The 2009 CRM Service Awards: Rising Stars -- Parature: Gaming the System

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A customer service applications vendor that got early traction in the oft-overlooked interactive gaming space is making a name for itself among CRM cognoscenti. That vendor is Parature, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, you likely will soon.

The PC- and console-gaming industry doesn’t get much mention in serious CRM discussions, despite its constituent companies having to successfully manage a slew of B2B and B2C relationships. Parature, founded in 2000, uses a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to deliver sophisticated customer service capabilities without massive investment of capital. The cofounders (including Duke Chung, the chief executive officer, and Calvin Lam, the vice president of information technology and hosting) envisioned a home for businesses of all sizes, but wanted to be sure smaller companies had a place.

“A lot of the complexities we’ve seen in traditional software…have just been overwhelmingly difficult to put together, to get set up, and extremely expensive,” Chung said in a 2006 interview with ExecutiveBiz¸ a Washington-area business journal, citing the appeal of small-to-midsized businesses and the midmarket. “This was a great opportunity for Parature. All of our products and all of our services have really been driving toward fulfilling the needs of this market segment.”

Parature has been growing since Day One, but the past year has brought some truly notable achievements: Sales growth hit 379 percent, and the company captured a number of technology and industry awards. “When we did our last report, they weren’t on the radar; literally in the last year they came out of the shadows,” says Chip Gliedman, a vice president with Forrester Research. Some of this is by intent—Parature hasn’t been completely silent but did remain fairly low-profile until recently—and some is due to the way deals are built, and the sort of customers Parature has targeted. “They were smart—they stayed out of the mainstream for the most part, and aren’t competing with companies like Microsoft and SAP for big deals,” Gliedman says. “They’re going where they have competitive advantage and winning those deals.” The “secret sauce” as far as Gliedman is concerned is that Parature “built the support model with not only B2B but B2C in mind, as well. It’s very community-oriented.”

But Parature will be silent no longer. The company seems to have hit its stride, and will likely be much noisier throughout 2009. “Gaming may have been an early network, but now the company is going more mainstream,” Gliedman says. Parature’s message of inclusive customer support will serve the company well in a business environment awakening to the value of communities, user-generated content, and social behavior. “Parature tailored [its] message around the concept of community,” Gliedman says. “Other companies do it as an afterthought. Parature, given [its] focus on the social, will find a lot of play in those markets where community is important.”

For recognizing the value of the small opportunities as well as the large; for including the user in user support; and for giving its customers the customizable service-and-support SaaS platform the industry deserves, we name Parature one of this year’s Rising Stars.  —Marshall Lager

Snapshot: PARATURE
• CEO: Duke Chung
• Founded: 2000
• Headquarters: Vienna, Va.
• Revenue: Not disclosed
• Employees: 129
• Customer count: 750, including Coremetrics, Havok, Florida State University, JobFox, K2 Network, and Office Depot

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