Get Satisfaction Makes Customer Support Less Robotic-And More Strategic

11/29/11Follow @wroush

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getting more of its free users to sign up for one of its paid plans, which range from $19 per month for small companies to $599 per month or more for enterprises. “The truth of the matter is that we had three or four customers when I first got here, and now we have 2,300, so I am very proud,” says Lea. But “we have more work to do,” she says. “If you are freemium, you are supposed to have free customers. You are also supposed to bring value to them so that they convert.”

Sometimes, it’s the customers themselves who lead companies into a relationship with Get Satisfaction. “I love the story of how Mint.com came to us,” says Lea. “They didn’t want to use GetSat because they didn’t think we were serious enough. They already had Salesforce.com and all this stuff. All of a sudden Aaron Patzer [Mint's founder] and Stephen Mann [its customer advocacy director] started noticing that their customers had started a Mint community within our network, and were talking to each other inside Get Satisfaction. They asked ‘How can that be?’ and we said ‘Because your customers want to help each other and talk to each other.’ Eventually they came to us and said ‘We think we are ready to integrate.’”

In Mint’s case, that simply meant becoming a sponsor of the existing Get Satisfaction community, linking to it from Mint’s own pages, and hooking it up with Salesforce.com’s tracking tools. Today, Patzer—who oversees product innovation at Mint’s parent company, Intuit—is one of Get Satisfaction’s most public supporters. Within 90 days of integrating GetSat, Mint says, the number of support tickets coming to its customer-service reps dropped from 6,500 per week to 1,500 per week. On top of that, Mint’s GetSat community is great search-engine fodder: 50 percent of the community’s visitors arrive directly from Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Like all organic search traffic, this amounts to free advertising for Mint, and it further reduces workloads as customer find the answers they need by reviewing conversations about past problems.

“I think Wendy has done a phenomenal job,” says Bruce Cleveland, the partner at InterWest who led the firm’s recent investment in Get Satisfaction. “For such a small company, they have an enormous brand presence. Literally every day I look at companies coming in, presenting about the software-as-a-service landscape, and GetSat is on the map.”

Cleveland says he invested because he thinks Get Satisfaction can capitalize on a larger technological shift toward what he calls revenue performance management—that is, using Web-based tools to automate the collection and analysis of customer data and turn it into forecasts. (Cleveland invested in Marketo, a marketing-automation company I profiled earlier this month, based on the same thesis.) “If you could mine Get Satisfaction’s data you might be able to begin to predict churn rates, upsell opportunities, and customer satisfaction issues,” Cleveland says. “You can build models of different types of consumers, and use that to provide more of a one-to-one approach.”

But while Get Satisfaction communities can be a source of data for other business analytics tools, the startup isn’t focusing yet on this kind of automation. For now, it’s all about making it easier for companies to add a human touch to their service and support process. “Since I was 28 years old, when I was working in a sales training company, I’ve been basically helping big companies be more effective with their customers, and to me, Get Satisfaction is just a very new, current, relevant technology platform that allows companies to build stronger relationships,” says Lea. “It’s an obvious next step for businesses to want to engage in this way.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://uservoice.com Evan Hamilton

    The opportunity, as you put it, of great customer service (as opposed to reactive customer service) is incredibly powerful. It makes me incredibly happy anytime I see one of our customers say that they don’t like our tool, they love the results it’s allowing them to get, by focusing on customers rather than support costs.

    It’s a strategy that will define who succeeds and who fails in the startup world in the next decade. A big hurrah for all the companies that are joining us in this focus!

    -Evan Hamilton
    Community Manager, UserVoice