Customers are a hidden source of product specialists that corporations have been slow to tap. They usually become very knowledgeable about products they love and can often solve problems an understaffed support department doesn’t have the resources or will to solve (e.g. how to unlock an iPhone). It’s no wonder crowdsourcing your customers has become a popular and lucrative business – just see our recent coverage of PowerReviews and Bazaarvoice).
Satisfaction Unlimited is another one of the companies tapping this knowledge base by helping young companies crowdsource their support amongst their customers. They’re doing it through a network of corporate discussion boards that let customers ask questions, propose ideas, submit problems, or just chat. Satisfaction is currently powering online support for a couple notable properties (Twitter, Pownce, Slideshare) and is now opening up a public beta to even more companies. They’ve also just raised a $1.3 million round from First Round Capital, O’Reilly Alphatech Ventures, Jeff Clavier, Adaptive Path, Mike Brown, and Jason Schultz.
Satisfaction’s network consists of AJAXy bulletin boards for over 200 companies. Not all of them are “owned” by the companies they represent, but rather spots for consumers to meet each other and mull over their latest issues. The open beta will let companies come in and claim these boards so they can moderate the forum and connect with their customers.
Having a network of these help boards provides an advantage to setting up your own board since the network comes with an existing user base. Tangler’s forums system also has this advantage.
The boards themselves are very similar to Jive’s entry-level product, their enterprise knowledge base. Users can create profiles and make posts to the board. Corporate mods can surf the board to moderate and answer questions. You can also search for and follow different conversation threads by email and RSS as they unfold. While Jive offers a significant number of extra upgrades to their system, Satisfaction fits the bill for smaller businesses.