Build your own “IdeaStorm” with UserVoice

Embrace your Customers
At Forrester, we use the term Embracing as a social strategy where customers and employees work together using social tools to build next-generation products. Quite a change for the strong headed product manager, who now has to set the roadmap, while in collaboration with customers.

Popular Examples: Dell and Starbucks

We’re all familiar with the popular Dell “Idea Storm” website that let customers vote for which features and products they wanted to be bore to the marketplace. In Dell’s case, the linux community asked for a UBUNTU box, which was created and launched and sold. I wish I was a fly on the wall when Dell’s strategic partners at Microsoft found out about this.

Recently, Starbucks has launched My Starbucks Ideas, where customers are voting for improved services or products in each of the stores. Looking at the site, the request for free wireless or ‘punchcards’ for frequent customers is under consideration or has been improved.

Both powered by SalesForce
Both of these sites are powered by Salesforce’s product, Ideas. Move on over, there’s a new player in town called UserVoice that offers the same features right on their site.

UserVoice, a new kid on the block
I’ve played around with UserVoice and even created a version for my own Web Strategy blog, the simple features made it easy to setup and let others submit ideas. I’ve not stress tested this service to see if it can withstand enterprise activity like SalesForce can, but it’s a nod to a common feature (voting) that we should start to expect to see in white label social networks. (in fact, I know of a few that are going to launch this)

Reporting, Query features, and easy to setup
Other UserVoice features to include Google Analytics, and the ability to collect demographic information and let owners know of suggestions. Owners of voting sites can also segment their customers by different purchasing sizes, in order to help prioritize. Also, polling features will help to put color around suggestions from users, and other conduits to improve the connectivity between employees and customers.

For example, I created this own Web Strategy UserVoice page where you can go and make suggestions on how I can improve this website.

If you’re a small company or individual blogger, or run a niche product, I encourage you to try out UserVoice, test to see how it scales, and come back and leave comments on your experience on this post. If you’re from a large company that has thousands or millions of customers, start with SalesForce and also trial UserVoice. Anyone that wants a fully custom user experience should start with SalesForce.

Update: I’ve received some tweets and comments also suggesting IdeaScale (which I think is the same as this product of the same name), I’ve not looked at it, please leave a comment if you’ve a review. Also, passionate CEO Matt from BrightIdea left a comment about his enterprise class competitor to SalesForce, I look forward to a formal Forrester briefing from him, let’s take a closer look at this growing segment.

What to Expect
UserVoice would make for a good partner for any of those white label social networks, and could even be an acquisition target for a vendor that’s not up to speed in this emerging feature set.

Expect other White Label Social Networking vendors to offer this feature, soon it will be on the ‘checklist’, of features. Customer voting? “Yup we got that.”

They aren’t the only ones to watch, Get Satisfaction, a support site for any product, anywhere, (no reason to go to that irrelvant corporate website) has launched, and customers are self-supporting each other, and some savvy companies have their employees there participating. Without surprise, I’m there representing Forrester, although there’s been no activity. Satisfaction is still very startup focused, I hope to see some Fortune 1000 companies appear on their site.

Lastly, UserVoice itself is, “eating their own dog food” so to speak, using their own service to improve their product, there’s already a small flurry of votes happening.