Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Wendy Lea, the chief executive officer of Get Satisfaction. Lea and I last chatted 18 months ago when she had just taken the reins at the customer community company. A year and a half later, Lea shared with me what’s changed at GetSat, her views of social CRM, and how Facebook has impacted its business model. Here’s a portion of our conversation:
CRM magazine: What’s new over at Get Satisfaction? I see that you all have been embracing the term “Social CRM!”
Wendy Lea: We have gotten a new outside investor and that signals to us and to the market the belief that there’s something to this new domain called “social CRM.” We have never doubted the value of CRM tools and systems and processes—it’s been hard sometimes to realize, but the fact that companies of all sizes around the world use these systems would indicate there’s value there.
What’s interesting about the social component is that it’s not separate from CRM, even though it is outside-in, it is public, and it seems a bit free-form because it deals with the natural expressions that consumers and customers have for the brands. The truth of the matter is there is a role for all these social expressions relative to amplifying CRM investments. It doesn’t have to be ‘you are out there in Facebook’ or ‘you are inside your CRM system.’ The beauty of what’s happened – over the course of 18 months – is companies of all sizes are more comfortable with the reality that their customers are online and they are expressing themselves, and companies want to do more than listen.
CRM: How are consumers behaving differently?
Lea: Consumers are more active than ever, but they aren’t just ranting. They do want to express themselves in productive ways. They don’t want to just ream Virgin Airlines. They want to express themselves in ways that help themselves and the brands they support.
I see an easing of those two dimensions so much that I think consumers are getting more comfortable participating in communities that are sponsored by companies; and companies are more comfortable creating these spaces so their customers and prospects can come in and out in ways that are most natural to them.
CRM: What indicators have there been of this newly-realized comfort?
Lea: From a Get Satisfaction perspective, we have 40,000 companies that have come to us organically to set up a community. Their customers/members/citizens can exchange conversation. And that’s happened in last three years without us spending a penny on outbound. That’s a pretty strong indicator. And these aren’t just start ups. These are some very large brands. The fact that we have a freemium model would suggest that some are experimenting. (I’m in to being pragmatic. I’m not going to overstate it—I’m not that kind of executive.) But the truth is, to see over 1,000 companies every month come and set up and establish a community and to at least experiment with it is a non-trivial indicator to me that companies are willing to let go a little a bit. Now that doesn’t mean they are using us as instead of their service or support system in place of from Salesforce.com, or RightNow, or Parature. That is not the case.
We are serious about our ability to create and encourage high value conversations that ultimately bring benefits to consumers and companies. And then, if a company chooses to, they can integrate conversations from their community into their own systems— it can be integrated from a marketing standpoint, a product standpoint, or in service-support way. That to me is what has really shifted.
CRM: How has the amplification of Twitter and Facebook changed things?
Lea: The exponential growth is important to us. As that message bus grows, companies are even more eager to figure out how to create those expressions into value conversations. Not just so they can suck it into CRM systems, but so they can interact with it. The growth of Facebook and Twitter definitely has accelerated social CRM and certainly has had a positive impact on our growth.
CRM: What about working with Facebook and Twitter? What headway have you made?
Lea: [Get Satisfaction founders] Thor Muller and Lane Becker have been close with the Twitter folks from Day 1. They get what Twitter does and Twitter gets what we do. We have always had a feature that allowed a company to pull in a Twitter stream to the community. It’s called “Overheard” and that’s always been there.
Frankly because we have not had a lot of capital, a lot of bigger companies didn’t know that existed. So our start-up buddies—be it Foursquare or Gowalla—they all knew that. We did a bad job of featuring it. We will begin marketing it in a more consistent way.
The Facebook integration is amazing and as important. That’s because big brands in consumer goods and consumer electronics, if nothing else, those two segments they are obsessed with how to engage with Facebook as a system. Last fall we started developing with Facebook and launched in March this year. We have over 150 paying customers that use our Facebook integration
CRM: How do they use it?
Lea: In three ways:
- They use it as support tool before they come into their service and support system. Social gaming is one way they would use it. It’s not a 1:1 support tool, it’s many to many. So the community helps answer the questions first. We can be a tab called support. When you click that tab, it takes into our cloud, where customers can help each other.
- We are launching with Zynga Mafia Wars. They are using Facebook integration for ideas in Mafia Wars. This is an always-on, consumer-driven ideas use case. It’s fascinating. The [Zynga] team is focused on rapid iteration of their games. What better way to do that than through the Facebook integration? If it works the way we want it to, we will move to an in-game use case. They will actually get feedback through the community inside the game. We are uniquely positioned to render a community at the point of a customer conversation. You don’t have to jerk me out of a fan page—or out of a game—to take me to a tab that says community. We are expressed right there where customers are talking.
- We launched with Motorola a beautiful use case around service and support. Soon we will be used by four big CPG brands through what we call “pure brand advocacy.” They will actually use us on their fan page to create brand loyalty—not so much service and support, but to encourage participation and conversation on the fan page. You lose that content. It goes off the wall and it’s gone.
CRM: On the topic of losing the content, are companies like Motorola integrating the content from say a wall post into their CRM systems?
Lea: Not in Phase 1. These things play out in phases. With large companies, their experiment goes from free community to a paid fan box to the use of us in a fan page to build community. There are kinks—especially with community management. The integration into CRM systems, we have had that since Day 1. But that really is next phase of our growth.
Our success will ultimately come down to our ability to attract more and more consumers to our network. When I come in I want to traverse multiple communities. I want to have a profile—my profile. My social graph that looks just like my Facebook social graph. I want to be able move across the GetSat network and interact as many brands I have passion for. We have to do a better job of that. The second thing we have to do is to make sure our companies, our customers, free or paid, use us in three ways:
- From their own brand or website, so they put our widgets on their site.
- We have to make sure that community is being pulled through their fan page. There’s not a company in the world that is not going to have a beautiful presence inside Facebook. There’s no reason not to. I want our community to be pulled through theirs as well.
- For our companies, integrating into CRM. As companies of all sizes become comfortable using us on site, pulling our community through the fan page, then they will open up and take advantage of the API to connect Get Satisfaction to whatever system they have.
For more information on Get Satisfaction, CRM awarded the company with a Rising Star award in the 2009 CRM Service Awards.