When Infusionsoft, a provider of email marketing software for small businesses, deployed a customer community to aid with support questions, its primary goal was to deflect some repeat calls its agents handled on a daily basis. Soon after launching a Helpstream community for help (which Infusionsoft calls FuseBox), the company saw an immediate reduction of calls—by about a third, which soon provided return on investment. Now 14 months later, Infusionsoft’s seeing benefits that executives say they had never imagined.
“We’ve changed even the way we interact with customers,” says JoAnne Ravielli, Infusionsoft’s vice president of customer service and support. The support community began with the goal of posting commonly asked questions and answers to promote self-service. Now, as participation has exploded, Ravielli says Infusionsoft is bringing in Facebook and Twitter feeds. The community has shifted from being just a help center to facilitating conversations among customers.
“We are making the transition to being more moderators instead of being support reps,” she says. “Now when we look at skill sets [for support agents], we’re [still] looking for technical knowledge, but also [for] someone who understands the social media concept and socialization.” Beyond providing vanilla answers, the Infusionsoft support team is able to point customers to best practices for particular verticals—and to facilitate networking with like-minded customers.
Prior to Infusionsoft’s December 2008 implementation of on-demand social CRM customer service from Helpstream, the Gilbert, Ariz.–based software company was primarily answering support questions over the phone. “For every customer we brought in, we would have about three interactions per month per customer,” Ravielli says. “But now we’re down to less than one call per month per customer.” Ravielli explains that the deflection is due not only to the amount of support material now available online, but also because customer community members are often answering one another’s questions. Infusionsoft support reps can now spend more time engaging with customers in other channels, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Benefits from community involvement are numerous, Ravielli says. “The more you get your community involved, the more you’re deflecting [calls and costs], but you’re also getting your customers to adopt more.” The community relies on its “Gurus,” a term given to non-Infusionsoft-employee superusers, to keep the group lively and informative. “We know our product inside and out, but we have no idea how to run, say, an auto-detailing shop,” Ravielli says. “Getting [auto-detailing] gurus out there helps adoption with our software and that helps retention and our churn numbers.”
Additionally, tapping in to community insights has aided Infusionsoft in upgrading and tweaking its software. She takes the stance that, “People who buy our software shouldn’t have to make their business fit our software. The software should fit the business.” The Infusionsoft social support site has not only helped specific industries within the customer community learn from one another, but has also helped Infusionsoft learn what the software means for a given sector.
Helpstream’s current offering isn’t what landed it the gig, Ravielli says. “Helpstream’s roadmap is all around social media and that’s the wave,” she says. Infusionsoft plans to continue to match Helpstream’s upgrades and dive into new social media areas as they develop. Customers love the social media channel, she says, pointing to satisfaction levels hovering above 90 percent.
“Allowing a lot more community-type interactions allows us to connect in all different ways and methods with our customers,” Ravielli says. “Connecting with them in the way they like to connect makes the experience 100 percent better.”
Infusionsoft, by the Numbers
- Agent caseload has dropped 33 percent;
- The number of questions now being asked online is four times as many as the number that were asked over the phone;
- The community now provides twice as many answers as was previously possible;
- The per-customer rate of monthly calls to the support center has dropped from three to one;
- Now 54 percent of incidents are resolved via self-service; and
- Of the incidents resolved via self-service, 30 percent rely on community-based service.