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TrustFabric: One startup’s solution to call centre nightmare

Posted on Jan 12 2011
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The days of the call centre gauntlet are apparently over according to a new Cape Town-based startup The company claims to offer a service to individuals and businesses to help them manage their relationships better. TrustFabric say they are building a Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) system, a concept defined by Wikipedia as a “category of business activity made possible by software tools that provide customers with both independence from vendors and better means for engaging with vendors.”

VRM is the apparent other half of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This is meant to help customers better manage their side of the relationship as today’s CRM systems are mainly focused on the business’s side of the relationship.
“The thing that drives us is better relationships between businesses and customers. Giving customers tools to manage their side of the relationship and in the process shifting the power balance back towards the customer. Building trusted relationships,” says Joe Botha co-founder and CEO of TrustFabric.
Joe Botha and Jonathan Endersby, the second partner in the project, both come from a strong entrepreneurial and software development background. The project, launched early 2010, prides itself on not “monetising attention”. That is, they refrain from selling adverts on their site. Noble as that may be, one must ask the question how is a self-funded venture meant to last this way?
TrustFabric is very much concerned with the individual, helping them to manage and gain a better relationship with businesses.
“Businesses pay TrustFabric because we help them be more efficient in interacting with their customers. We’d like to think we make money based on savings we show them. So, businesses pay, but TrustFabric is free to end users (customers), forever. It’s NOT yet another advertising based business model,” says the company on its website.
This model appears makes sense as TrustFabric works on two levels much like the WordPress model, the dot[.]com level which is a commercial entity and the dot[.]org level, which is a non-profit entity.
The company seems to be the answer to many consumers’ call centre problems especially since its main focus is helping the individual build trusted relationships with businesses. However which businesses are willing to take up this relationship strategy? The first thought that comes to mind are businesses such as banks and financial brokers, but will banks be willing to allow third party involvement when it comes to customer relations?
Also, TrustFabric describes how it works as creating a solution which “involves software Agents”.
“TrustFabric is a distributed multi-agent network. It’s basically anarchy, but in a good way. See TrustFabric as a distributed network of autonomous Agents, which are really just XML message brokers that understand relationships, documents and strong crypto. Under the hood you will find open standards, x509, Python/Django and Web Services APIs,” says Botha.
This sounds complex, but TrustFabric claims to be not yet another website which hosts your personal information. Your information is stored in your very own “Agent” (personal data store). You can choose to host your “Agent” with the TrustFabric-hosted service (US and UK at the moment), or soon download their Open Source software and run your Agent anywhere you like. If you are the paranoid type, even in a bunker under the sea.
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