Wendy Lea, CEO, Get Satisfaction: “Service is the new marketing”

MyCustomer.com
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The CEO of Get Satisfaction, winner at last year's CRM Idol competition, talks to MyCustomer.com about the disruptive influence of social, and how the company is competing against platforms like Lithium and Jive.

“Last year was the year of coming out for us,” says Get Satisfaction CEO Wendy Lea, with a huge dollop of understatement.
2011 was the year in which the online community builder ramped up its visibility, thanks to convincing customer stories with influential brands such as Procter & Gamble, expansion into new markets – and of course Get Satisfaction’s victory in the inaugural CRM Idol Americas competition.
“CRM Idol was an important milestone,” acknowledges Lea. “We’re grateful to have had the chance to participate in a way that was aligned with our natural brand attributes.”
But Get Satisfaction is no overnight success.
By the time Lea joined the company in 2009, Get Satisfaction had already been doing business for nearly two years, steadily carving out a reputation as a community builder for brands ranging from the aforementioned goliath P&G on down to SMEs.
Right from the outset, there was a very clear philosophy underpinning the business.
“The founders had a very distinct philosophy that was all about customers having a secure place where they could go and get their questions and get their problems solved and express how they felt about the product and services,” says Lea. “And they really wanted this to be an open network of conversation. They felt that if customers would get problems resolved, if they could get connections made easily with each other as well as with the product, service or brand they cared about, then they would continue to come and participate.”
By the time Lea joined the team as CEO, the company already had traction (“in Silicon Valley terms”) – it was visible as a brand and it was being used by a good number of consumers. What it still required, however, was operational management and a solid, well thought-out business model. This was to be Lea’s mission.
Inbound business
Arriving in mid-2009, Lea looked at the company’s customers, which counted service hero Zappos amongst its numbers, to hammer out the product roadmap – “to learn from them as companies what they would need from this product to serve them from a support standpoint, a marketing standpoint and from a pure product feedback standpoint,” she explains.
Also central to Get Satisfaction’s proposition is its “premium business model”, says Lea, which she says provides a “very important strategic levy” to compete against higher-end, more mature platforms like Lithium and Jive.
The company serves SMEs through the premium model, enabling organisations to implement the product on their own with minimal assistance, while enterprise customers also find that implementation is not complex, only taking longer due to the usual deployment of digital and creative agencies, and the integration of the platform into CRM systems (with Get Satisfaction supporting integration with the likes of Service Cloud on Salesforce.com, Zendesk and Assistly).
Lea adds: “It is highly recognised by customers as safe – meaning that they can go and get their answers and they can be transparent and they know that interactions to the conversations they have are going to be heard.
“Growth is important and easy for us because one multi-tenant SaaS [software as a service] product can expand to any size of customer. It can be localised and integrated into any CRM system around the world.”
2,800 paying customers have subsequently used Get Satisfaction since 2009, covering all sizes and markets. And the company hasn’t felt the need to splurge the cash when it comes to marketing, enjoying a stream of inbound custom that is generated by its existing work.
“That's another thing about this model, the nature of our product is so visible - in terms of companies and customers that are in-bound. All of our marketing is more like harvesting inbound.”
Going big
The enterprise social software space is not short of exciting stories at present, with Jive having gone public, and Lithium raising plenty of capital. And Get Satisfaction is certainly no exception - “I started with five people and $500,000 in the bank and now we have 55 people and lots of capital because investors are interested in the category and they're certainly interested in Get Satisfaction,” says Lea.
And the company’s victory at last year’s CRM Idol was the cherry on the cake. “It was a big day for us,” she continues. “We’ve gotten a lot of recognition. To win the award was significant.”
But while the past 12 months may have been monumental for Get Satisfaction, Lea believes that 2012 holds just as much promise.
“We’ve worked really hard for the last 12 months to extend our initial widget technology to really anchor the promise that we’ve always made to our paying customers and our free customers to allow them to be where their customers are. It’s a game changer for us because it enables ‘everywhere anywhere’ customer engagement on the customer’s terms. It will put us out ahead on the product side and align with industries of fast-moving consumer goods.”
And for Lea, this means expansion. “Social is disruptive, it's changing the way companies look at the growth of their own businesses, it's changing how consumers interact with brands thy have passion about. It's taken me a little bit, but I wanted to make sure this was a significant opportunity, and now that I see that, I want to go big, which means international expansion.”
She concludes: “Get Satisfaction in the very beginning said customer service is the new marketing. That was our mantra from day one when we launched the business - and it's more true than ever in these times.”

About Neil Davey

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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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