Feedback Portal Debuts Letter-Writing Feature

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Feedback Direct Inc. will launch a letter-writing engine and a personalized customer service mailbox on March 7 to enable consumers to communicate with a roster of companies from its Web site, Feedbackdirect.com.


Collected over time, such information will allow Feedback Direct to offer consumers close snapshots of companies together with their consumer ratings. It hopes this data will help companies change customer service from a cost center to a probable profit center.


"Customer service seems to be getting worse, yet customer expectations are getting higher," said Thatcher Wine, president/CEO of Feedback Direct Inc. "Our strategy is to create a standard set of applications that businesses can use to communicate with their customers and put a friendly face on the customer-facing side of online customer service."


The launch of this self-styled customer service portal's feedback feature comes three weeks after rival PlanetFeedback.com released a similar offering that aims to generate 1 million letters of complaint and praise in the first year. Other competition in the field includes eComplaints.com and uGripe.


Feedback Direct's letter-writing feature will be added to the site's Orange Pages, a Yellow Pages-like directory listing customer-service contact information of businesses. Introduced in November, the Orange Pages will now let consumers send e-mail messages to listed companies in a standard format that is easy to respond to.


For example, if a consumer wants to return a product bought from a certain online retailer, he can go to Feedbackdirect.com's Orange Pages, search for that retailer and choose the "Submit a Question About a Return" form.


"We ask the questions the retailer needs to know to respond to the customer quickly," Wine said. "We also route the e-mail to that company's returns department."


The service is free to consumers, he said. But companies that want to customize and incorporate such feedback functionality on their respective Web sites will be charged for the application. The company is beta-testing retail clients whose names Wine wouldn't disclose.


Feedback Direct, Santa Monica, CA, offers consumers a free service that allows them to reach a multitude of businesses. And for retailers, the site's directory is a platform that routes consumer feedback to the right channels.


Wine said this year Feedback Direct will spend more than $2 million to work with companies to promote the letter-writing application to their users and market the service to consumers at various points in the post-purchase cycle.


On its site, Feedback Direct has rated companies' customer service in a list called the Feedback 50, which rates only for good service. Based on the list, Amazon.com, eve.com, llbean.com, 800.com, eHobbies.com and Fogdog.com were regarded highly by consumers. Once enough data is in, the company will list the names that didn't make the cut.


"The combination of customers abandoning shopping carts and those switching loyalties adds up to billions," Wine said. "On the Internet, small companies can look big, but all companies with bad service have nowhere to hide. Competitors are always one click away."
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