Can Forrester empower consumers with its Tap app?

Forrester Research, my former employer, has released a consumer app called “Tap.” The essence is simple: tell the world what businesses are doing wrong, and they’ll listen and fix it. It’s a crowded app world out there, but if this one catches on, it could make a difference.

The world is filled with ratings and reviews. Every major retail site lets you rate products. You can go on Yelp and rate any business. But every one of these ratings programs has a motive. Yelp wants to sell ads. Retail sites want to sell products. Ideally, an app would make it dead easy to complain about anything — a gym, a cable company, an employer — and gang up with other consumers to actually make a difference.

That’s the idea behind Forrester’s Tap. As Forrester CEO George Colony described it to me, “We began to believe that because the risks of customer experience quality are so high, companies must have the ability to ensure great customer experience in real time.” So Forrester created Tap as a way for consumers to tell companies — in real time — what’s not working well, and for companies to respond.

Tap squarely aligns itself with you, the consumer. That means making it absurdly easy to register a complaint — or join one. Here’s how it works.

  • Three simple buttons: red/yellow/green. Yes, it’s even easier than star ratings. What does two stars mean anyway? Your only choice on Tap is to rate a business or a brand as good, problematic, or bad.
  • Rate the place you are. When you’re at Dunkin Donuts, pull up Tap and it knows where you are — just tap and rate it. It’s the same for any business.
  • Say something. It’s not enough to tap a colored button — all Tap ratings must include some text to indicate what’s wrong (or great). So it’s not just that United Airlines is bad — it’s that United Airlines has slow wifi.
  • Join a mob. If you see a complaint and agree with it, you can join forces with whoever said it. When 5 or more people do that, it becomes a “mob” that’s easy for anyone else rating the business to join.
  • Tie it into social media. You can post your taps to Facebook. You can also see what taps your friends are posting.

For now, Tap is focused on businesses in the Boston area.

I’m sure you noticed the lack of monetization here. There are no ads in this app and according to Colony, there never will be. That’s consistent with Forrester’s business model, which avoids advertising of all kinds in an effort to be as unbiased and balanced as possible.

Forrester already collects data from consumers in the form of surveys (in fact, I helped launch that business, Technographics, in 1997). They’re hoping to make money off the back-end data exhaust from Tap, which will enhance the knowledge they already have of brands in products like their survey-driven Customer Experience Index.

I’m intrigued by the way this app is so squarely in the consumer’s corner. It’s not so much a ratings app like Yelp as it is a complaint aggregator. Certainly, if you want to go visit a restaurant, you probably want to make sure it’s not glowing red on the map. But it’s sort of cool the way that Tap simply aggregates complaints so that consumers can gang up on a brand. Brands can also register in the app and respond as well, working with the originator of a mob to resolve the issue. Colony says this worked at the AC Hotel (which is next door to Forrester’s headquarters), where a mob encouraged the hotel to start stocking craft beers in its bar.

The most likely outcome here is that Tap just doesn’t catch on with consumers and gets lost in the noise of all the other ratings, complaints, and apps. And while it is connected to Facebook, the connection is not as direct as it could be. But it’s already a well-designed experience, and if it does get traction, the results will be fascinating.

Will Comcast actually start to look at what people are complaining about and fix it, or live with a red rating forever?

Will Wendy’s add back spicy chicken nuggets when it sees 10,000 people asking for them?

Will the Gold’s Gym near me clean up its filthy locker rooms?

There’s a lot of potential here, because these complaints are not just “CNN sucks,” they’re “Please let the president’s spokesperson finish a sentence.” They’re specific, and for that reason, businesses can either address them or blatantly ignore them and pay the price.

Want to add your own complaints? Download it yourself here or find it in the iTunes or Android stores.

In a world where 300 million people are tapping, we might actually get a little better service. And then there’s this, which George Colony dropped on me at the end of our interview:

“We could quickly see this bleed over into political world. You can create a brand right now and start tapping away on it, like one for a political candidate. It would not surprise me to see a presidential debate in 2020 with real-time tapping, candidates changing colors in real time.”

I’ll sign up for that.

Find places to rate on a map.
Tell them what needs to be fixed.
Agree with someone’s complaint? Join a mob.
Businesses can respond to a mob and address the problem.

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