Parature, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider in the customer relationship management (CRM) space, has collaborated with Facebook to develop a new addition to its offerings: an application for Facebook. The new module goes live this quarter.
"The Internet is changing," says Duke Chung, Parature Founder and Chief Strategy Officer. Parature had to change its offer, too, he adds.
Parature's on-demand customer service software allows businesses, universities, and healthcare organizations to leverage the Internet to provide outstanding customer service and online support to their customers.
Parature constantly talks to its customers "to ask what we can do better," says Chung. First they asked for a Twitter module. Over the last 12 months they clamored for help with Facebook support.
As luck would have it, both Parature and Facebook share an investor, Accel Partners. (Its other investors include Valhalla Partners and Sierra Ventures.) Accel put the two companies together. The result is Parature for FacebookTM
The Facebook offering
Chung believes Facebook has become "one of the Web's most dominant customer communities" with the Facebook "like" page "rapidly becoming the No. 2 destination for conversation, community, and relationship building." He says Parature developed its Facebook app to "easily enable companies to be where their customers are -- on their Facebook page," he continues.
Currently there are 400 million Facebook users, many of whom are the customers of Parature outsourcing buyers, he explains.
"When people use Facebook, they want to be heard," observes Chung. "They want the company to answer. But most companies don't have enough time to answer everybody. Our app addresses that," he says.
The Parature for Facebook app has three distinct functions:
- The ability to monitor, listen, and engage with customers directly on the Facebook page
- The ability to provide direct support with a support tab on every Facebook page
- The ability for customers to share positive support experiences with other Facebook users
For example, a customer posts to a corporation's Facebook wall. The post contains keywords the organization wants to track. The software reads the relevant posts and pushes those into Parature as a ticket with the Facebook customer listed on the ticket. Without leaving Parature, a customer service representative (CSR) is now aware of a customer issue. The CSR can link directly to the wall to post a response.
Another example is when a customer complains about a service problem. They notice an option to search for answers directly from Facebook. The customer enters a search term; Parature software presents the customer with the relevant answers. The customer never leaves Facebook.
If the software can't answer the question, there is a simple path to create a trouble ticket that finds an appropriate CSR to answer the question live. Customers can also submit a question directly from the Facebook page.
Both of these customers have the option to start a live chat directly from the Facebook page. A CSR responds to the Facebook user from Parature. Again, the customer never has to leave Facebook.
"Our app transforms the way customers deal with companies on Facebook," says Chung. The Chief Strategy Officer says Parature's customers are excited about the ability to share positive experiences. "They have not been able to broadcast how well they are doing. Now their customers have a place to brag about positive experiences," he says.
Why Facebook is important today
"Customers are always looking for the shortest and quickest path to the information they are looking for. Companies want to deliver answers and feedback in the most efficient method possible," observes Brett Fisher, President of The Hits Doctor, a social media consulting firm. He says Parature's app allows companies "to connect the dots more quickly between the customer, the problem and the solution."
He calls the app "an innovative tool" because it automates many of the time-consuming social media monitoring and customer service processes into a central portal. "Managing a company's brand reputation and customer issues can be a daunting task requiring many people to constantly monitor postings, tweets, and complaints/questions from multiple sources. Parature's app cuts down this overhead significantly, freeing up resources," he says.
It could also alleviate the need to answer every posting directly, since the built-in FAQs and knowledge base enable customers to find the answer to their questions or interact with support without having to leave Facebook to search for the answer elsewhere. "This could potentially increase the stickiness and 'time on site' of a company's Facebook page," Fisher continues. The Rosetta Stone story
Rosetta Stone sells computer-based training in 31 languages, making it easy and fun to learn a new language. The Virginia-based company has millions of users in more than 150 countries and had more than $250 million in revenues in 2009, according to Jay Topper, Senior Vice President, CustomerSuccess.
In 2008 the company underwent a metamorphosis. "We started out as a product company. We moved to a services company," he explains. Before the change, the only time a customer contacted the company was when something went wrong. "Our customer support was solely reactive," Topper explains. When Rosetta Stone added online services -- the option of talking live to native speakers, the company moved into a proactive CRM stance and outsourced to Parature.
For example, now the company has what it calls "motivators" who lead people deeper into Rosetta Stone's products. "This is different from selling someone a yellow box," says the SVP.
In November 2009 the company created a social media policy and promoted Alexie Harper as its first Social Media Lead. Her full-time job is to manage Rosetta Stone's social media strategy, including monitoring Facebook.
Rosetta Stone agreed to become a Parature beta tester "because the new app addresses several of the challenges we have had," says Harper. First, monitoring the company's Facebook wall became a daunting task. "We couldn't get to all the posts that were looking for a response from us," she reports.
Because the Parature app works on key words, it ferrets out postings that require an immediate response and alerts Harper accordingly. The app creates a ticket that goes right to Rosetta Stone's support group.
She likes the fact that her customers don't have to leave Facebook and go to their email accounts to get help from a Rosetta Stone support expert. Now they can do it directly from Facebook.
Harper sees two benefits to Rosetta Stone: the app gives customers "more things to do on our Facebook page and creates efficiencies on our back end."
Topper says his company has to be careful how to respond on Facebook because it doesn't want to stalk anyone. The Parature offering removes that worry.
"Social media is new," adds Topper. "We don't want to go too fast or too slow. The Parature speed is just right."
Getting started at Cornell
Chung and friends were computer majors at Cornell University. (They matriculated in 1996.) They developed an Instant Message tool that connected a Web site visitor to a Web chat room so the visitors could converse with a support person in real time. "We never planned to become a customer relationship management (CRM) company," says Chung.
HP was the Cornell kids' first customer. It seems college students would rather go to their own campus support to get their laptop fixed than go to the HP site. HP was able to support the Cornell student body of 25,000 with a live support staff of five people because students were able to fix their own problems through Chung's self-service information guides 95 percent of the time.
The college students offered their software service for free. With graduation approaching, they polled their customers to see what services they needed that they would pay for. Almost everyone replied their CRM software solution still required them to have a live person to answer lots of questions. "They wanted a portal so they could publish information on the Web to make customer service as self-service as possible," recalls Chung. "They wanted their customers to be able to find the information they needed themselves 24/7."
The entrepreneurs -- Chung and three other Cornell classmates graduated in 2001 and started Parature with money from family and friends. Since then, the service provider has grown organically from its own revenues and has also raised $30 million in venture funding, according to Chung.
Today the company has 800 clients and 16 million registered end-users in 45 countries. It can now build its solution in six languages.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Center:
- Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are becoming an important part of customer interaction. Parature for Facebook helps companies by allowing interactions without having to leave Facebook.
- How people use the Internet is changing and so must the offerings of customer service and support software providers.