Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Will You, Like Zillow, Let Customers Into Your Act?

Web 2.0 quickly is creating a new breed of customers – ones who expect and demand an encyclopedic array of data to help them purchase or use your product or service. What seems to be one of the key characteristics of the new Internet is this:

“User generated content”

The fact is, even if you are creating the initial information about your product or service, the new web-wise customers soon may be knocking on your door and demanding input. A great example of users getting into your act is, the real estate web site that provides value estimates and details, along with aerial photos, of more than 67 million private homes in the nation.

Only a few months ago we searched on Zillow a property we know well and wound up with a screen showing a building that we knew had been torn down. The building details were useless and the value was far off base. Our initial reaction: this is like looking at a digital version of a five-year-old phone book.

Now Zillow has fixed this issue by allowing homeowners to edit the information about the property. This blog by the Zillow CEO explains it in some detail.

The site does require the homeowner to verify that he or she owns the property and the verification process seems a bit lightweight.

Once the homeowner signs in to the site (registration is brief and requires little disclosure), he is asked to designate the address in question. Zillow then gives the user a choice of names (probably from tax records of all homes on the block or past owners of the property). The user picks his or her name and checks off a statement that he or she owns it. Whatever facts he adds are listed on the revised screen as “Owner’s Facts.”

Homeowner edits will not change Zillow’s estimate of the home’s value, however. But the owner can add his own estimate that appears as well.


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