Distress Is in the Mail

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Today we may be the search engine with all the answers, but when we started in 1998 Google was a small, lean operation. Whatever information we gathered about our customers and end users was mostly through emails to our customer service department. Those emails covered everything from usability to site rankings to how we got our name. With only one guy dedicated to the task, it was all we could do to just answer those emails, much less use them to gather CRM information about our clients. By the time I joined in 1999 it was clear that we needed an email management solution. For us this was an international journey, because as our worldwide reach grew we needed a vendor that could cope with foreign language emails into our customer service system. By 2000 we settled on an overseas CRM provider that met our price point. In a matter of months we realized that what we saved in dollars was costing us dearly in good customer service. The product was unstable, with a lot of downtime and plenty of painful upgrades. It could not service the company we had become: A site with more than 150 million search queries per day in 90 languages and delivering services for a number of other portals like Yahoo and AOL. Additionally we were launching AdWords, a self-service advertising program for small business with support via email. This would create thousands more email requests. Yet, with our current program already experiencing email backlogs in the thousands and unkept promises about soon-to-be-added functionality, we found ourselves once again on the CRM-provider trail. Like many companies we first went to the CRM big boys. After our earlier experience I wanted the robustness of an established product behind us. We soon found out that cost was often prohibitive--especially because we were not likely to implement all the possible components that large-scale CRM solutions offer since our efforts are largely email based. Another problem with a big player was that our requests for product changes couldn't possibly be implemented right away. Rather, they would be considered along with similar requests and if demand were high, they would be put into the next rev--whenever that might be. On the other hand, our dealings with a small, seemingly agile company hadn't worked well either. Ultimately it was a courtesy call that would solve our problem. At the request of the company founders we looked at Neotonic, a small company with a product called Trakken. In all honesty, we gave Neotonic a gander expecting it not to fulfill our needs. But surprisingly, the email-management program seemed stable, adaptable, and intuitive. Because Neotonic was perfecting its product while we worked with them, we were able to ask for changes that were built into the solution right away. We have taken Trakken and have extended it throughout company to handle other groups, and have moved our user-support group out of marketing into advertising, where the customer information we gather can be put to immediate use. And despite even higher call volume we have no downtime, no backlogs, and 100 percent reliability. Email-handling time was reduced by 50 percent as well. Being open-minded allowed us to find the solution that was right for us. While we didn't initially have faith that another small company would be any better than the first one we dealt with, we gave Neotonic a shot, and today we have all the answers our customers want--as fast as they want them.
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