Several years ago, Google developed a simple concept called AdSense. You sign up, a robot approves your site, and pretty soon you are making millions from the ads you display next to the outstanding content you create. What Google didn’t consider at the time (IMHO) was the customer service mess they were creating. Tons of ads on a myriad of platforms, placed there by a multitude of folks that may be less than technology savvy. I can’t remember having any deadly problems with AdSense or most any other Google service, but I’ve heard the horror stories. You inquire about an issue and receive an automated response. Generally, it is dumbed down below solution level. You reply to that response, and receive another inadequate recommendation obviously pulled from an unknowledgeable knowledge base. You ask a more difficult question, and the discussion magically (and abruptly) ends. It is a testament to the unimportance of the “little guy,” but it is something a now ubiquitous publicly traded organization full of geniuses should have thought about anyway.
The service is, for the most part, seamless and simple. Any joker can sign up and enter the URL of their feed, hence creating a new feed which they can then load with clickable goodies and view readership statistics on. Kind of like AdSense, but that’s about where the similarities end.
FeedBurner’s customer service approach, summarized in a single word, rocks! The site itself is inundated with humor and a touch of kindness. They maintain ultimate transparency through searchable forums full of knowledgeable company moderators. And their response to inquiries, however automated they may be, are comprehensive and targeted in such a way to make the client feel comfortable, and wanted. I’ll admit that FeedBurner is a technologically proficient service, but even if it tripped and fell in that regard it wouldn’t matter. Someone in the marketing department got together with someone in the customer service department and created many dimes of the $100 million Google just paid for the company.
Instead of spending their time building the next online spreadsheet that no business in their right mind should ever use, Google should go through the customer relationship portion of the FeedBurner subsidiary with a fine toothed comb. The view should be adopting as much of the “attitude” that FeedBurner exudes as possible. There is incredible value there.
As a side note, I believe people should watch the results of this acquisition closely. Should Google choose to assimilate FeedBurner into their organization in such a way that dry, ineffective, dead end customer communication becomes the norm, there will be opportunities for others to step in. Also, I’ve attached the context of an email I received from FeedBurner regarding the (now free) MyBrand feed service. The offering is definitely not for the layman, but FeedBurner clearly and effectively points this out while giving the technical set everything they need to know to implement. It is a classic example of getting the right information into the right hands, while simultaneously detering the simply curious from getting themselves (and their network) into a world of chaos. Bravo.