The 2014 CRM Rising Stars

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Delivering Customer Service Through Collaboration

A Web-based application enables better communication among customer service teams

Driven by frustrating interactions with customer service professionals in the B2B space, Robert Johnson founded TeamSupport with Eric Harrington with the goal of fostering effective communication to streamline support. With functionality reaching past that of a traditional ticketing system, TeamSupport is a Web-based help desk and service desk application that offers a complete customer support suite to facilitate collaboration between internal team members, other company employees, and clients.

In July 2013, the company introduced a feature designed to prevent "ticket collision," an issue that arises when multiple representatives work on the same customer ticket. "When companies rely on customer support software that doesn't update in real time, they're creating a potentially embarrassing situation for themselves," Johnson, the company's president and CEO, explains. "It's very frustrating for customers when their trouble tickets don't contain the most recent information, and it's frustrating for the support representatives as well. They can't do their jobs if they don't have the most up-to-date information," he says.

Using the new feature, customer service professionals can see who else has worked on the same ticket or is working on it in real time. "This doesn't just apply to multiple customer service team members looking at one ticket," Johnson clarifies. "The feature extends to other teams, too, meaning that if a sales representative is looking at the ticket, it will show up as well." The feature also boasts an internal chat capability, which allows employees to discuss the problem and then attach the saved conversation to the ticket.

In addition to "best of breed" (such as knowledge base) and multichannel tools including chat, self-service, and social tools, TeamSupport offers a number of other "compelling features," such as a screen capture functionality, John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association, says.

"TeamSupport has been the first to incorporate video into their support as an 'out of box' feature in their platform," Ragsdale says. "Now customers can use video to capture the precise problems they're having, and employees can troubleshoot with video tutorials. Imagine how much easier that is," he adds.

Throughout the past year, TeamSupport has worked to improve its integration capabilities with other marquee business tools, including Jira, Oracle Cloud Marketplace, and Salesforce. In May, TeamSupport became one of the few help desk software suites to integrate extensively with Salesforce. With the two systems synchronized, any help ticket created using TeamSupport's software will automatically create a case on Salesforce's end, and vice versa. The integration reaches much deeper than just the ticketing process, however. "We aren't a full-fledged CRM system," Johnson says, "but this connection to Salesforce will allow businesses to build a more well-rounded view of their customers as they pull data in from Salesforce to populate the TeamSupport database."

With companies such as AT&T, the National Basketball Association, FujiFilm, and Walmart on its list of clients, the Dallas-based company is one of the "best kept secrets" of the customer service field, according to Johnson. Yet, after being recognized with 10 industry awards in 2013, TeamSupport's secret is out. Most notably, the company was honored by the Association of Support Professionals for having one of the year's 10 Best Web Support Sites and, in September, won bronze in the Cloud Computing/SaaS Innovations category at the 2013 Golden Bridge Awards. Still, Johnson says the company is just getting started.

"We've got a lot of exciting things happening in 2014," Johnson says. "Stay tuned."

CEO: Robert C. Johnson

Founded: 2008

Headquarters: Dallas

Revenue: Undisclosed

Employees: 15

Customer Count: 1,000

Combining User Feedback with Customer Service

Calling feedback 'a gift,' a company gives clients the tools to make better products and satisfy customers

There's a lot of insight that can be gleaned from customer feedback; however, conventional methods for collecting this information are often cumbersome and ineffective.

UserVoice combines customer support with user feedback tools that are designed to make it easy for users to share their opinions of a product. The company has recently gone after the mobile market, developing mobile support and the capability to ask for feedback from customers in-app. Instead of launching a browser or requesting a customer fill out a five-minute survey, UserVoice keeps things simple. Via a quick pop-up window, a user may be asked to answer two five-second questions, with the option to say more if they'd like. Not having to leave an app to give feedback has led to dramatic increases in response rates. "We're built with the idea that getting feedback is a gift," says UserVoice CEO Richard White. "You need to construct it as a win-win." UserVoice aims to be a win-win for its customers, too, giving its clients the tools they need to both retain customers and influence product development.

The company first gained traction among small and medium-sized software companies that were already close to their customers and understood the value of getting their feedback. Large companies came later, and now include Bing Ads and Yahoo! Mail and Weather. "It's only in the last eighteen months or so that large companies have come around to this idea," White says. "Social media has taught them that large-scale engagement is not only possible, but necessary." As business has picked up, so has recognition. UserVoice won the 2013 CRM Idol competition, which showcases promising companies in the CRM space.

For small to medium-sized customers, UserVoice provides a full customer support solution. They can build a self-service knowledge base, with analytics to see which areas customers are actually going to. A dashboard tracks how quickly agents are responding and monitors the support backlog. UserVoice's larger clients tend to have their own contact centers, and use the start-up primarily for its feedback functions. Integrations with CRM and marketing systems help UserVoice sync with companies that have more built-out IT solutions.

Besides adding mobile support and feedback tools, White cites the addition of analytics as another game-changer for the company, calling it "a huge innovation that allows us to tell an ROI story." Clients can segment out their customers, figuring out what the biggest issues are among customers who spend $100 or more a month on the app, for example, compared to those in a free trial stage. "Smarter segmentation lets customers grade and rate feedback better in a more efficient timeframe," notes Brent Leary, a partner at the CRM consultancy CRM Essentials. Or they can see if customer satisfaction scores go up or down after contacting the customer support team. "We're giving product managers and support managers reasons to say why they need investment," White says.

While it's easy to find a contact number for most Web companies, the same is not true for products that live on mobile devices, something UserVoice is trying to change. "Mobile customer care is about three to four years behind the Web, both in terms of vendor tools and penetration. Mobile support remains a relatively untested field," White says.

Leary sees UserVoice positioned ahead of the curve. He offers the example of Amazon's mayday button, which takes users to customer support with a single tap, as an example of how user expectations of mobile support are changing. "Things like that will put a lot of pressure on companies to do a better job building customer support and user experience into these mobile devices." Feedback remains UserVoice's biggest asset. "That's where UserVoice has an opportunity to step up and become a big player," Leary says.

CEO: Richard White

Founded: 2008

Headquarters: San Francisco ?(with offices in Raleigh, NC)

Revenue: Undisclosed

Customer Count: Undisclosed, ?but 160,000 UserVoice sites exist online

Employees: 20

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