Under the Radar: Apps that say, 'The customer is always right'

These four Web 2.0 start-ups are capitalizing off this mantra: The customer is always right.

The Rolling Stones were wrong. Sometimes you can get satisfaction. These four companies, presented at Under the Radar, offer Web apps for users to get, ask for, and give feedback better.

FeedbackFX

FeedbackFX puts a spin on the usual way people provide feedback to businesses--usually via e-mail, online or paper forms, or in-person focus groups. The screen shots in the demo show FeedbackFX as a slick media player, and gives users a lot more wiggle room to review multimedia content like video and designs directly on the media itself, in the exact location under review. This saves time writing up detailed descriptions that clarify exactly how and where the commenter thinks Thing X needs changing.

The company is quickly establishing partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, and is already working with WebEx to deliver feedback for webinars. The product also extrapolates to document reviews, PowerPoint presentations, and so on. You won't hear much about the product on the market, since FeedbackFX will mostly be selling solutions for other businesses to brand as their own.

GetSatisfaction bends the power of crowd-sourcing to customer support in a forum for reporting problems and offering solutions. We at CNET think it's a great idea (see previous coverage here and here,) especially the collaboration vibe. Users ask questions, reply, and rate other peoples' replies. "We make it easy for the companies to get involved," said Lane Becker, Get Satisfaction's President. "Ridiculously easy." Company representatives can jump onto the focused forum in real-time to give their customers better service than the tinny and antiseptic experience of most customer service calls.

What customers can do in on GetSatisfaction.com

It's also a great system for companies to answer a question once and to tap into a community of customers who are helping each other and sharing open dialog. The service's biggest plus? There's no annoying hold music.

HiveLive

Imagine if Facebook hadn't been built by Facebook. What if Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster all created the skeleton for their community by clicking boxes from the same Web site? HiveLive is doing something just that, acting as the conduit between a corporation and its cheery community network. HiveLive's platform lets companies choose the components of their sites, including setting permissions and facilitating online events like a mashup exchange or voting.

It's a good idea, the judges echoed, but not unique. Jive Software and Ning (video) one of the five or six other enterprise software solutions referenced in the space.

SupportSpace

"Geek Squad is a stone-age call center with a Web site," said Yair Grindlinger, whose tech support network SupportSpace (see previous coverage,) brings together working technicians ("independent experts") with people who need their help. Search is a main feature on the site, as are Yelp-like features for leaving comments and reviews, and bookmarking favorite techs. Live tech support is a big draw for users, as is the pricing structure, paid either by the minute or by session. Keep in mind that users won't be paying for time spent in lengthy queues.

Like the judges, I'm a little wary of the undefined certification process that the techs (mostly college grads and moms who need flexible work schedules, said Grindlinger) go through before they can collect cash and remote-access into your computer, but user ratings help mitigate dodgy agents. That gives rise to the other problem--how to keep a service like this keep from becoming a Digg-like popularity play, where the techs who succeed are those who have already succeeded.

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About the author

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.

 

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