Seven years ago, long before the term "blogosphere" became part of the popular lexicon, Peter Cheales started his site Hellopeter.co.za
Unlike a simple blog, Cheales's site focused on interaction, creating a space in which customers and corporations could interact and criticisms could be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
While ordinary people could sign up for free, companies were required to pay a small fee so they could be counted as a "company who responds".
More than just a "nag" space, like "www.Hellkom.co.za", where disgruntled Telkom users can go to complain, Hellopeter's focus is on encouraging corporates to engage with their customers and solve problems.
The difference is important; Cheales's goal is to help companies improve their customer service and retain customers they could otherwise have lost through bad service.
Users log on to the site, where they are able to scroll through companies which respond or don't respond to the Hellopeter service.
Comments can be both good and bad, allowing companies to get a fair and unbiased view of how they are behaving.
Messages are then sent directly to the company and, following the company's response, the customers are encouraged to respond as to how their problem was solved and whether the solution was satisfactory.
The site was an amazing success. The initial trepidation with which companies approached the service was soon eclipsed by the benefits that came from its use - real-time, real world market research which would have previously cost them a fortune was now available instantly and proved itself as a space in which problems could be solved and lost customers retained.
Over time the service has improved further and niggling problems have been eradicated. Now, a series of verifications, checks and balances, swear-word filters, alongside live editors, make sure the site is as free and fair as possible.
Its strength lies in the customer base, which grows daily and from which come the thousands of comments daily that work to convey the feelings of the public to those in charge.
In an age where service delivery is a dirty word and companies and governments alike try their hardest to dupe the honest Joe, it is amazing that a site like HelloPeter thrives - bringing democracy and accountability into the corporate sphere, and teaching companies what they should have known all along - that the humble customer is always right. - firstname.lastname@example.org