For the third year in a row Wikipedia has been ranked first in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for “Internet Social Media” websites. The results for 2012 rated Wikipedia at 78 out of 100, the same score we achieved last year and well above the average score in our category of 69. Each result is based on 250 telephone interviews with customers in the U.S.

This is a great achievement and one we’re happy to receive, but it’s more remarkable when you consider how we do it.

What many people do not realize is that emails sent to Wikipedia and its sister projects are processed entirely by volunteers. Almost every email is read and acted on by an actual person across dozens of languages. The questions we receive range from general queries about content and reuse, to questions or concerns about articles or files, permission for free use of media, and press and journalist inquiries.

The Volunteer Response Team, also known as “OTRS” after the open-source software system we use, began in 2004 to aid volunteer press contacts in several languages. This quickly developed into general information and image processing in many languages. Currently the Volunteer Response team is still hosted on Meta-wiki and has information queues for around thirty languages, as well as support for other Wikimedia projects and chapters.

Volunteers apply on Meta and are expected to be long-term contributors to one or more Wikimedia projects. They are expected to be familiar with policies and guidelines, as well as general community knowledge related to their home-wiki. They should demonstrate the ability to explain how something works around a project to a complete stranger in a simple and even-tempered way, and some are entrusted with access to private data.

This small team works very hard to process more than one thousand emails a week sent to Wikipedia and other projects in all of its languages, and we are proud to once again be at the top of the list. We are all happy to be of help to Wikipedia “behind the scenes,” and the team will continue to support what our other volunteers write and contribute on Wikipedia.

Keegan Peterzell, Volunteer Response Team