Get Satisfaction, a third-party customer service app/community, allows customers to offer feedback, make suggestions, get their questions answered, and generally get help with a product or service.

A good idea

Building support/community infrastructure is a pain point for a lot of companies. The help section, forums, FAQs, and whatever else you have to build to offer comprehensive customer support is a big undertaking. It’s often the last thing you want to do after you’ve just worked for months on a product or service.

So for those companies that would prefer to outsource this infrastructure to a third party, or use an alternative sanctioned support outlet in addition to their own, Get Satisfaction is a handy service.


But if you prefer to provide great support on your own site with your own forums and your own help section and your own feedback mechanisms and your own FAQs, well, Get Satisfaction doesn’t play fair.

If you fail to subscribe to Get Satisfaction’s way of doing things, Get Satisfaction suggests to your customers that you’re “not yet committed to an open conversation.” That’s unfair and unreasonable. Just because we don’t team up with Get Satisfaction it doesn’t mean we’re not committed to an open conversation.

They make something look official that is not official

A screenshot of the 37signals Get Satisfaction page…which we have nothing to do with.

That’s not the only shady area for Get Satisfaction. The site also hosts, without permission, company support pages for over 14,000 companies. They’ll use your logo, title the page “Customer service & support for [COMPANY NAME HERE]” and generally make it feel like an officially sanctioned place to get official support from the company in question. The problem: It’s not official at all. That’s misleading.

The heavy handed tactics used by Get Satisfaction seem to indicate that their long term plan is to own every company’s customer support experience – whether it has your permission or not. Google searches for “[COMPANY NAME] support” will end up linking people to a Get Satisfaction page. If that’s not the offical support home for that company, who winds up winning? It’s not the company. It’s not the customer. It’s really only in the best interest of Get Satisfaction.

They also have a certificate-like customer-company pact agreement that they’d like you to sign. And if you don’t, they’ll make an outlandish claim about your lack of commitment to your customers. Here’s an image they put on our company page on the Get Satisfaction site:

Can you believe that language? “37signals has not yet committed to open conversations about its products or services.” WHAT?! We haven’t committed to open conversations about our products or services because we haven’t signed Get Satisfaction’s pact on Get Satisfaction’s site which generates Get Satisfaction’s income? That’s awfully close to blackmail (or a shakedown or a mafioso protection scheme).

Get Satisfaction doesn’t get to decide what our pact is with our customers. We provide excellent, in-depth, one-on-one, customer service everyday. Suggesting one company is committed to customer service because it signed a third-party pact, and another company isn’t because it didn’t sign a pact, is a false, reductionist view of what it really means to care deeply about providing great support. And care deeply we do.

What’s open about it?

If Get Satisfaction believes in open converations, then it should open up and link to 37signals’ existing and extensive support site. If Get Satisfaction wants customers to get answers then why doesn’t the site link up our official customer support pages? Our help sections with illustrated how-to’s and video tutorials aren’t linked up. Our forums with thousands of posts and responses aren’t linked up. Our Twitter account isn’t linked up. Our billing questions form isn’t linked up.

We shouldn’t be forced to scour the internet finding sites that claim they are doing support for us when they’re not. It’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to customers to make something look like an official support site when it’s not. This should be entirely opt-in for a company and it’s not. In fact, it’s worse than that because if you don’t opt-in, they make negative claims about your company’s commitment to customers.

The implication here is that the only place to get support is on Get Satisfaction’s site. How is that a “commitment to open conversations”? Their brand of “open” means “only on Get Satisfaction.” It’s like saying we’re not committed to giving out ice cream just because we offer chocolate instead of vanilla. Trust me, we’re giving out plenty of ice cream every day.

At the very least they should allow companies with existing support infrastructure to claim their Get Satisfaction page and automatically and instantly redirect customers over to the official support site. Otherwise, they’re just setting everyone up for broken expectations. When customers see a “support site for 37signals” and an open text field, they’ll post their concerns and they’ll get pissed when they don’t hear back. I would be too! But that’s entirely unnecessary and actually harmful to the mission of getting customers the support they need. Again, the only true beneficiary is Get Satisfaction.

$1200/year to get rid of competitor’s ads

Lastly, if you don’t want your competitor’s ads showing up on your (un)official Get Satisfaction support page, that’ll cost you a minimum of $1200/year. As if the threatening language and false accusations weren’t enough, now there’s extortion too!

I recognize that conversations and questions are posted all over the web. And I recognize that it’s our job, as a company, to do the best we can to answer those questions wherever they may be. And we do our best. We comment on other people’s blogs. We respond on Twitter. We respond by email. But its ridiculous that Get Satisfaction shimmies itself into the middleman role and claim priority over our own customer support infrastructure. If we don’t play by their rules and sign their pacts, then they make declarations about our commitments to our customers. I don’t think that’s fair and I hope it changes.

In fact, here’s the pact I’d like to see from Get Satisfaction:

If a company decides not to use Get Satisfaction, Get Satisfaction will refrain from saying that company is “not committed to an open conversation” or anything along those lines.

Get Satisfaction will not give customers the false impression that a site is official by using a company’s logo, name, or anything else that makes the page look like an offical company offering.

Get Satisfaction will allow companies to provide links to their actual offical support offerings even if those are located somewhere besides the Get Satisfaction site.

Get Satisfaction will allow companies who prefer not to use Get Satisfaction, or decide to stop using Get Satisfaction, a way to instantly and automatically redirect to their own support site or support service provider.

We hope these changes come quickly.

Update: Comment thread contains responses from Thor Muller and Eric Suesz and Thor (again) of Get Satisfaction.