have noticed lately that Google is interacting a lot more with people, and not just pay per click folks. My bet is that Google figured out that they will sell more stocks and not have so much negative stuff being said about them if they at least create the appearance they are listening.

    It’s a start and it was long overdue.

  41. This may appear way off track but wait till the end. An important point to remember when we’re considering “Goodwill” is actually more to do with its original meaning. Nowadays many businesses are actually really using the concept (and putting it into practice) more as a spin for their own self promotion. Nothing wrong with that as it often really does help others as well as ourselves (the secretly intended recipient!).

    What I would like to add is that we take that same original attitude and incorporate it into our everyday personal, non-business lives. Savour the flavour of helping others, our environment, people we don’t know – with the all important ingredient of not expecting returns on outlay, investment, capital or whatever. That’s the goodwill that will still brighten our day as the financial spheres contract, crumble and fade.

    Now the real point is that, as we come to develop that attitude, others, including business associates, pick up on it and appreciate its genuineness – where you’re coming from.