Here is a good discussion about using consumer service interactions as opportunities to advertise to customers. I imagine if executed properly, this could be a winning strategy. Too often, though, this kind of interaction feels like going to a fast food restaurant and being asked whether I want fries with that after I’ve completed my order. In many ways, though, I think that the act of providing excellent customer service is enough to get a customer to be a brand advocate.
The other part of this conversation centers around gathering and using soliticited or unsoliticed customer ideas. I think the heart of the matter is who owns the idea — as in a company doesn’t want to be sued for using someone’s idea if the contributor feels they are owned some compensation for their idea. This seems prickly to me, since in today’s world, everybody feels they have a good idea and there is no shortage of good ideas for companies to harvest from the Internet. My feeling has always been that it’s okay to take customer ideas as long as the customer agrees to give up all rights to the idea and this is strictly enforced by the law. But what comes of plucking tasty fruits from the Internet? If it’s posted in the Internet, does that imply that the person or entity has given up all rights to the idea. To me, this seems like the way the Internet is, though, there is no law that says this is the case. It’s more like a tacit agreement between yourself and the world that once you post your idea or thought, it becomes everyone’s to do with as they please. Well, the future will tell once this notion is challenged in a courtroom.