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Published on December 4th, 2006 | by Tom

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Trust is the New Money 3

Trust is the new money and reputation rating is the new stock market.

In the spring of my junior year in college, I was locked in a tough but ultimately successful bid to be elected president of the student union when the school introduced its controversial student course and teacher evaluation survey.  It became a political hot potato.  The idea–no longer novel–was that students would rate the classes and the professors.  The controversy came because the professors didn’t like the concept of popular reviews.  In the end, the guide was produced for the new school year and predictably there were waiting lists to get into courses from the professors voted most popular.  Whether or not this idea actually made for better courses or curriculum, is hard to say, but students do listen to each other, and professors can’t teach to empty seats–so it had an impact.  Fast forward to today and the online world and we can see the merits of this user-review model writ large.

Bubble Generation consumers have grown up with the Internet and can’t remember a world with out it.  They are completely comfortable with online communication, collaboration and commerce–as long as they can trust the people they are dealing with.  This truth has catapulted reputation to the top of the Internet value chain.  Your reputation–your trustworthiness–is your calling card on the Internet, but too few companies have a plan for reputation management.  Do you?

Header_logo Recognizing that trust is the new money, new sites are emerging to help people measure the trustworthiness of the companies they do business with.  In true social media form, these sites are citizen-driven; users rate and share their consumer experiences with others.  This space will look at different industries in the weeks ahead, but I’ll start with the restaurant world.

Logo_beta_background Let’s be honest: most services industries offer terrible service (outside of Japan).  Restaurants are among the worst offenders; you can find a soup Nazi just about everywhere you break bread.  Very little attention is paid to customer courtesy, product knowledge and total experience.  That is why when you have a rare great time some place, you end up enthusiastically telling everybody you know.

A few weeks back, I gave a nod to Yelp, a site I like a lot, and they continue to get better with broader coverage, so check them out.  Another entrant in the space, Menuism, is leveraging Yahoo’s back end to also allow users to rate dining experiences.  My intention is not to compare and contrast these sites–please visit and use them both–but to send a message that you can expect user rating systems to be introduced in all sectors, even yours.  That will mean your reputation–the core of your brand and business–will be tested by every transaction.  Warts and all, you are now out there for open evaluation.  If you don’t have a plan to manage your reputation, you can expect your competitors will manage theirs.

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