I had a chance to sit down with Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction to discuss how some of the topics that you will see at the Social Shake-Up Conference created the need for companies like hers. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
SMT: Tell me a little bit about Get Satisfaction and why it was started. What was the inspiration?
W: Get Satisfaction launched in late 2007, and it was established around the notion that people wanted to talk to each other around products, services, and brands they were passionate about. They wanted to come together in a special place to have those conversations, and then based on those conversations, the products, services, brands, and companies would start participating. That’s how it got started.
It’s continued to be that way to this very day. Get Satisfaction is a network of customer communities designed to host vibrant, authentic conversations. Over the years, we’ve evolved our product so that companies can actually take that experience, brand it, integrate it into their website, and extend it into whatever social networks the company wants to participate in so that the customer experience is seamless no matter where they are or what device they’re on.
SMT: What are the tricks to building up a community like that? How do you get the people in? What are some of the secrets?
W: The first thing you want to do is make sure you’re opening the door to a community. That’s very important. We call it an entry point. It’s essentially like placing a door to your community in as many places as you feel is effective. Let me be specific about that. The door can be on your Facebook Fan page— The door could be on any part of your website—from your homepage to your product page—which can even be within the purchase flow. So you want the door to the community to be friendly and explicit and contextualized based on where that customer is. In other words, not the old-fashioned community where there’s a tab that says, “Community.”
The key to that is having a platform and application like ours, which is open, where all of these conversations are actually searched and indexed by Google and in turn, made more discoverable. Because these conversations are highly indexed and appear at the top of related search results, other consumers become more naturally engaged in the conversation because they can easily find community topics that apply to them—which can include anything from an answer to a question they have to praise for a product they’re looking into. Frankly, SEO is a major benefit our customers receive. That’s always been a benefit of Get Satisfaction compared to Lithium or Jive or other enterprise communities.
SMT: Assuming companies take on this type of an approach. How do they measure the value?
W: There are a couple of different yardsticks. One, they can measure just the total amount of peer-to-peer activity. So it’s not just how many times the community manager working for the company is interacting with someone in the community, but so much of the interaction is self-organizing and self-resolving and building between people. That’s one way that it’s really important to businesses. They like to measure that. We have in our dashboard a way to see self-organizing activity.
The second way companies measure their ROI is underneath self-organizing. It’s understanding how often does a community actually solve the community problem rather than having to interact or respond themselves? That saves money and time on behalf of the company. So there’s that pure improvement to customer experience, satisfaction and cost reduction angle. That’s always a way they measure the value Get Satisfaction is providing.
The third way has to do with customer acquisition. Because we’re an open community and the content is highly searched, we can actually bring in new prospects and customers to a company. Because of the interaction our content has inside social networks, it just attracts other prospects. So we often show new customer activity as part of another measurement on our dashboard.
And part of customer acquisition is proving it so we are integrated with Marketo now, and we’re integrated with HootSuite. By being more explicit as part of a marketing toolset, proving actual customer acquisition is a lot easier than you might think.
SMT: You said you started in 2007, what do you think has been the biggest change for communities over the last seven years or so?
W: I think the biggest change is our requirement as an application provider to have a product that is easy to distribute. What I mean by that is community needs to be alive and everywhere. It doesn’t need to be layered behind four types of authentication. You want it to be like a party, and you want customers to find it easily and when they get there, have fun. We are known for that. Other community providers who don’t do that struggle more because of this new world of transparency and fun that is fast, easy and searchable. I think our advantages are stronger now than maybe they were even designed to be because of the strength and influence that consumers have.
SMT: Where does community go from here - What does your crystal ball say?
W: If you think of community as the core or the hub of customer and company activity, I think where it has to go is, we as community providers, as application providers, need to make sure that we’re organically extending more and more to all the places consumers are online, which means more and more social networks. That’s very important. Your product has to naturally feed into those networks. And I don’t mean a link to them. I mean you have to show up there organically. That’s very important. You can’t do that if you don’t have APIs. This is not your mother’s message board or your dad’s own forum. It’s a very different kind of thing.
The other place we have to go from here is despite the huge value add, companies don’t yet realize how essential communities are. Right now, despite the real value communities provide across all departments from sales and marketing to support and product, many companies are spending the valuable resources of various teams—like support or marketing for example—when communities can be integrated to solve many of the needs of both teams What’s more essential is a silly trouble-ticketing service, which I think is hilarious. It makes me laugh. Why is marketing automation and trouble-ticketing more essential than a customer community? That’s just weird to me. And I appreciate all the players. I love Marketo and Eloqua and I love Service Cloud and Zendesk, but help me understand why community is not viewed to be as essential an element for a company and their customer strategies as one of those other internal software pieces? That’s weird, no?
One of the ways we, as community providers, can become more essential is to show the role we play in connecting consumer activity in the social Web all the way through to applications of records that count stuff. We need to make sure that counting includes the unstructured data that we naturally pull together and serve up into databases of record that businesses learn from. But the truth of the matter is I’m sitting on customer data coming straight from their mouths. It’s not transactional data. It’s real customer data.
But I think social science and the social Web mixed with data science is the future of community. And we are the gravitational hub for that data. If you can bring it into a community hub and let that be an engine for that customer data, which really is customer insight, I think you’ve got something going on there. But to do that, you have to have really strong API infrastructure, and you have to have a product that consumers enjoy working with, and it can’t be messy or hard to use. And then you have to have these backend systems that play nice with all the other systems so we are not some kind of standalone piece out here in no man’s land.
SMT: Very exciting Wendy. I look forward to seeing you speak at the Social Shake-Up Conference in September. We’ll get a chance to meet face to face there. Thanks for a great interview, and I really appreciate your time.
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