An Irish Customer Care Portal?

So there’s a little chatter about the idea of some kind of site or blog that gathers customer complaints. It isn’t a bad idea at all. But in my own experiences what the people want and what they’ll do about it are quite different. So what is needed? Well Annette mentions the following:

I for one would like to see a dedicated portal for customer service in Ireland where bloggers could post their experiences (good and bad) of customer service and try and impact on this whole area. I’d be really interested in stories of excellence as well as the horror ones because until customers raise their expectations of what is acceptable then our benchmarks will hover around the bottom of the scale

Definitely I agree and like the idea of the negative and the positive being highlighted. McDonald’s seems to be getting great press recently via Piaras and Conor and even are getting some positive remarks from an initial negative me. I’ve also since heard two more positive stories about addressing issues people had with them after people read my post.

Some things to think about:

  • Would such a site just be about customer care and not actually about resolving your specific issue?
  • (as in “NTL’s support is bad because x, y z “compared to “Please fix my broadband speeds”)

  • Moderated or unmoderated comments?
  • Anonymous, semi-anonymous, real name only?

There does seem to be sites out there for that purpose such as the Consumer Issues forum on, the Ask About Money website and the seemingly defunct website but I think we need a lot lot more of them. Plenty of niche areas could do with groups and websites to do something about service.

As Will mentions, my experiences when I ring to complain to a telco or to the regulator now are that my call gets escalated, even when I have a genuine complaint. Without question I can route around the tech support line barriers and have someone appear on my doorstep within 3 hours if I wanted to abuse my position in IrelandOffline. I don’t and I even refuse to intervene when family members have hassle. However, imagine if everyone were the in a lobby group, all our calls would be treated with priority in that small market segment. That can actually benefit the service providers too.

It is easy to set up a group to collate and magnify issues. Easier than ever thanks to forums and email and skype and Wikis. This consumer portal could be like a central site with dozens or hundreds of subsites are all present. One single-sign on gives you access to all of them. In fact, could always add some kind of consumer group module for allowing people to create tools for an activist community to use.

Years back I had planned to build a portal called where it would allow someone to create a subdomain for any activist group and it would supply them with email lists, public and private forums, wikis and lots of other tools. I still might set that up but there is also a need for a consumer portal too.

I’ve seen a community built up around the IrelandOffline forum on and around other lobby groups and know of businesses that actually got formed from these communities. The IrelandOffline community has been good to eircom, BT , UTV and many other companies because this community shares their knowledge and they help people with tech support issues too. Less staff needed by the companies if their users act as supporters. I think that is a key issue with companies. Their users are not their supporters. There is an “us” on the consumer side and their is an “us” on the business side and these do not intersect . The broadband forum over there on Boards is another example of a voluntary community solving a lot of the tech support issues which ISPs could be getting.

To rehash the words of Brian Caulfield at BarCamp, it is the market and the team that are important, not the tech. You don’t need techies to build your portal. You don’t need to know web programming. A blog could be your portal to start with. Find your niche area and find the people to campaign around it. Who’ll do it though?

20 Responses to “An Irish Customer Care Portal?”

  1. adam says:

    TelcoWatch is indeed dead, for obvious reasons. My servers are always open to consumer websites though, all people have to do is ask.

  2. Evert says:

    I really think that trying to organise consumer issues like these is really counterproductive and will nulify all the good that blogging has done.
    Organised consumer affairs groups (be it lobby groups, portal or whatever) will always fall victim to hidden agendas and moderating. Look at Irelandoffline for one.
    These organisation will have to be managed by “volunteers” and as anyone knows with a bit of common sense: “everybody’s got an agenda”…


  3. I wonder could Conor’s Loudervoice review publishing business be a possible home for such an idea?


  4. Damien says:

    So you’re saying people should not be entitled to group their complaints together because it damages blogging? I’ve heard some interesting logic from you before but that takes the biscuit.

  5. Damien,

    The site should link direct to the blog post and not hold the complaint. What would be great is if I could search Magnet Entertainment, and I would get every post tagged ‘irishcomplaint’ or similar. I would want to see real complaints, written my real people, standing by it on there real blog.

  6. Evert says:

    People are entitled to do whatever they want.
    However one of the great things about blogging (and the internet in general) is that people can post content without having to take anybody else’s agenda/opinion/alegiance into consideration.
    This has produced some absolute nonsense but it also creates a open medium where everybody can post in absolute freedom. It’s called freedom of speech.
    I still have to see the first organisation, lobby group or other body that does not fall victim to internal politics eventually.
    You should really get over the fact that you do not like my opinion and actually try to read and understand my comments…


  7. Grandad says:

    I think this is an excellent idea. However it is full of pitfalls.

    Whatever Evert says, there is such a thing a libel, and the laws on this relating to the Internet are a bit fuzzy.

    Therefore any open forum would have to be carefully moderated. The model is a good one, but it is too unfocused for a project such as this. To wade through the hundreds of topics just to find your area of interest could be daunting [especially, as that forum tends to be a bit slow these days!]

    There are times where I feel like shouting about good service to the rooftops [a rare occurrence] and there are times I feel the need to warn others of cowboys. A specialist forum would be a good starting point.

    However, remember RateMyTeacher and RateMySolicitor? It could be a potential minefiled.

    [and note: Grandad can be serious sometimes…..]

  8. I find google pretty good at this actually, blogs tend to rate much higher SEO than corporate sites. I’m enjoying my Magnet warning.


  9. Elana says:

    You know, for a long time I’ve wanted to do this. I might just step up now and try it out. I loved fixing things for people in all my customer service jobs, and have thought for a long time about trying to make something like this start running. Will ponder during the 3am feeding.

  10. brim4brim says:

    If your going to setup the portal, ease of use is key.

    Complaining in the Ireland Offline (IO) forums is hard for people that aren’t used to that kind of setup. Ireland Offline should have its own forums, on its own hosting IMO to allow people to easily access it from domain.

    IO should have a complaint submition form so that users just fill in the relevant sections and then post it and all complaints are organised and readible.

    These complaints should then be automatically categorised by the fields filled in to different tagged sections. A user should then be able to find out information by a variety of navigation mechanisms that use these tags.

    Eg. by broadband provider, by online gaming providers (low latency providers) etc…

    This should bring the user to a list of providers obviously rated by what users rating has deemed to be best for that category.

    Users should have to agree to terms & conditions of posting and it should be made clear that the comments on the site are not the opinions of IO but of the relevant posters. Moderation should only be done if complaints are reported as inaccurate or bad. Other than a bad language filter, no other moderation should take place to ensure people trust the information.

    The system should have a press section where they can view statistics on complaints such as most complained about and maybe can view anonymous quotes from users to use for articles etc… as some users may not like to disclose identity (don’t know how necessary this is TBH).

    Another idea might be to have a way to verify members identities so we can prove that this is an actual person and not related to a provider but I don’t know how feasible/necessary that is or what information you could use to do this.

    I believe this would allow people to find information faster and easier than the current forum system on It would require considerable effort but would give people an easier site to use and post complaints on and find information for providers they would like to use.

  11. […] It’s January so it must be consumer complaint and compliment month. Before reading Damien’s post about consumer opinion blogging etc. I was thinking this afternoon about blogging my experience with an office furniture company. […]

  12. John says:

    Re IrelandOffline forums etc.

    It was something that was discussed at some length and dismissed as most interested parties were used to the forums. Anyone not able to use could always send a mail to info at

    One thing I learned from IOFFL is that the gap between people who complain saying “someone should do something” and those who actually do something is vast. And by do something I mean even contribute an opinion.

    And unless you get a lot of vocal people together who are willing to continually voice their opinion both online and face to face you are wasting your time.

    As for agendas etc, it’ll happen even in an open community like bloggers. X says something Y takes it up and expands. 200 more jump on the band wagon because its the “in thing”.
    Mind you the “volunteers” agendas aren’t hidden, more like shouted from the rooftops. And “Campaigning For Affordable, Unmetered And Broadband Internet Access In Ireland ” pretty much covers the agenda 🙂

    Wouldn’t an aggregator type thingy be capable of covering blogs dealing with complaints? or tagging?

    Still, it would be nice to be able to go to a dedicated website and have a moan in the company of like minded individuals.

  13. brim4brim says:

    Well the problem with using is that anyone who is not used to browsing may not even find the IO forum except by links and explanations of how to sign up. It just seems that having it all on one website would make more sense to me at least.

    Also the problem with blogs is that they are one persons opinion and not organised. Maybe a page on IO could aggregate the blogs (a blog ring setup where everyone adds their URL’s and tags them) but the problem is average Joe that does not use blogging or any other kind of system needs to be given a voice.

    Another problem is the numerous review sites being setup online at the moment for Irish broadband which isn’t really productive either. A one stop location would be much better IMO where all information could be collected instead of several sites each trying to do the same thing and none achieving it as there is realistically very few Irish broadband users posting reviews online (be it because they don’t know where to start, couldn’t be bothered or are happy with their service). Maybe an aggregating page for these review sites would be a good idea too.

    Basically the information is disorganised and hard to find and by spending a little time organising, it might make the process of writing about Ireland’s broadband problems a little easier for journalists which would lead to more articles on the problem (hopefully) or at least a knowledge base of Irish broadband providers viewable from IO and readable by Irish users.

    Even something as simple as a link exchange with the broadband review sites would help out a little for users trying to find information. I’m sure the sites would agree as it would drive traffic to their sites. Also a working speed test link to help users find out if they are getting what they are paying for etc… Overall the current IO site is actually very pleasant to navigate so adding these few things could help out a few people.

  14. elly parker says:

    Damien, you mean something like an Irish-specific version of the site referred to in this post?

  15. annette says:

    I was prompted to do that post because of a couple of really good customer experiences recently and many, many terrible ones….and let me issue a disclaimer here that I’m not technically literate enough to really understand the practicalities of what I’m suggesting however, I think there are a couple of important starting points:

    What ever mechanism might be constructed – people need to take responsibility for their own content. On a simple level – you have no way of validating my experience of a particular company and I have no way of validating yours.

    At the moment if I am CEO of Company X and have consistently good (or bad) customer service I can punch my company’s name into Google and realistically I will only get the well known bloggers or those with considerable traffic. This won’t be the whole picture of the conversation regarding my company. More importantly it disadvantages bloggers who are early in their blogging careers and who have a really great story of their experience because they don’t have the rankings to qualify for the first few Google pages.

    So I guess I would like to see something that would collate original content (I guess this would mean a common tagging system? See, I told you I am illiterate about this stuff:) so that when Company X punches their name in (or one of their customers is checking them out) up comes a site which is driven by the collective experience of blogging community. I think this offers other media outlets the opportunity to pick up on issues using individual posts or posters etc etc. I am less interested in going the route of a new mechanism with all the attendant legal stuff and more interested in how we can highlight content that is already out there and convince bloggers to write more

  16. Keith mentioned what we’re building over at LouderVoice and I hope I’m not being too self-promoting by describing it further as it could be used to provide the facilities being described.

    Our site provides tools for people to write structured reviews to their blogs and facilities for others to find and use those reviews. We believe as a matter of principle that your opinions and expertise belong on your own blog building your reputation and not on one of a million data silos scattered around the web.

    To apply it to the task at hand, if you registered your blog with our site and reviewed customer service at Eircom Broadband, that review would be published to your blog and you would probably use tags like “Customer Service” and “Broadband”.

    Users can then find your review on our site by searching for the relevant terms or browsing to the relevant tags and read the review on your blog.

    Alternatively your readers can start on your blog, read your review, click on the “Customer Service” tag in the review and get sent to our site where they can see all similarly tagged reviews and drill down through the various associated tags.

    See this blog post for an example:

    Review of Roam4Free

    Comments are written by readers over at the blog themselves as usual. Users can rate the review on our site enabling the quality content to bubble to the top of the search results. This system also enables low-readership bloggers to build a reputation through the quality of their reviews.

    When we fully launch, all users will be able to build up collections of bookmarks of reviews on particular topics e.g. “Broadband Providers” and share that out for others to use, saving them the hassle of finding them all.

    The use of blogs, to some degree, provides “identity” for the reviewers and avoids a lot of the anonymous libel that can happen. We control what blogs appear in our system, it is not a random aggregator.

    If you are interested in trying it out, please sign for the pre-launch test phase over at our site. We won’t be sending out the bulk of the invites until after Feb 16th when the second release of the site is complete and we are closer to full launch.

    All feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  17. Unless you get a lot of vocal people together who are willing to continually voice their opinion both online and face to face you are wasting your time.

  18. David Byrne says:

    A web site to highlighting negative and positive experiences you had with a company is definitely a good idea. Even if a company receives a negative comment they can always address the issues raised in the negative comment and put them right. This will make them a better company and improve their service to future customers. The company turns a negative into a positive so the consumer gets a better service and the company gets positive comments.

    I came across this very interesting web site about a guy who bought a car from Murray Motor Company t/a Castleknock Car Centre and doesn’t appear to be happy about the car.

    He seems to have a valid complaint and the garage in question appears not to be addressing he complaint. I admire his approach although I am not sure I would take the same approach.

  19. Hi David Byrne

    I am the person who put up the Murray motors web site. Today, 15th April 2010 I am very happy to say that the garage owner Phil resolved all my issues and exchange my car for another car. I have to say that I am very impressed with Phil’s actions, which I think are very honourable, especially with all the difficulties car dealerships are having. Well done Phil and thank you very much.

    Patrick Skelly.

    PS. I have permanently taken down the car web site as this matter is resolved to my satisfaction.