I’ve been a follower of Helpstream CEO Bob Warfield since before I begun blogging. He’s a super smart, super analytical SaaS commentator who left the world of full time blogging to enjoy the rewards of corporate leadership. I’d have made this session no matter what, the fact it included a bunch of other really smart people provided further justification. Clara Shih is the CEO of Hearsay Labs, Natalie Petouhoff,- is a Senior Analyst for Forrester Research and Wendy Lea is CEO of GetSatisfaction and Phil Fernandez is from Marketo.

Petouhoff gave the analogy of cave drawings from eons ago – when all else is gone the messages remain – hence her perspective that the discussion about support has to occur at a management level. Customer service is broken and we’re in the midst of a perfect storm. years and years of terrible customer service and the emergence of social media are lead to a business transformation. Social media is a catalyst for change within an organization.

Fernandez explained that Marketo had active support from its inception – it’s an essential part of their customer support portal for both inbound and self service support contact. He gave an example of case diversion during the recent release of their updated offering. The inbound support ticket mix is changing between phone, email and web. Approx two thirds are human assisted while the remainder are self-service.

Lea talked about the Get Satisfaction freemium model and that they encourage their users to build community wherever is most appropriate for them – whether it’s on their own site, in Facebook or wherever.

Warfield explained that Helpstream is trying to combine social and process – creating a repeatable process around social interactions.

The panel discussed ComcastCares and how just showing customers that an organization cares is so important. Petouhoff talked about the fact that customer service departments are continually told to do more with less – they’re not supported in their role. Lea explained that the majority of people signing up for GetSatisfaction are doing so to use it for feedback – marketing and customer support need to be integrated. Warfield explained that the customers really want an integrated experience with a company.

Warfield discussed the concept of “deflection” where customer services aim is to have their customers NOT engage with customer services. The trick is to integrate the inbound communications and therefore have customer support become an asset rather than a cost to the organization.

Petouhoff discussed the need for openness, honesty and authenticity. The conversations are occurring anyway, it’s important for companies to embrace and engage with them. She gave some statistics about customer retention in the case of good support – it’s apparently 65% higher than otherwise.

Lea gave the example of Nike running who for $8000 per annum got a GetSatisfaction widget that has drawn huge content that is invaluable to the organization for product development. Warfield used an example of InfusionSoft who have leveraged Helpstream to capture the voice and sentiment of the community.

Lea contends that social media is shifting communications to a much more “natural language” approach – less guard and beating around the bush and more openness and honesty. Again the themes of authenticity, naturalness and honesty. Warfield concurred, saying that social media is just about people – people doing what they do in real life.

A great session with much agreement around the table…

 

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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