John Chisholm likes unambiguous goals. In mountaineering, for instance, you either reach the top or you don't, and he has summited Mts. Ranier, Whitney, Shasta, st. Helen's and Volcan Villarica, a live volcano in Chile. Business is similar: You either please your customers or you don't. As CEO of CustomerSat Inc., Chisholm helps his clients understand how they are doing, so they can address problems quickly and strengthen customer affinity.
CustomerSat's solutions help companies create customer surveys, which are e-mailed to get immediate, actionable customer feedback. The surveys can be personalized and can be scaled to interact with every customer contact point. The information can be analyzed and presented in reports, charts and verbatim comments that are used to help customer care agents improve their skills, help managers address problems and help executives plan viable programs.
The story of CustomerSat's evolution unfolds with Chisholm's history. Chisholm, who has both a bachelor's and a master's in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and a MBA from Harvard, garnered 12 years of experience marketing diverse computer and software products. In 1990 he founded a consulting firm, John Chisholm Group, which specialized in strategic marketing for computer and software companies.
At the same time, Chisholm says, "We were conducting surveys for some of our clients by conventional means, paper and telephone, and we had the idea, 'wouldn't it be neat if you could do a survey by e-mail?' You could compose the survey interactively on your PC, automatically distribute it via e-mail, have the results automatically tabulated and collected and then see the results graphically on your PC." The idea inspired the formation of Decisive Technology Corporation in 1993, which developed a software product for doing surveys via the Internet on your desktop.
Later, Chisholm realized there was an even greater opportunity to address enterprisewide requirements for gathering real-time feedback. "That suggested a server-based and Internet-based rather than desktop- and Windows-based technology. That led us to start CustomerSat in 1997." CustomerSat won clients such as Ariba, J.D. Power and Associates, Lucent, and VeriSign, and had 70 clients on its roster by 2000.
As with mountain climbing, Chisholm has his eye on his next goals for CustomerSat. The company wants to develop enterprise revenue modeling, he says, "where we show clients the impact on their projected revenues of changes or improvements in customer satisfaction and other performance metrics." The other direction CustomerSat plans to develop is in work-flow management. "We have a vision of the future, which is that everybody's productivity in the entire enterprise will be driven by real-time customer feedback," he says.