Start-up lets sites track user karma

With ratings systems on eBay and Amazon contributing to those sites' growth, iKarma wants to let any Web site follow suit.

Propelled by the idea that user rating systems like those on eBay and Amazon.com can benefit all businesses, a Florida start-up has launched a reputation management service that any Web site can use.

Jupiter, Fla.-based iKarma's new service allows any Web site owner to add user, reader or customer-created ratings to their site. That, said iKarma CEO Paul Williams, can significantly increase business.

"People (on eBay) with an established reputation, as opposed to those without a reputation, made 20 percent more sales with an average of 10 percent higher cost," Williams said. "We want businesses to be proactive about their reputation. You've got thousands of happy customers. Don't wait for the one unhappy customer."

For now, iKarma is just getting started and must establish its own reputation for providing customers with a service they find useful. And Williams admits that without a critical mass of users, the system is less than 100 percent useful.

But when enough users are visiting sites and leaving ratings for businesses they've dealt with, he explained, it will make both iKarma's system and its customers' sites more powerful.

The idea boils down to letting any Web site user leave a rating for any transaction or interaction they've had with the site or business. But because reputation is so important, iKarma also allows site owners to challenge bad ratings. If the person leaving the rating disagrees with the challenge, the bad rating is hidden for 10 days while the two parties work it out, Williams said.

The system also allows companies to take what it calls a "karmic reboot" and offset bad ratings by donating money to charity.

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