Episode 189: Wendy Lea, Using Social Customer Support to Get Satisfaction

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Social CRM and Customer Service got married and had a baby and it's called "Get Satisfaction."

Having a Twitter account for bitchy customers is NOT a social support strategy people. It's way bigger (dang it) and you have to wake up and smell the opportunity.

Customer service is now social in the social enterprise.

And if you're a smart marketer, you're giving your customers what they want and integrating support into your loyalty programs.

Get Satisfaction is a platform that helps you manage the conversations about your brand across the web with widgets that let you be where your customers are (like FB) and still stay abreast of the action.

Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction describes her business from the four key categories where she plays best (eCommerce, Consumer Electronics, CPG and Social Games) showcasing Motorola, Panasonic, NikeRunning, Zappos, Tide and Foursquare implementations.

She talks about how social CRM helps marketers acquire customers at a low cost, nurtures customers effectively, turns loyalty into advocacy and allows customers to support each other too.

The imperative is to be where your customers are online now. Not just to have a corporate website.

With this solution, you can do it at many scales from guerilla to enterprise.

Plus Wendy is a well-spoken, female CEO who will impress you greatly.

Tune in to see where all this is going and how you get traction for your company.

Transcript

Susan Bratton:  Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. And on today’s show you are going to get to meet Wendy Lea. Wendy is the CEO of a company that you may have heard of called Get Satisfaction. Isn’t that an awesome name? I want some satisfaction, Wendy Lea. So lets get her on the show. Hey girl.

Wendy Lea:  Hey there, how you doing? Good morning.

Susan Bratton: Good. Are you feeling a little relaxation or are you just a crazy CEO with too many things to do?

Wendy Lea: I have a lot to do, but I am looking forward to a little down time next weekend.

Susan Bratton: Good. Me too. So lets do a level set for my listeners. Customer service is the new marketing. That’s the level set. And Get Satisfaction is really about the integration of social and customer support. So what I’d love for you to do is give us a little lowdown on Get Satisfaction. What is it? How does it work? How do we use it as marketers today in our businesses?

Wendy Lea: Okay. First of all, lets start with the line of what it is? So Get Satisfaction is a simple way to build online communities that pull together very productive and relevant conversations between companies of any size and their customers. So think of us as a community platform that is highly distributed. And what I mean by that is it can be plugged in very easily to any page of your website, as well as on your fan page, which allows your customers to have easy quick access to the community from any point they enter online, which could include Susan the most exciting thing, most everyone’s homepage is Google. So you ask a question, you could end up in the Get Satisfaction community for Product Coach, Cohon, Zappos, just because we’re so highly SEO’d, ‘cause we’re one big network of user generated conversation. Pretty exciting stuff, especially right now.

Susan Bratton: So the idea is that it’s a customer support community, but it can be found in multiple locations that you thread it all together, right?

Wendy Lea: That’s right. That’s right, and that’s the non-trivial part of us is that we are not a community as a tab on a website, okay. You don’t force your customers to come to us; they come to us naturally because their own friends are also interacting and, you know, they found, they find us through the Google experience, through entering through that kind of experience, not just because the company tells them to go there and log in. So here’s an important thing though; we keep talking about, you know, service and support, and indeed in the beginning we establish the business around that segment because we found companies of all sizes wanted to get their customers to help each other and solve each others problems even before they came to the company. Over time though we’ve expanded our value to companies and this is especially relevant to your audience because marketers use Get Satisfaction as much as service and support people, especially now that marketers are so highly involved with Facebook as a tool for acquiring customers and driving loyalty.

Susan Bratton: So what you’re saying is that it started as customer support, but now it’s really about community and it’s about connecting customers together so that they can both support each other as well as you as an organization supporting your customers. So customers have as much collective wisdom about your brands as you do as an organization in many cases, and have, you know, used cases that you could never imagine. So you’re pulling people together, and you’re allowing them to communicate wherever they are, wherever they happen to be, rather than coming to your website necessarily. But how do you track all this information? As a marketer what we’re afraid of is we give our customers a platform to talk about our stuff or to talk about whatever they want to talk about, and then we have this whole management nightmare of understanding if the sentiment’s good or bad and what are the conversations and how do they become actionable within the organization, you know, what are the touch points, who’s managing it, who’s taking care of the problems, who’s surfacing the good things and spreading them further? How does all that work?

Wendy Lea: Okay, now a very fair question, and being a professional marketer myself that was one of the first questions that I asked the team, and that’s, you know, it’s a marketing question and a service and support question. I mean it’s a company question, right. You figure to use a tool like this and bring folks together you have to be able to take action as a result. And by the way, that’s one of our core differentiators because different from the old forums of the past, and there are many. There are thousands of forum providers. You know, this particular community space, if I can refer to it that way, really drive very productive outcomes, and it’s set up through very distinct topic types. I have a question, I want to solve a problem, I want to get price, I want to get feedback, and that really supports resolution, which is very different from the forums of the past. But to your question around analytics and management, here’s the deal: social community platforms, like Get Satisfaction, really require cross-functional involvement. And that’s the truth, that’s the way customer relationship management technologies started. There’s no difference here. We see marketing typically leaving for all the reasons you can understand because they are the ones mostly gathering the public conversations and sentiment. And then though with Get Satisfaction they can easily get people from service and support, people from products involved in a simple easy administration way that is not a big complex, you know, consulting project. It’s very, very simple so they can have access any time they want and really get involved in the conversations in the community. And then we have an analytics package on the backend.  You know, no surprise. That would be a requirement for doing this kind of capability that will allow a marketer or a service and support person to know every day, every week the kind of activity, the quality of the activity, how quickly topics are being resolved, what kind of topics they are, the top topics and ideas, and that content or those, you know, that data can get pulled out and served up to any functional group across the company. And we also hook and integrate with very sophisticated systems like, you know, CoTweet, Involver’s Ant Technology, there are many workflow tools that your audience uses now, and so just imagine Get Satisfaction’s content or data being pulled into those tools and then being distributed to the relevant people in the organization. But we would not have a business that’s growing as fast as it is if we didn’t have that kind of tool. We are all about actionable insights. We’re not about just general conversations happening out in the public conversation world. We’re not about that. And in fact, one other thing is that these conversations, if a company wants to, can be pulled directly into your CRM system. That could be Sales Force, Service Cloud, it could Rightmail’s capability, it could be Sugar CRM, you know. If a company wants to do that and complete the loop, they can take our unstructured social data, which is embedded in all these conversations, and actually loop it into their systems of record on the CRM side, which is very, very unique. Does that help?

Susan Bratton: Yeah, a lot. So what I’ve understood, my perception of Get Satisfaction is that you have a really wide range of tiers of service offering. And a little later on in the conversation I want to go over kind of the easiest onramp gorilla installation of Get Satisfaction that a small business can use to look bigger and to compete with the big brands, so, because a lot of my listeners do come from small and medium business, not these big enterprise solutions companies.

Wendy Lea: Right.

Susan Bratton: But what I want to know is your perfect target customer. So at Get Satisfaction you’ve got all these tiers, but there’s somebody out there, there’s a certain kind of a business that you’ve identified that you can help the most that drives the best revenue for you. It’s like the perfect partnership. What’s the target customer that you really are trying to attract?

Wendy Lea: Good question. There are four distinct categories that really, they sound a bit enterprising but they don’t have to because of the nature of how these products get developed these days, right. So any company who is selling a product or service online…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Wendy Lea:  who is trying to reach a mass audience, a mass global audience of consumers, right, and they’re trying to do that directly online and also potentially provide commerce capability inside Facebook, we’re perfect for them, right. Because they already understand online business, the cost to serve online consumers around the world can be very, very high unless your using a social layer like ours. So any online business that’s reaching a global audience, other consumers through a commerce site, we’re perfect for that, right. So that’s kind of a baseline, and that’s agnostic to is it a global brand or is it a small business. Now beyond that, let me be very clear that those, we’re in your three. We have 2,000 paying customers. The larger brand customers fall into four distinct categories. And again, this applies to all sizes but the categories are non-trivial. One, consumer electronics – Panasonic, Motorola, etcetera. Two, any social gamer, especially those that have built their social game inside Facebook – Zinga being the gorilla, there are many, and we have most of the social gamers involved in Get Satisfaction. Then you think of consumer product goods, from Clorox to PMG, we’re very, very active in that category. And then, again, I’ve already mentioned online e-commerce, but if you think of a gorilla like Walmart.com, that uses us, as well as Kitty Care, which is a very, very vibrant online baby business if you will in the U.K. So the good news about Get Satisfaction is that it does play horizontally across many industries, but to your point, the sweet spot or those organizations that are trying to sell to serve and support customers that are spread, distributed around the world, right, and their consumers. So there’s some active passionate emotional connection to the product, where we want to talk to each other about it and we’re willing to help each other, right, as we have problems with the product. So that’s the perfect customer.

Susan Bratton: Thank you for that. When you took over Get Satisfaction, about how long ago was that now? I don’t even remember.

Wendy Lea: About 22 months, I’m not counting, but…

Susan Bratton: All right, great. So two years ago before you got into Get Satisfaction, when you were looking around at a lot of different companies, you wanted to be a CEO – that was your goal, and you chose Get Satisfaction. Before you got into the job, before you really understood the business, you had a perspective on customer support, customer service and essentially being available as a brand to your customers – I don’t even want to think about it as being customer support. I just want to be, I want to call it brand interaction, brand connection, right.

Wendy Lea: Exactly right.

Susan Bratton: So there’s the before and after, what you didn’t know. I want to know what it is that we as marketers don’t know about where brand interaction is today. Can you close the gap of our ignorance in what we need to really be doing at a minimum in brand interaction now with all of these tools that are out in the marketplace? What is it that we’re supposed to be doing to provide that level of support interaction to our customers?

Wendy Lea: Well, you know, job one – and we’ve already talked about it in the interview – but job one is to be where your customers are. Now that sounds so obvious but think about the complexity of that. You know, never have there been so many online customers or most of us are online, you know, most of the day, right. That is an opportunity that the average marketer on the average day has never had until now. I mean we’ve had to go find people by list. Think about it, right. We’d have to communicate to them, push stuff to them, follow up with them. I mean good grief, what an expensive proposition marketing has always been, regardless if it was business to business or business to consumer. I don’t even think there’s a difference any more. Now though the first statement is be where these customers are, and that naturally speaks to being highly SEO, right, because I’m going to start my interactions inside Google or Bing, right. That’s where I’m going to start. So when I type in a question or a search of any sort, I’ve got to get to you. And I’m not sure that just buy more AdWords is the answer. I’m glad we have those and I’m glad that’s a good tool, but now we’ve got to think about how to get customers to start talking and sharing ideas and conversations about us. So honestly I don’t know a better time that I’ve ever seen than to have a tool like Get Satisfaction – and there are others – where you can bring customers together. You have to do this. And then bring them together in a way where it’s seamless and integrated throughout all social layers. Twitter is a communication protocol. That’s one layer. Facebook is a social system. That’s another layer. Get Satisfaction is a public community. The good news about us is we integrate, pull all of those layers together, so all those conversations are coming into one hub, one hub, one community space. And that gives marketers a brilliant opportunity to listen – and yes, we do integrate with all the listening tools because most companies are listening. But you can listen, you can learn, get new products ideas, you can figure out more efficient and effective ways to support. But, you know, as a marketer the first job it to have your brand accessible and available online where customers are, and that doesn’t just mean your website. That’s one place, right. But there are other places you can naturally show up, and again, consumers should be able to find you very, very easily. I mean it’s a brilliant opportunity. Now your question about what I saw in this opportunity, why Get Satisfaction. Here’s the deal with that. I have a very traditional background customer relationship management. That is an inside out world. You have technology, the technology reaches out and either helps manage sales campaigns, helps with marketing campaigns or helps service and support, but it’s customer out. This is a new time. And one of my favorite books is John Hagel’s Pull, The Power of Pull, and what it says in there is so true. Now we’re in an outside in world, consumers in, and he talks about it brilliantly. So if you can be part of this pull momentum where customers are showing up where they want to show up and expressing themselves the way they want to express, you don’t have to force the push of a CRM system or even as a marketing campaign on them. They will aggregate naturally if you’re available, and that’s why these social tools are so popular right now. I mean there’s no marketer in the world that should be without them, and I don’t mean just a Twitter handle, right. That’s one tactical piece of the puzzle. And so Get Satisfaction to me, as a professional that had this long-standing history in CRM, gave me an opportunity to really apply what I understood about customer relationship technologies to this new whole world that involved, you know, disrupted interesting compelling social tools that were low cost, easy to implement…  Very important - low cost, easy to implement and they fell within the natural grain of what is happening in the consumer world these days. So that, you know, they don’t have to be forced. They need to be applied naturally, openly, transparently, and that’s what Get Satisfaction is all about. Now I’m not saying it’s easy for a marketer to do, but mainly it’s not easy because of all the other junk that we’ve accumulated over the years that we feel compelled to use. And so I think in this case if you can put all that other infrastructure stuff, just look at it as it is now and start folding in some of these new social layers, I mean magic will start happening. And magic to us looks like this: low cost to customer acquisition, incredible effective interesting ways to nurture loyalty, drive that loyalty to advocacy, and then on top of that ensure that customers are served first by each other before they’re forced to get into some silly queue and listen to jargon on the phone, and I am absolutely so proud to be part of this new movement, you know, of social CRM. A little, you know, boxed in as it may sound, I feel it’s real, it’s bringing incredible value, not just to businesses but also to consumers. And as consumers are happy, buy more, tell others, then companies of all sizes will prosper and then our economy will, you know, get back on track.

Susan Bratton: Couple of questions and thank you for that. I want to say that the Get Satisfaction website is absolutely beautifully done. The graphic design, the illustrations, the navigation, I’d say for me in the last maybe I don’t know how long, it’s the best looking navicable clever attractive quality website that I’ve encountered. So I’m really encouraging you as a DishyMix listener and a marketer to go look at Getsatisfaction.com even if it’s not something that y0ou’re thinking about using. But what I’d also like to know…

Wendy Lea: Thank you Susan.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, you did a great job with that Wendy. It is gorgeous. What I’d like to know is where we can go to see from a consumer perspective an installation if you will or an experience of Get Satisfaction so that we could see how it would manifest for ourselves for our own brand. What are some places we can go?

Wendy Lea: Sure. And I can send these links to you right… I mean some of the best ones are on Facebook. First of all, you can go into our public community – remember we’re public, we’re a network and we’re public, so you can go and log in as a consumer and you can go to, we have 50,000 customers in our network. Motorola is one of the most interesting ones and Panasonic, so you can go into Get Satisfaction, go to Panasonic.com, you can go onto Panasonic.com and see our widgets because how we get expressed, again, it’s contextualized very naturally onto the product page and then it’s directed either, you know, into Facebook or into Get Satisfaction, but it doesn’t look like a big starburst. It just looks like part of the brand experience. But the best way to see what we do is to go straight to our site, and there’s a search box that says Find A Product Or A Company, and you can, you know, type in, again, Motorola, Panasonic, you could type in Zappos, you could type in Tide, Pampers, any of those brands, you could type in Four Square, right, and you can go into the experience and you would see exactly the interactions to your comment. These are brand interactions that are organized around help, support, praise and feedback. Or another example, to finish up, you could go to nikerunning.com, nikerunning.com, and you would see one of our widgets on that homepage. It’s a feedback widget, and you can hit that feedback widget, it’ll take you into the Get Satisfaction experience. So, or you can just Google, right, and you can ask a question about a Zappos brand, it takes you right into us, right. So the good news is you can start with Google and get to us very easily by just asking a question about one of your favorite brands. But I’m very proud of Motorola, Panasonic, I’m very proud of the Four Squares implementation. I mean we’ve got, you know, beautiful examples; 2000 that pay and lot of others that you use free because we’re a freemium model.

Susan Bratton: That’s what my next question, thank you for the beautiful segue. So lets talk about freemium. What’s the easiest onramp gorilla installation of Get Satisfaction that small businesses to use to look bigger and operate like a big brand with a big budget when we have no budget. Or a little budget. You’ve got some very low priced tier. So explain to us kind of what the sweet spot is to get us started here.

Wendy Lea: Well I would recommend the sweet spot, really, it was designed the $19 a month plan, okay. And that gives you the ability to take the widget off the site – we’re talking Java script – put it on any page of your website, your homepage, any place you want to put it, and then you’re up and running. Now you can’t customize it, there’s some limitation, but what you can do for $19 a month is that you can moderate or curate the conversations. If you use a spring, you’re not able to do that, right. You can have the conversation but you’re not able to have the backend analytics that I talked about and you’re not able to interact. You can just have your customers interact. But for $20 a month, come on, you know, $240 a year, a small business can set up a community immediately and start interacting with your customers and actually pull out the feedback and use it in their business to improve their products, improve their service experience and drive loyalty. That’s a good price. Now, you know, you step up one step further to the $99 a month plan, and then you can be inside Facebook, right, which is an easier place to build a community because of the verality that’s naturally in that system. So then you can have that, you know, a tab that talks about a support, and that tab when you touch it will take you into the Get Satisfaction experience so then you can have the widget on your website, as well as the tab inside Facebook, and that just allows you to build community faster, which of course is what you want. But for $99 a month you can have both Facebook and a widget on your site, or for $19 a month a widget on your site. This is a very good bargain. And by the way, 1,500 of our customers uses just that way. Most of our customers Susan are small to medium business where the price point is somewhere between $80, about $80 a month. That is the mainstay of our business. These larger customers that we’re grateful to have, they pay a much larger amount of money and of course they expect more, and it’s a different kind of experience. We’re very, very focused on serving the small to medium business, and that’s why we give the price point flexibility that we do on the site.

Susan Bratton: Thank you. You’re running Get Satisfaction. You’ve been there almost two years. You started with zero budget and a really small staff, and you’ve established yourself as the dominant player in the marketplace and you had to fundraise. You had to bring cash in to the company to take it to the next level. What are the maybe three or four things that, looking back over the last two years, the amazing momentum that you’ve been able to create with your team – ‘cause I know that you have some really good people on your team, you inherited some really good people, and I think you brought some new people in too. What are maybe two or three of the things that you did right that you could pass along as the hindsight wisdom that were good decisions that you weren’t sure when you made them but now they’ve paid off for you? What are those couple of things that you could share with others who might be in a similar situation?

Wendy Lea: Okay, good question. The first I would say it was a strategy and it seemed obvious at the time, and now I’m so grateful that I had the courage to pull it off, and that is to take a close look at the landscape, the market, not just the markets we were serving but those competitors and other providers that were serving similar markets, because we had only $500,000 in the bank when I took over, we had a team of eight and the market, we didn’t even have a business model, right. I mean we had a lot of “traffic” and we had some very engaged free customers, which is better than not having that, right. But, you know, we had to really turn the crank on the business model while I was experimenting with that, which manifested in these self-serve standard prices that we’ve been talking about as the enterprise prices. I took some decisions to partner, and partner with some gorillas that, you know, sometimes that can be scary to partner with big, big organizations when you’re a startup with limited money and limited people. But we were so visible thanks to Thor Muller and Lane Becker and Amy Muller, the founders, they came out so hard on the thought leadership side. I mean they came out strong. It was powerful. And they aligned with Tony at Zappos and key thought leaders in this area, and really we were the ones that put forward customer services, the new marketing first. Because of that visibility I was able to partner with Sales Force and with Facebook in ways that have really driven our business. So the first thing I would say is realize that you can’t do it alone and that you have to look for leverage. You’ve got to look for leverage beyond your own capability to get through each phase, and in our case, even though it’s tricky, I felt that we had to have a partnership with Facebook, which build capability that we didn’t have enough engineers to do or money but we had to do it. We did that first. We also partnered with Sales Force, and both of those happened, in the middle of the year I was trying to raise money. So first was partnering not just, you know, thinking you could do it all on your own. That was number one. Number two, I had to have the courage Susan, and we all did, to believe that the market was both available, accessible and vibrant. And, you know, you can’t seduce yourself about that. I mean either it is or it isn’t, and that answer was so important for me to look around and see how the community space had evolved, what the gorillas were doing, like Lithium, which has been around for a long time and they’re very expensive but very solid legitimate solution. So the second thing I did is I kept assessing the competitive forces. Not the partnership forces, the competitive forces. I kept look at Communispace, Intelligent and Lithium to see what they were doing and to see how we really differentiated, and then I tried to do our very best at being clear about how we were different, you know, and in some cases how we were the same because if you look too different then some businesses don’t want you, right, because there’s a certain legitimacy factor. So I think the whole understanding of competition and phasing in our differentiators was very critical to us. So number one was partnering, number two was really understanding differentiators. And the third thing was really, as a CEO, assessing the capability of the team, and that included myself. There was so much I didn’t know. I mean I came from a traditional enterprise software CRM background. This was a online business, right. This was a public community that was involved in all kinds of social systems. That was not something I was familiar with. So I had to quickly assess what we really need as a team about that so I could lean into knowledge that others had and really figure out how to bring that forward to push us, because otherwise I would have taken us into a direction that would not have been compelling, right. There’s no way we could be in the position we are now if I tried to be a little Lithium, you know. I mean that wasn’t interesting. And I didn’t have enough money to do that, I didn’t have enough time to do that, so it had to be something different. I had to be this open simple community environment that allowed companies to come together to talk with your customers and to expand this value in the community, that it wasn’t just service and support, that there could be marketing value and product value as well and that could be fed back into companies. So assessing the talent and making those decisions is my third thing. And I guess the overarching wrapper for me is that I put a high value on time. I am probably the most urgent and the most focused person in the company. A lot of that comes from my own experience and just my own stage of life, right. I know when markets like the one we’re in now, I know that they don’t last forever, right, and that you can’t tinker and kind of think it’s just a cool thing and just expect people to be at your door. This wasn’t a consumer play. This is a business play that’s driven by consumer interest, right, because the more consumers we have the more brands want to be with us, but at the end of the day finding a business model quickly, establishing partnerships that were critical to everyone’s success so we could be a significant part of an ecosystem, and then making sure we had the talent we needed, even though I couldn’t afford it, you know, that we had the talent, and sometimes I got people to do things free or do them for equity rather than paid in cash, I mean that really played into our success. I mean there’s still a hill to climb, right, because in a market like this that’s so volatile and so active, the dynamics are critical and everyday we have to make sure we’re doing the right things at the right time and not just sitting up in some, in startup land, you know, comparing ourselves to our self. But here’s the most important thing: the only comparison for us is to the market. We of course are getting better everyday because we have more people and we have more funding. But the truth is we have to compare ourselves and our strategy to the dynamics of the market, and that’s what keeps me up at night and good CEO’s are a bit paranoid and a little crazy and I represent both of those remarks.

Susan Bratton: That was very helpful, especially the very beginning about how you did a lot of homework to assess the competitive landscape and then find your sweet spot, and then execute on the right partners, the service differentiation and the capabilities of your team, but I think it really goes back to the very first thing you said, which was you did the homework to find the opportunity, and then you executed on it with what you had.

Wendy Lea: That’s right. Because I knew that if I couldn’t be random about the strategy, that there wasn’t enough time or money to be random. I didn’t have enough leeway to experiment, and sometimes venture back startups do, right. You get enough money where you can experiment. When I walked in we needed to make progress quickly. So it feels good now, and there’s still a lot to do. There’s always risk. But we’re very fortunate to have such a growing thriving business in a market that’s as good as this one.

Susan Bratton: Well thank you so much for the eloquence and the articulation of your business model and the opportunity for my listeners to go check out what you’re doing and considerate it themselves. I really appreciate it Wendy. Its been great to get an update, and I want to let listeners know that I’ve actually interviewed you in the past. This is your second time on DishyMix, and I’ve always enjoyed the conversations we’ve had. So thank you so much for being on the show today.

Wendy Lea: My pleasure. Thanks for having us and for your support of Get Satisfaction. I’ll let our VP of marketing, Keith Messick, know that you love the site. He’ll appreciate that.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, really beautiful. Definitely a well-done construct and visual designs. It’s just exquisitely perfect. So, all right, well thank you so much for listening to DishyMix this week with Wendy Lea, l-e-a if you’re going to Google her. She’s the CEO of Get Satisfaction. Go check out the site and understand that you need to be where your customers are. That’s the new imperative. Have a great day and thanks again for tuning in this week. I’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.