Enter UserVoice. The web application adds a discussion forum to any website that allows a site’s visitors, essentially a company’s customers, to provide feedback, ask questions, suggest improvements and even vote on preexisting items.
UserVoice started in 2008 as the brainchild of proud parents Richard White and Scott Rutherford, the co-founders of the company.
White’s frustration at not being able to understand his customers spurred his creation of UserVoice and what it is today.
“While working on Kiko.com, Richard was consumed by collecting customer feedback. He wanted to know what people thought of the product,” said Rutherford of his coworker. “But it involved hours combing through countless forum threads, blog comments and emails and resulted with little to show for his efforts.”
Big-time clients like StackOverflow and PhotoBucket helped to bring clients to UserVoice (now with over 73,000 companies using it), but it’s their easy-to-understand mission that keeps them successful: “An online forum structured around users providing actionable ideas on how to improve the product,” as was the first of White’s bullet points of ideas for the product he wanted to create before building UserVoice.
While mobile app-makers have feedback sources like the Android Market reviews or the MoFoxy program, websites lacked the ability to get solid reviews of their companies and contact with their users.
Ratings websites in the past few years like Yelp and TripAdvisor made it easy for customers to voice opinions about companies, but there is little dialogue associated with those services. On top of that, user discussion outside of a company on ratings sites and on social networks makes branding less important.
When you can give a five-star rating to the Starbucks down the street and a two-star rating to the Starbucks across town, the idea of a unified company image loses its online impact. And since the whole world is online, that impact translates to real life. But UserVoice brings a discussion to the company where it can be overseen, replied to and acted upon.
AppAppeal gave UserVoice five out of five stars and said “No matter how inexperienced the Internet user may be, they can easily understand how UserVoice works,” citing a clean design and streamlined communication approach.
That approach mirrors the idea of companies having customer service Twitter accounts where users can get fast, employee-generated (versus pre-recorded robot-generated) information.
While UserVoice isn’t itself socially based, they allow syndication across social network platforms by the companies who use it, bringing a social discussion about a company to a social media arena.
“Providing a place early on for your customers to leave you feedback is an incredibly powerful tool,” said Rutherford.
“UserVoice helps businesses make their customers happy.”