UserVoice: Six steps to success from the CRM Idol superstar

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Jessica Carter
Deputy Editor
Sift Media
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We’re all aware of the gruelling process every Idol champion has to endure, and the most recent competition – which was of the highest standards yet – allowed for no exceptions. Entrants’ style, capabilities, potential and, obviously, performances were assessed in various rounds by the judging panel of industry royalty. In the end, of course, it was down to members of the public who were asked to vote for their favourite performer in a nail-bitingly tense finale, which saw one well-deserving champion crowned and thrust into a future of stardom.

Yes, this year’s CRM Idol really was something special.

For those less au fait with the CRM variety of Idol, this competition is intended for small companies working in the customer relationship field. Entrants compete not for a £1 million record deal, but for the CRM Idol crown and an array of businesses-boosting prizes. (The crown is purely figurative, we must stipulate, but coveted nonetheless.)

This year’s deserving victor was UserVoice – a software-as-a-service organisation, designed to assist app-based companies handle support requests and facilitate quality customer engagement. It also provides the analytics needed contextualise the resulting data, thus allowing users to positively develop their products and services in line with the consumer’s needs.

CRM Idol was not short of praise for UserVoice and its fellow finalists: “via their offerings, leadership and value in the marketplace [they] are worthy of being on any short list for technology choice out there”.

So, in an attempt to discover some helpful insider tips, we found out how this customer-centric superstar navigated its way through the foggy realms of CRM to reach the summit of success.

1. By staying ahead of the curve

Let’s start at the hazy dawn of the UserVoice era, when CRM was pretty much an opt-in type of industry. Back then, it proved rather tricky to get some companies to see the benefit of opening themselves up to customer feedback – or throwing themselves to the lions as they no-doubt saw it. “We’re coming up to our sixth anniversary and we’ve really seen the CRM space change a lot over the years”, reflects Richard White, CEO and co-founder of UserVoice. “When we started in 2008 we wanted to help companies gather feedback from a large proportion of their vast user base, to inform the development of their product. A lot of them were very hesitant to do that; small start-up companies would be all about it but the larger companies would not.”

This has, just as he anticipated, all changed in the interim, and Richard cites social media as the catalyst: “It has forced companies, big and small, to do this kind of large-scale engagement and customer insight”. Indeed, Richard is confident that the market is now ready to get serious about CRM, and UserVoice is more equipped than ever to help them.

2. By embracing change

Richard believes that part of UserVoice’s success lies in the fact that it has grown alongside its users and been shaped by their evolving needs. “We’ve always been about offering a voice for any given user base, but how we do that’s changed. The two primary things we do are analytics and helping users scale support – we didn’t really do any of that when we started. We began with a customer portal which helped businesses manage and aggregate feedback, but it wasn’t an app and it wasn’t accompanied by support solutions or analytic tools; we’ve added on all those pieces over time. You really have to have all that data and all that functionality in one app to be successful now.”

So, it’s all about adaptability. Even now, UserVoice has no plans to stay still – it is already pooling some new technology and working on helping its users put their data to better use. “We’ve found that companies don’t necessarily know how to act on the data we give them; they don’t know how to analyse it or enable it. So, a lot of what we’re focused on this year is not only helping these companies collect data, but evaluating it and making it actionable.”

3. By staying streamlined

Speaking to Richard about his users and the most common problems they face, it’s clear that there is a collective struggle going on when it comes to managing disproportionate data.

“Whenever we hold an event I ask the attendees what the top thing they struggle with is, and everyone says it’s balancing their feedback. They want to know how to balance the feedback from their smaller users with their big enterprise customers, and how to manage the comments they get from their consumers in relation to that from internal stakeholders and staff members.”

While companies are now managing to garner that essential data, it’s not all in one place, it’s not in proportion, and they aren’t sure how to act on it. UserVoice knows how important it is to help companies streamline all this information efficiently, enabling its users to optimise their businesses for success.

4. By engaging the masses

Now organisations have got their heads around how to handle their in-bound support requests and gather data from those users, concerns are set to turn to the remaining 95% of their customers, Richard anticipates.

“Getting in-bound support right is certainly a benefit and can be a differentiator for your business. However, it still only affects a small percentage of the user base; normally, not more than 5% of the user base makes contact for support in any given month. So, we need to realise that by just doing this we’re only having a relationship with 5% of people every month – that’s not incredibly effective.”

Richard believes that mass communication has been spurred on by social media, although he has a very specific idea about where that sits in relation to CRM. “We don’t believe the future of customer relationships is on social media; when we poll customers and run surveys, we find people don’t want to go to Twitter first – we see Twitter as the small claims court of bad support. What social media does is make it very expensive to not build a relationship with users in your app.”

5. By being proactive

I’ve already mentioned that the competition at CRM Idol this year was the stiffest yet. When I asked Richard what he thought set UserVoice apart from the other entrants, he gave us two answers:

“Our focus on being an in-app solution. A lot of CRM solutions really drive people towards customer portals and things like that. Our mission is to not just sit back and wait for support to happen, but to really reach out practically to users and figure out what could be better. To do that in this era you have to be an app. I think that was something the judges thought was really cutting edge.

“We also have a big emphasis on not just offering support. There are a lot of CRM solutions that focus on the support angle, but doing in-app support plus in-app customer insight was really our big differentiator.”

6. By daring to be different

From our experiences with other Idol competitions, we know that being the best on paper doesn’t necessarily guarantee you victory – it’s personality that’s the key differentiator. Besides having a great product and an insightful take on the market, companies need to be individual, Richard concludes. “The judges ask a lot of questions about company culture. If you watch our videos and things like that, you can see our company culture is a little unique – we’re self-deprecating, we make fun of ourselves – so I think it’s about embracing personality.

“It’s CRM Idol, right, and if you watch any of the other Idols or X-Factor, it’s the personality that matters. That would be my advice – make sure you have personality in your business and let it shine forward; don’t be a generic business in 2014.”

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