A couple days ago on Experience: The Blog, I recommended brands begin to use Social Media tools to engage customers and to conduct consumer research. I noted, "Some brands will create private networks, but you don't need to launch an expensive customer network (a la My Starbucks Idea) in order to listen to consumers."
Turns out I was more right than I knew--not only isn't it expensive to launch a customer feedback network, it can be free! UserVoice is a tool that gives even small businesses the power and ability to launch a robust customer feedback forum with many of the same tools and features found on big brand customer engagement sites such as My Starbucks Idea.
UserVoice offers customization capabilities such as brand logos, privacy settings, the ability to run the forum from your own domain, and moderation controls. Launching a site took me less than three minutes, and my new customer forum was immediately ready for consumer feedback. (I created the site for my spouse's business, JustPetStrollers.com. You can check out my new forum at http://justpetstrollers.uservoice.com.)
Without any programming and very little configuration, the service allows consumers to suggest new features and offer suggestions. People who visit the feedback forum can review the previously-submitted ideas, add their own comments, and cast votes for the ones they believe are most important. Over time, companies can observe as consensus emerges. As ideas rise to the top, UserVoice provides the ability to update users on the status of their idea--everything from Declined to Planned to Started.
UserVoice also offers some interesting tools for adding widgets to your home site. I haven't had a chance to try these features, but I hope to test drive them in the future.
I was very impressed with UserVoice's ease and interface. If your brand is seeking a way to gather feedback and consensus in an open forum, I'd suggest you visit UserVoice to review their offerings.