What I hate more than anything else in the world - more than freeway traffic, Thai food, and bad comb-overs -- is automated customer support voice messaging systems. Maybe it’s the lifeless, unfeeling voice that irritates me, or maybe I, like so many other people, don’t like sitting alone in a room screaming “YES!” and “NO!” into my phone over and over because the automated system “didn’t quite catch that.” But either way, the person who came up with the automated customer support service should be tarred and feathered.
That said, Get Satisfaction, a startup that develops customer support social networks for brands, today announced that it raised $6 million in series A funding led by Azure Capital Partners, with help from O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and First Round Capital. Previous investors have included SoftTech VC, Kapor Capital, and Freestyle Capital, and this recent series A round brings the company’s total funding to $10.85 million.
Founded in 2007, the San Francisco, Calif.-based startup takes a unique approach to customer support. Instead of leaving customers to scream into their phones with an automated service, Get Satisfaction provides a service whereby customers can discuss products, common problems, and ideas together, with the help of a brand representative acting as moderator.
The company’s philosophy on customer support is summed up in its mascot/nemesis, JarGon. According to Get Satisfaction’s website: “JarGon is the customer service robot. He has no heart and isn’t capable of love. He was created in a secret lab to frustrate customers, and Get Satisfaction is locked in an epic battle to protect the populace from this bumbling, metallic menace.”
According to Andy Wibbels, Get Satisfactions' director of marketing communications: "The big difference is our focus on the outcomes of these conversations happening online. Instead of endless back-and-forth we focus topics towards four main areas: questions, ideas, problems and praise."
Customers who log into a Get Satisfaction-operated support network are given four options to choose from: Ask a Question, Share an Idea, Report a Problem, or Give Praise. A post starts a discussion thread which other customers can contribute to, and a feature similar to Facebook’s “like” button allows other users to agree with the original poster, whether it refers to a complaint, idea, question, or an expression of satisfaction.
For example, on the Zappos customer support network, someone posted a question in the Ask a Question forum one year ago asking why Zappos sells fur. An “I have this question, too!” button at the bottom of the post allows other users to second the original post. For this particular question, four other people also claimed to have the same question.
Over 200 companies have joined the Get Satisfaction platform, including the aforementioned Zappos, as well as Yola, Tide, Foursquare, RockYou, and Twitter. Get Satisfaction has also tapped into the power of established social networks to import customer discussions from a brand’s fan page onto the Get Satisfaction Web interface. In 2008 the company created its Ear on Twitter feature, which monitors Twitter feeds for customer discussions or complaints for its clients.
"The new funding will help Get Satisfaction expand our team, accelerate product and market development and invest in strategic apartments with digital agencies, CRM providers and distribution partners that serve the small to medium business segment," said Wibbels.
Similar platforms have been created to provide an alternative customer support service. Lithium Technologies also offers an online community-building service to provide more efficient customer support, and in 2007 the company was named a "Recognized Innovator" by the Service & Support Professionals Association.
A blog post from the company’s new VP of product marketing, Jeff Nolan, reveals that the company has undergone an extensive management overhaul in the last year. In August, co-founder Lane Becker stepped down as president of the company and Wendy Lea was installed as the new CEO in place of co-founder Thor Muller.
Image source: getsatisfaction.com