This case study outlines how Which? Conversation has allowed Which? to become the voice of UK consumers. The blog was developed to gather comments from consumers which could then be used to feed back to the industry and achieve positive change.
Which? Conversation is Which?'s community website. It gives Which? experts a space to comment on consumer issues and to start a Conversation with consumers.
Outspoken, opinionated and sometimes controversial, Which? Conversation is a company blog that allows staff to speak their mind and achieve positive change by holding companies to account - but it's the responses received that make the site a real success. Which? wants all comments and opinions to be useful to all areas of its business and charity work.
Which? uses comments in briefings to policymakers and letters to MPs. Conversations are started to test ideas and launch campaigns. Which? even reviews its own campaigns if it is found that there isn't enough public support for them.
Which? is also keen to engage with companies and organisations. Guest blogger slots have been given to a wide range of contributors, from Vince Cable to Greenpeace, and Which? endeavours to get companies joining the comments section, especially when consumers need answers from them.
In short, Which? Conversation puts Which? directly in touch with the real issues that people care about, which in turn feeds back into the work it does.
Background to campaign
Which? Conversation signalled a new direction for Which? The company wanted a platform that allowed it to engage with consumers in a new way, letting them debate the issues that matter.
The site went live in July 2010. One of the main reasons for launching the site was to engage with consumers in a more informal way than ever before, helping Which? to understand their real concerns and issues better.
- Help Which? to be the trusted voice of UK consumers
- Make a positive change for UK consumers
- Increase brand awareness of Which? among new groups and users
The site is not a forum, it's a community blog. Which? joins the discussions whenever it can, and encourage all authors to do the same. The site editors often prompt authors when a user posts a specific question that they can help with, giving them a unique opportunity to talk directly with Which? experts.
The site should also offer a unique opportunity for people to directly interact with outside organisations, achieved through guest bloggers, direct tweeting and partnerships and helping Which? to become the voice of UK consumers.
Conversations should help to inform Which? about the issues consumers care about and feed back into the rest of the organisation, giving it new ideas for campaigns, investigations and advice-based content.
- Since launch in July 2010 Which? has posted over 1,400 Conversations and attracted over 22,000 comments.
- So far in 2011, the blog has achieved an average of 58,000 unique users a month, with 78,000 in July alone. This compares to an average of around 29,000 unique users a month between August-December last year.
- So far in 2011 the blog has attracted an average of 17 comments per Conversation, with an average of 29 in July and 22 in October. This compares to an average of nearly 11 comments per Conversation between August-December last year.
- There were 100,000 unique visitors in October
- There have been 50,000 thumb votes on Conversations and comments since launch
- There were 90 Conversations posted in October
Comments about the lack of viewfinders on digital cameras sparked a campaign to bring them back. This attracted almost 400 comments, which were then sent on by Which? to the main manufacturers to prove how much consumers still want this feature. Canon, Olympus, Sony, Panasonic and others responded. Sony and Panasonic showed great interest in the campaign and guaranteed to share this information with their product development teams in Japan, and Sony recently unveiled its own compact with a viewfinder. Canon took on board these views by deciding to unveil its first new affordable compact model in nearly two years to feature an optical viewfinder.
Panasonic: ‘We shared the Which? research with our factory in Japan, which they really appreciated seeing as they are interested in these views moving forward when developing new models.”
2. How Which? helped save the cheque
When 92% voted to keep the cheque in a Which? poll of over 1,300 people, Which? decided to use this evidence – along with the supporting comments – in an external briefing to Parliament, the Payments Council and the industry. It was recently announced that the cheque is no longer being scrapped.
Richard North, the Chairman of the Payments Council: "It’s in the DNA of the Payments Council to consult and listen to all those people who actually make payments and use cheques."
3. Holding Groupon to account
In August the @WhichConvo Twitter account was alerted to a mis-advertised Groupon deal – Groupon's email offered a premium Fatboy beanbag but linked to a cheaper brand. A Twitter storm soon followed - unhappy customers tweeted that the products definitely weren’t the same, with FatBoy soon confirming it knew nothing of the deal. So Which? challenged Groupon to fix their mistake on Which? Conversation and refund misled customers. This challenge was successful, with Groupon withdrawing the offer, refunding customers and later publishing a frank apology.
Groupon_UK: “@WhichConvo Please accept our apologies for yesterday. Refunds have been processed.”
4. Changing tack on smart meters
In July Which? launched a campaign to prevent energy companies using the smart meter roll-out as an opportunity to pressure-sell to their customers. Comments flooded into Conversation with many consumers expressing extreme concern, and over much wider issues including data security and the cost of the roll-out to the consumer. Which? posted a further Conversation to tease out more detail on these concerns, and the overwhelming strength of feeling has prompted Which? to commission a review of the entire enterprise from a consumer perspective. In this instance Which? Conversation was extremely valuable not just in highlighting consumer concerns, but in helping to shape Which? policy and potentially future campaigns in this area.
5. Putting pressure on Beko
Following a tower block fire caused by a Beko fridge freezer in July, and 20 other fires linked to Beko's models in the past three years, Which? quickly posted some advice about what to do if you own a similar model and asked for people's experiences. Over 350 comments poured in, many from worried consumers who couldn't get through to Beko. Which? researchers were in contact with Beko, enabling Which? to post updates about how it was dealing with the problem and the best way to get help. Which? then did a follow-up Conversation, publishing a Q&A of all the questions consumers asked it to take to Beko – and the responses they gave.