While most companies nowadays are keen to have precise comments from their customers, obtaining quality, actionable feedback is not all that easy. Two French startups have recently been showcasing their solutions to this problem.

Both Noospher and Braineet made pitches for the startup competition running at the LeWeb 2014 event which took place in Paris on 9-11 December. These French startups have taken more or less the same approach to brand and product feedback – creating online suggestion boxes on the websites of all types of firms and local authorities in order to enable site visitors to give their views and make recommendations. “We’re focusing on brands and looking to obtain practical, usable ideas,” stressed Jonathan Livescault, co-founder and CEO of Braineet, which is offering a range of extra options for its client companies. A key challenge with this kind of tool is however to sort through all the various comments – many of which tend to be redundant, unhelpful, or even aggressive in tone – and find constructive, usable suggestions.

This is the sort of problem encountered some years ago by Critizr, a company based in the northern French city of Lille.  Critizr invented a system to enable customers of its client companies to post their comments and views or raise issues, with the emphasis on customer satisfaction. Noospher and Braineet are taking a slightly different approach. Their idea is to provide a channel for feeding back good ideas from consumers, users or citizens. As a way of encouraging people to put forward constructive ideas, the Braineet app asks users to frame their messages using the formula: “Why not do such and such…” Then of course all the ideas that come in need to be sorted.

In fact the solutions offered by both Noospher and Braineet have been around for a long time. They are the basic ideas behind the Twitter microblogging network. Noospher users can follow brands’ suggestion boxes in the same way that you follow a Twitter account, while Braineet offers a system of hashtags and @ signs that allow you to see ideas expressed in 140 characters either by category or by company. However, Braineet also provides a novel ‘Dislike’ button that facilitates message sorting – users can help to steer the sorting process by ‘Disliking’ content which they feel is not relevant to the purpose.

Meanwhile Noospher provides an ‘Approve’ button, which enables the system to collect and feed back the best – or at least the most popular – ideas. Of course these two French companies are not the only ones launching opinion and ideas-sharing platforms on the market. As with other projects launched in the past few years, they will certainly need to attract a large number of users if they are to work effectively and this basic requirement for wide participation is never easy to achieve.

By Guillaume Scifo