We all know how the famous song about Satisfaction, and as consumers, we all sometimes find ourselves searching for anybody who will listen to our problem, hoping to get some satisfaction with a product or service. Satisfaction (the web site) is hoping to provide some satisfaction to consumers with its recently unveiled web service, and its best to start by letting them explain what it is:
"Satisfaction is a people-powered customer service for everything. It’s a Web service that uses "community-sourcing" to provide better support for products and services, with or without company involvement. Satisfaction’s open discussion-based system allows companies, their customers and partners to work together to answer questions, identify problems and bugs, share great ideas for how to make products better, and connect in unexpected ways."
Simplifying a bit, Satisfaction provides a one-stop-shop for customer support. The twist isn’t necessarily that support is provided by other users, that’s been done for years in online forums, but with Satisfaction, a company or company representative need not even show up, users can help each other out all they want, like Satisfaction says, with or without the company.
Satisfaction - User powered customer service
When first arriving at Satisfaction you’ll notice that this is definitely not your typical online forum. Large logos representing the over 400 products from nearly 500 companies immediately spark your interest in finding out what this site is all about. As usual, the first step is to register on the site. Satisfaction tries to make this easy with just a few fields to fill out and adds a nice touch by providing a way to import profile information from other sites you may already use including Flickr, Twitter, Last.fm, and Technorati.
For customers, once signed up, you can start by browsing through the companies or searching for a specific one. You’ll see how many topics have been added, how many users are participating in that particular forum, and how fresh it is by seeing when the last activity was. If the company you’re searching for is not on the site yet, you can add it yourself. Once that company is located you can start a thread by asking a question, reporting a bug, sharing an idea or just talking. In most online forums, these different types of threads are separated off into specific, structured area, while in Satisfaction they’re all merged together, but are clearly separated visually. Also, Satisfaction makes liberal use of tags to indicate what the thread topic is about, another alternative to the regimented forum. If you find a helpful post or reply, you can give it a star. The replies with stars are highlighted in the thread.
Apple Support Forum Screenshot
For companies, Satisfaction provides a nicely designed, easy to use, hosted, and free support solution. There is a wide range of companies with a presence already, from Apple to Timbuk2. As a company, once you register with the site, you can add your company and easily add any products that you want to call out specifically. Then go through a simple process of verifying you belong to the company in order to claim your company. After claiming your company you have a couple of additional tools at your disposal, adding additional employee representatives and the ability to put a Satisfaction widget on your own web site. When responding or posting, a company representative stamp will be put on the post to make it clear this is an official response.
Where most new Web 2.0 communities run into trouble is reaching a critical mass of users in order for their service to truly become useful. This is the classic chicken and the egg problem. Satisfaction certainly has that problem too. But, they have a compelling solution to this by encouraging small businesses, which are not able to spend the time or money creating their own user support forum, to utilize Satisfaction out of the box and encourage their customers to interact with them there. By providing a great tool for businesses, it will be easier to get users into the site, and then once they see that they can get help with anything, they may just stick around. Tangler is a competing universal support platform, but it depends on a company signing up for it. Satisfaction provides more flexibility in its "anybody can add a company" approach.
Another challenge that we think Satisfaction faces is the different experiences between larger company forums and those for smaller companies. The smaller companies more commonly have a company representative active in discussions; it’s much rarer among the larger companies. In order to keep the forums going for the larger companies, it will be important to highlight heavily the "experts" on that company that become almost a pseudo company representative by consistently helping other users.
There are a couple of reasons why we like Satisfaction. First, no longer does a customer need to go to each and every company’s support forum (if they have one), suffering through the registration, or password retrieval process before finally being able to ask a question. Experiences differ greatly on existing support offerings, and Satisfaction can provide a consistent experience, no matter the topic you want to discuss. Having a universal support platform will be tremendously useful to users. No more learning each company’s system for every product you want to get support on. Second, by offering a useful platform for companies to provide online support, small businesses can save a lot of money and work and bring more users into the community, making it stronger overall. Finally, we see this as a nice tool for shopping research too, no registration needed. You can search for competing products and see what kind of problems current users are already having and what kind of response they are getting, including how active the company is in discussions.
With any new web service, there are usually problems or at least improvements to be made. We thought the site was pretty slow most of the time, at times taking over 30 seconds to load pages (at least while we were using it). That will improve with time I’m sure. Also, it would be nice to have top contributors more clearly defined in discussion threads. While you can follow a particular user’s discussions and see which posts have been starred, we would like to see those top users stand out more so there voices can be clear, much in the way that a company representative is clearly defined.
• Simple, intuitive interface
• Universal support platform
• Great tool for small businesses to jump start their support initiatives
• Often times slow
• Difficult to tell which users are more expert than others
• Many forums pretty lightly trafficked or stale