TrustPilot crowdsources customer satisfaction stats, just in time for Chrimbo

Danish start-up TrustPilot has launched a UK version of its consumer watchdog portal which claims to use algorithms to crowdsource an idea of what to expect from a particular retailer – in the same way that you might poll your friends or family to get their recommendations based on their good and bad shopping experiences.

The company’s software aggregates and analyses reviews and comments from sources all across the web to create what are essentially user-generated company rankings. It also provides also a Firefox extension that accesses ratings as you surf vendor sites and displays a traffic-light icon in the browser navigation bar if that company appears in the TrustPilot database, giving you an idea – for what it’s worth – of whether or not they’re to be “trusted”.

The rankings are based on what the company calls the TrustScore, weighted for relevance so  for example, older ratings count for less, while ratings from trusted sources count for more. The rating is calculated on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the happier consumers are about the company being rated.

The viability of TrustPilot’s offering is based on the fact that customer service levels across the board are pretty inconsistent. Online purchases especially are influenced in part by appearances, with many e-shoppers still determining the trustworthiness of a company based on design and branding, or who appears first in Google.

TrustPilot is still ironing out a few known bugs – excerpts from reviews don’t currently display properly, and I had to uninstall the Firefox extension double quick, after it appeared to disable my browser address bar. But on the whole it strikes me as a great way for consumers to save themselves some time and peace of mind – and to find new and interesting places to spend money.

For companies, it’s an opportunity to either show off their already excellent customer service, or to make the terrifying realisation that no amount of marketing spend can sweep their shoddy customer service under this particular carpet.

Its 26-year old founder, Peter Mühlmann, about to complete a degree in business studies and statistical measurement of customer satisfaction, says the company chose the UK as its first international rollout because… his French isn’t that good – and because it represents a stepping stone to the wider English-speaking market. The company has a German launch planned for the near future.

TrustPilot is backed by SeedCapital, the largest early stage venture capital firm in Denmark to the tune of somewhere up to £5m (Mühlmann won’t be drawn on the specifics). The company’s revenue stream will rely on a blend of affiliate marketing, enhanced profiles a la and blind benchmarking data sold directly to businesses. The first B2B services will be launched in January 2009.

Interestingly, UK entrepreneur Paul Walsh proposed something similar (Firefox Extension, trusted sites etc) and set up and SearchThresher a while back, but both initiatives seems dead in the water (e.g last blog update Nov 2007).