The 2009 CRM Service Awards: Rising Stars -- Get Satisfaction: Socializing Your Service

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Get Satisfaction is perpetually the monkey in the middle—which is perfect, as far as the company’s concerned. An online destination for consumers, the Web site not only offers a soapbox for asking company-specific questions but provides a means for getting answers, as well—from peers and from representatives of that company. Consider Get Satisfaction’s own mission statement, posted on its site: “By putting all of these conversations in one place—and holding nothing back—we’ve created a new way to not just handle customer service, but to explore all the things we collectively love and hate about our favorite products and services, and the companies that offer them.”

The site, formed in early 2007 by Thor Muller, Amy Muller, and Lane Becker, calls what it provides “people-powered customer service,” but really it’s more of an intermediary between people and a company—either side of which can establish a forum for feedback. Get Satisfaction provides organizations a unique opportunity—to sit back and watch the conversation unfold or to get involved and participate. Either way, the conversation is happening.

“The truly disruptive force is the power behind this,” says Chris Townsend, a Forrester analyst who researches innovative technologies. “They’ve applied a Web 2.0, crowdsourcing style of design…and applied it to customer service. That’s really exciting—taking the wisdom of the crowds and funneling it through Web 2.0 design is massively disruptive in how business can operate.” Townsend notes that there are a bunch of services similar to Get Satisfaction now permeating the Web. Get Satisfaction, however, seems to be out in front, attracting recognition from such A-level brands as Apple, Whole Foods, Zappos.com, and Twitter. (Employees from each of those companies frequent the Get Satisfaction forums.) “This trend of taking the functions of business and putting them on a Web backbone and inviting people in…is really powerful,” Townsend says. “And it’s scalable.”

The community forum is free for all, so the Get Satisfaction team began monetizing its success by offering customized widgets for corporate Web sites as well as branded Get Satisfaction portals. Townsend says that, in the current economic climate, a free site such as Get Satisfaction is a good option for organizations looking to dip a toe in social customer service efforts. He warns that, although the Web site is to some degree a peer-to-peer customer service solution, an enterprise would be wise to participate. Get Satisfaction has certainly got the consumers on its side—and it appears that enterprises are crawling their way over, too.

In February, Get Satisfaction appointed Wendy Lea, a former Siebel Systems executive and angel investor, as its chief executive. (Former CEO and cofounder Thor Muller now reigns as chief technology officer.) Lea seems to understand the company’s need to become more than a consumer-facing site, and to begin scratching the surface with enterprises. The trick, she says, is finding the right feature set and price point to cater to each end of the equation: a solid set of self-service customers and what she calls the “high-end, professional” ones. “It’s more about integration with their own sites and with CRM systems and with community systems that they have already purchased,” she says. “They want us on the front end to create communities and push feedback through their customer service solution sets.”

Lea admits there’s real work to be done, but says Get Satisfaction’s value proposition—lower costs and deeper customer engagement—has generated a lot of excitement. The site is remaking the very nature of customer service, and is sending corporations a message: You already knew the conversation was happening—but the online world has been boundless, and boundaryless. Now, at least, you know where it’s happening. Are you ready to come inside?  —Lauren McKay

• CEO: Wendy Lea
• Founded: January 2007 (Product launched in September 2007)
• Headquarters: San Francisco
• Revenue: Not disclosed
• Employees: 12
• Customer Count: 6,500 companies including Microsoft, British Telecom, and Zappos.com

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