Obtaining and acting upon customer feedback is a tricky task. After all, there’s the struggle to get users to respond in the first place. Next comes the question of what to actually do with customer suggestions, comments, and complaints once the data is within the company’s grasp. More often than not, customer feedback ends up in the great abyss of untapped data and remains a valuable, yet prickly hassle. Developers of CrowdSound, a new product by startup company Intridea, are making strides toward an easier customer feedback model, one based on the notion of crowdsourcing.
CrowdSound -- essentially a customer survey widget -- can be placed on just about any Web page, enabling visitors to submit feedback without navigating away from the site. Users can also rank or vote upon favorite suggestions, providing the company with Digg-like popularity results.
With a subscription price of just $10 per month, the CrowdSound widget is designed to unite customer service and customer demand, according to the company -- and the tool also provides back-end functions: "It combines market research and wikis and Web 2.0 in a different way," says Dana Garner, principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions.
The timing couldn't be better for delving into Web 2.0 tools: According to Service & Support Professionals Association’s (SSPA) recent 2008 Member Technology Survey, Web 2.0 dominated technology discussions over the last year. The SSPA study shows that, among companies making investments, discussion forums showed a sharp increase in adoption, from 36 percent in 2007 to 49 percent in 2008. Those surveyed also revealed a strong interest in wikis, with 25 percent saying they're now using the Web 2.0 collaborative knowledge-sharing technology.
Dave Naffis, founder and director of product development for Intridea, refers to his company as a "startup in a box" -- and says that CrowdSound, based on the Ruby on Rails programming platform and hosted on Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services, is part of a larger Intridea family of enterprise social applications. "We have all the components you need to take an idea and turn it into a product," he says. "We are all about enterprise collaboration."
Other Intridea solutions include:
- SocialSpring, a highly customizable, white-label social networking solution;
- MediaPlug, a storage and management application for rich media; and
- Scalr, software for creating self-scaling server farms that can support the high-capacity demands of rich media and social networking.
"I think the notion of a ‘startup-in-a-box’ is compelling," Gardner says. "There are a lot of folks that have ideas of creating services or business models, but they may not have the expertise, and they may not have the moving parts to set up the application to deliver.... Part of the whole agile-iteration-and-services approach is to keep itin small, bite-size chunks to keep with the fashion. Itfits the market and what the developers are [looking for]." TheCrowdSound widget, he says, although seemingly simple, can provide value tocustomer relationships and product development.
Intridea founders say that what’s at the core of the social networking product and the CrowdSound tool is the intended interaction between people and ideas. With what Naffis calls "garage-shop mentality," the company develops tools, incubates them, and passes them along, hoping for strategic partnerships along the way. "[CrowdSound] gives the impression that the company cares about what [customers] want to see based on that feedback," Naffis says. "There’s increased customer [participation]."
With traditional Web-based fill-in forms, he says, the information tends not to be directly integrated into the underlying site. "I don’t think that’s as effective as this widget approach," he says.