Rating portals are booming on the Web. Anybody can put down everybody and everything, can criticize, praise or find something acceptable. For customers it can be a blessing, for business it can sometimes be a curse. More and more customers will not make a buying decision, unless they have familiarized themselves on the Web about suppliers or products.
A study made by the market research and consulting group Trendscope (January 2010) has found that 62% of all Germans will be swayed by reviews presented on the Internet when it comes to their decision where to spend their vacations.
Of the big question this: How believable are those critics? He who has malicious intentions can make a cruise sound bad, even if he has never been on such a trip. It is no secret that large companies hire agencies to spread positive reviews in some of the most important Web portals. Opinions can be easily manipulated.
Not so at Euminia, the revolutionary, new rating system for chartered yachts and charter companies. The founder of the idea Axel Düllberg says: "Euminia provides a degree of transparency and security not seen before". Düllberg, who has more than 15 years experience in the charter business, supports this confidence based on diverse methods, which he uses to circumvent the "structural mistakes of other ratings systems".
The Euminia Application (App) runs on a smart phone. A charter guest receives the device from the charter company at the time of checkout. This ensures that only the person who actually chartered the yacht can evaluate his experience. The sailor enters his review into the programme, assessing components such as cleanliness, equipment, service, personnel and other important questions concerning the charter.
A self-explanatory five star rating system is used and the vote is sent off with the push of a button. Says Axel Düllberg: "User-friendliness is of the utmost importance, since the charter firm does not have enough time during the checkout to explain the functions to the customer".
A unique feature: At the end of the evaluation the charter guest is requested to submit a voice recognition sample. This is most innovative and was developed especially for Euminia. The voice identifies the reviewer as individual. This makes it as individual and characteristic as a fingerprint.
The entire time required by the charter guest is approximately 3 minutes. The guest returns the device to the yacht operator, and he passes it on to the next yacht. Once all reviews have been collected, they are transmitted to the Euminia Server via WLAN and subjected to diverse tests to prevent manipulation and plausibility. If there are inconsistencies during the evaluation, the system will trigger an alarm. If one and the same voice is recognized during one season and several times from the same base, the system also activates an alarm.
At the end of the season all voice data will be deleted. No conclusions can be drawn with respect to the personality of the sailor since all evaluations are absolutely anonymous. The system does not know who enters the evaluation, and the yacht operator has no access to the voice recognition files.
All results are published on the Euminia's Website: www.euminia.com. Here, information about the charter company and reviews of the last charter guest can be found . Furthermore, helpful information about services and facilities at the base can be found on the Website of the charter company.
euminia.com will only list yachts with a minimum of four reviews. "A reasonable objective opinion about a yacht can not be establish with less than 4 reviews, it is simply not possible", says Düllberg. Individual evaluations are not listed, only average indicators. This suffices in order to judge the quality of a yacht. Charter agencies can register themselves with Euminia free of charge and received access to all detailed individual evaluations from the charter companies that have permitted access to the agencies. They may review all detailed evaluations, and generate a PDF containing the latest ratings. This way, the agency has the option to verify the quality of a particular yacht.
Euminia was developed in collaboration with psychologists and statisticians at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Detlev Artelt, a renowned author of textbooks and consultant in the area of voice recognition, assisted in the development of the speech biometrics. Artelt participated in the very first interactive horror film "Last call", which used speech technology and permitted a dialogue between the audience and the actors on the screen.
Düllberg is aware that the evaluation system functions even better, the more charter companies participate. "At the start, only those participated that had nothing to loose since they delivered top-notch quality and who can circumstantiate this now. Others will join later out of necessity, since they do not want to explain why they don't participate. It has simply become habitual for the customer to inform himself on the Internet, based on the experiences of others.
It created a very good response. When Euminia started this season, 12 companies with approximately 350 yachts participated. In August 200 boats were added. Currently, the rankings of 17 charter companies with bases in 14 harbours and 1339 reviews can be checked on www.euminia.com. 30 charter companies with over 1300 yachts have promised their participation for 2011. After that, the system will also be connected to various booking systems. On one hand, this enables the sailor to find out about the quality of the yacht and its bases during the booking process; on the other hand, the Euminia system will know precisely which yachts will be returned from the charter and when. This ensures that only those yachts will be evaluated that actually were on a chartered cruise.
Düllberg estimates with 2000 to 2500 yards for the next season. "More and more charter companies recognize the advantage of Euminia and its importance as marketing and quality management tool. This will also allow chartering older yachts. The best yacht in the system (as of the end of October 2010) is the Bavaria 49 „Magic" by Navigare Yachting Adria. This 6 year old yacht has received new sails in 2010 and is in perfect shape, from its appearance to its technical condition. This of course is rewarded by the customer with the respective positive reviews. And the owner is happy to see the value of his boat maintained".
The annual costs of €35 to €50 per yacht and year is manageble.