IT Addict, "High Tech made Simple" / This blog has moved to www.jeremyfain.net

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Entrepreneurial brainstorming session N.1: WikustomerService.com

The domain name Wikustomerservice.com is still available and I don´t understand why.
Well I guess you get from the very name of the website what it´s all about - good, that means the name´s well chosen. I've been thinking about such a service since I discovered Wikipedia, quite a while ago. It might already exist, but I haven´t seen such a thing so far. Still don´t get the picture?

Wikustomerservice.com is an Internet wiki platform empowering users of all products of all brands to build their own customer service. Basically, the venture would need to convince potential clients, namely key accounts, to 'outsource' their customer service to their..customers! Employees specializing in certain business areas would be moderators in their fields, and companies would save millions in documentation and customer support service fees (such key accounts should keep their traditional customer service on the phone though; but why not also through being allowed to Skype the relevant moderator?). The wiki platform should be devised to enable a congregation of as many companies as possible, as well as brands, products, versions into a single graphic chart customable at the client´ convenience. The classifications & categorization may be inspired from, for instance, Wikipedia.

There you go. I'm not elaborating more on this business idea to let our creativity work a little bit. Wikustomerservice.com would´ve been helpful when Dell laptops burst, when Apple laptops burnt, when Smart cars & Class A Mercedes flipped over. Customers are more often than we think more reactive than product manufacturers themselves - a rather logical stance since customers are the ones that actually use the products.

12 Comments:

  • Hey Jeremy,

    I really think this is a very smart idea, not so much suprised it comes from you. This follows perfectly well also the 2.0 trend, letting users do the job.

    What business model should you recommend? I can think of two mostly: ads (Google adsense could do the job or similar), or having the companies pay to be referenced (problem is you can't forbid a user to talk about a brand just because the company hasn't registered, too narrow for your business). Not to mention both of course (not to mention as well there is no way to have the users pay here since they're delivering the content).

    The companies of course would be the big winners here (a good reason to have them pay), on 2 points: cost reduction, and better customer satisfaction because once again to quote Jeff Bezos when he launched that follow-your-order yourself-service, he realized customers were better satisfied when they were themselves the service!

    By Anonymous hadrien, at 8/09/2006 10:42:00 AM  

  • one more business idea very close to this one but mainly focused on the "pre-sale" phase.

    it would be a "digg for products". besed on a secured platform, it would allow to companies, large or not, to test their ideas of new products and get comments.

    one example: customer-side:

    i mark products ideas, prototypes... and i get fees, free samples, fre preview ...

    the system would be based on the idea of ranking the "different pré-products"...

    companies wold pay for that service. and could be more relevant that their market surveys. don't you think?

    it may allready exist... but maybe not closely based on digg .

    By Blogger gandonfrancoisalbert, at 8/09/2006 11:39:00 AM  

  • Jeremy, can you explain why did you change the picture ?

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/09/2006 12:15:00 PM  

  • Hadrien> If you don´t mind, I´ll answer the business model question later on, after we´ll have had some more input from readers.

    François-Albert> Don´t would think this would raise some competitive intelligence issues here? Companies don´t want their innovation pipelines to be displayed online.

    Cédric> Because the new one is funny & relevant, and I thought the former one, though interesting, was boring.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/09/2006 12:22:00 PM  

  • no problem if it is based on a secured paltform... (SSL and so on)

    results won't be sold to third parts. off course.

    it is an "online and outsourced products brainstorming/testing service"...

    By Blogger gandonfrancoisalbert, at 8/09/2006 03:53:00 PM  

  • you gave me an idea of diversification of one little french start-up...i send you my ""strategic suvey"" right now.

    By Blogger gandonfrancoisalbert, at 8/09/2006 03:55:00 PM  

  • Jeremy, I'd recommend you to read Nick Carr's excellent blog, Rough type. He has a good, critical view on current IT hypes and what not from journalistic and business angle. He touched on similar stuff a little while ago, for example in http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/07/dells_unorthodo.php and often talks about shortcomings of Wikipedia. You might even be interested in his book.
    Anyway, I think this is already happening, be it blog, wiki or forums (which I think is the better format for user-to-user customer service than wiki), with some companies. Of course a central repository would be nice, but the problem, as with digg and wikipedia, is that only a small fraction will input and most of the users will just read the site without contributing.
    A good idea, and I think that someone could make something out of it, with proper scoping and refining. I have big doubts on today's "adsense-supported" business models. It failed many companies in the previous bubble.

    By Blogger Kari, at 8/09/2006 08:01:00 PM  

  • Kari,

    As usual, you bring a lot to the conversation. It´s always good to have a real IT professional in the conversation.

    - I read a lot of Nicholas Carr´s stuff: his blog but his Harvard Business Review articles too (amongst them the famous "IT doesn´t matter"). Thanks for recommending the book, but I have such a big reading list and low budget that I´ll keep the piece of advice dig in my mind for the moment.

    - This is where you add value Kari. Here´s what I found on Carr´s blog:

    ---------------------------------
    What if Dell tapped its user base for a support wiki and amazing ‘shared experience search engine’? I gotta believe a lot of what makes Dell users unhappy are things that other Dell users know how to solve. If the company centrally delivered the infrastructure to support it, user-generated content may be able to turn around a lot of this mess fairly quickly.

    Posted by: Craig Danuloff [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2006 11:57 AM
    ---------------------------------

    This was a comment posted at this address:
    http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/07/when_direct_bec.php

    My idea is "en vogue". But an idea´s worth peanuts until someone implements it successfully.

    - About the business model thing: I see you´re answering Hadrien in a pretty bold way. As I said before, I prefer not to intervene in this discussion as of now. I´m waiting for more input from readers. If such inputs never come, well, I´ll just post nothing!

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/09/2006 08:58:00 PM  

  • Just a little comment because you talked about hypes so I invit you to show at the new gartner hype cycle. I just post something about it (in French) : http://cedricgiorgi.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/08/09/the-gartner-hype-cycle-2006-for-emerging-technologies.html

    By Anonymous Cedric, at 8/09/2006 09:17:00 PM  

  • Jeremy, now that I read your idea again, I found my favourite omission. You're trying to fix a problem, but fail to identify the exact problem in your post. This kind of techno-deternimism is dangerous for a start-up, because it reminds me of old saying "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".
    Is the problem "Customer service is expensive, let's crowdsource it."?
    I'd doubt that Wikicustomerservice would've been helpful in the cases you mention, because as we all know, people have a tendency to write unwarranted rumors. That's the last thing the companies want. After the super-hot iBooks, the net has been full of voodoo tips and other warranty-voiding craziness how to fix it (f.e. the egg-making post you wrote about).
    Some other problems were well written in Nick Carr's latest commentary on IBM's research paper on mashups and data integrity.

    By Blogger Kari, at 8/10/2006 07:49:00 AM  

  • Kari,

    The problem is not "customer service is too expensive" (cost savings are a consequence, not a cause of WikustomerService). The problem actually is that very few customer services are quality customer services, or when these are not too bad, you get to be able to speak with them after a 45 minutes waiting time on a .25$/minute call.
    Some lead customers know everything about their products much faster than employees of the manufacturing company. The idea was intended to fit this discrepancy: a user-generated content WikustomerService, moderated by employees of the related corporation to avoid rumours, is the answer to the opportunity I spotted to revolutionize online customer service.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/10/2006 09:22:00 AM  

  • Business model: the answer

    I´ve thoroughly studied all monetization options.

    Ads is not an option. Very few websites derive significant revenues from advertising, and I don´t think the visual comfort would benefit from having banners and AdWords included since I see the site in a very basic form: a sort of Craigslist-Wikipedia mix.

    As Hadrien almost pointed out, the idea would be to have companies pay, not at referencing (it´s a Wiki system so anybody should be allowed to do so), but at taking control of what´s being said. A company doesn´t pay for anything unless it wants its own moderators to take part of the game. Manufacturers would then pay for each product they sell they´d like to see monitored by one of their employees.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/15/2006 02:25:00 PM  

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