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Websites - Great Customer Service?

Yesterday a friend of mine directed me to a web site that I was not familiar with, getsatisfaction.com. Its an interesting idea. The company is offering a Web 2.0 customer service solution for everyone/anyone about any product or service while at the same time its pitching the on-demand platform to companies for use on their own web sites.

In the words of the company itself, Get Satisfaction is a community that helps people to get the most from the products they use, and where companies are encouraged to get real with their customers.

Heres what Fast Company recently had to say about getsatisfaction.com in an article entitled, Does a New Website Hold the Secret to Great Customer Service?:

Can online networking deliver us from the evil of bad customer service? Thor Muller is betting that people-powered customer service will trump outsourcing and the impersonal call center.

Muller is CEO and co-founder of getsatisfaction.com, a user-driven customer service community. Launched in September, 2007, the site provides forums where customers discuss problems with products and services of 2,500 companies from Apple to Zappos whether the company participates or not. So far, the site has drawn more than a million unique visitors.

The article goes on to discuss with Muller why customer service is the new marketing, why you should bring edge users into the core of your business, and how a company you might expect to get it (Facebook) and one you might not (Comcast) are taking very different approaches.

An article in the New York Times, On the Internet, Everyone Can Hear You Complain, noted

The Internet is rife with sounding boards for the disgruntled, who have their choice of blogs, sound-off sites like Yelp and Epinions, and dedicated customer service sites like Get Satisfaction, PlanetFeedback and Complaints.com.

All this venting can bring about some productive results happier customers, resolved disputes but it remains to be seen whether the sites that serve as intermediaries can actually turn a decent profit.

Complaints.com and PlanetFeedback make money from advertisements; the founder of PlanetFeedback, Pete Blackshaw, said in an interview that he made little money from the site but ran it mainly as a hobby. Matthew Smith, the founder of Complaints.com, said his site was profitable, but would not offer specifics.

Get Satisfaction, which is backed by venture capital and aims one day to be financially stable, has little if any revenue and has not decided if it will sell ads; rather, its goal is to persuade companies to buy the software it has developed. The software helps companies communicate with customers. It also organizes data about the people talking about their products and what they are saying.

For now, companies that want to use Get Satisfaction can grab a free application, or widget, from its Web site and put it on their own sites. The software code in the widget then directs customers to the dialogue on Get Satisfaction. As with many start-ups, Get Satisfaction hopes to build an audience first and make money later.

The company asserts that the Internet can lead to better customer service dialogue if people make reasonable complaints, customers can help one another solve problems. It can also make companies more open to acknowledging their mistakes and to fixing them.

There are so many new social/community sites coming on line that its hard to keep up. Needless to say, like the first internet bubble, there will be many failures and a few big successes. I think its just too soon to tell the winners from the losers.


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