Satisfaction is smart, crowd-sourced support
Coming soon: Satisfaction, a better way to connect with users for product support
I'm all over this one. Because most product support and service just stinks. On everything from washing machines to software, the experience you're going to get from a company is highly variable. You might get a dolt reading from a script. You might get the engineer who built the thing. And you might wait on hold for 45 minutes before you get anyone. That's why customers have been flocking to the Web for support from each other. But customer-to-customer support could be better, too. Web forums, the typical venue for user-to-user support, aren't as easy to use as they could be. Messages and topics get lost, know-it-alls dominate some discussions, and newbie users often have to be up on the concept of forums to take advantage of them to begin with.
Satisfaction is taking a swipe at this problem. Check out getsatisfaction.com/Pownce for an active example of the system applied to Pownce (or go here for more companies). You can see that search is front and center. Also, topics are broken out into questions, ideas, and problems.
Users can rate replies, add their own, and subscribe to discussions (although for the a general audience there should be an easier way to sign up to receive updates on a topic). You also rate responses by "how it makes you feel," which is an interesting new take on ranking user-generated content. The "satisfactometer" will be used to surface the best comments and users, I gather, although there are also ways to more simply flag posts as "useful."
And this is very nice: users get their own "dashboard" that tracks their topics across companies. So, assuming Satisfaction takes off, we'll be able to keep up with our user-to-user conversations in one place, instead of trying to follow discussions on multiple services (with multiple log-ins and user interfaces). That's important, because Satisfaction is for more than just problem solving, and people might use the service more frequently than they do today's troubleshooting-based forums. Satisfaction has made a good place to discuss broader issues around a product, and, I can imagine, to talk with product managers and designers and engineers who could probably use a better way to connect with users.
While the service is still being built, it's already clear that Satisfaction does a better job of building a town square around a product or company than most other company-sponsored forums do. The design is approachable, and the social tools on the site make sense. It feels more like a site for users than for the companies who make the products, which, of course, is better for the customers and the companies.
Satisfaction reps told me they are "quietly testing the service" now, which means don't be surprised if the servers collapse while they are scaling up the business.