Last Friday I had a chance to catch up with some old friends. I first met Rich Hanks and John Sperry when they were the management team for MyAssociation.com (later BlueStep). I also served on the Board of Directors for UITA with Rich. I have a lot of respect for the way Rich and John can build a Web-based product that works and scales. They've got a new gig now and it seems that they've applied all the lessons from their past to create a very interesting business.
Their company, MindShare provides customer survey data to companies in various verticals including hotels, restaurants, retail, and personal service. But there's an Internet twist.
If you were to just go out and create a customer survey system, you might buy an IVR system and have people call into it and complete the survey. If you were to apply the power of the Internet to the task, you'd use VoiceXML and build a whole Web-based back end that not only provisions customers automatically, but also provides each person in the chain of authority permission-based dashboards that show real-time, continuous information about how individual service personnel are performing. That's what MindShare did.
Real-time, continuous monitoring and reporting isn't about market research, its about operations. Getting that kind of feedback on individual servers let's managers solve individual problems and increase customer service levels. Statistical sampling can't solve this problem. Continuous monitoring and real-time reporting allows managers to do service lapse recovery as soon as problems occur because managers can easily find and call back unhappy customers.
MindShare has an impressive customer list, which they made me promise not to reveal and they're doing well. I think its a great example of how the Web gives something old new life and makes it useful in ways it couldn't be before.