About SPS Commerce
SPS Commerce is a leader in on-demand supply chain management solutions with over $104M in annual revenue. The company helps thousands of retailers—from boutique brands to global powerhouses—collaborate better across their supply chain. Its strategy is working: the company has delivered 53 consecutive quarters of revenue growth.
The Business Case for Community
SPS Commerce has the good fortune of a rapidly-growing customer base, and the support team has their work cut out for them. In late 2012, the company decided to offer self-service via an online community to complement its traditional support channels. “More and more customers were expecting a self-help option and we were lookingfor ways to scale our support,” said Jessica McDouall, Director of Non-Integrated Services at SPS Commerce. “Community married these two ideas.”
In addition to opening up a new support channel, SPS Commerce believed a customer community would operationalize and harness valuable customer feedback. McDouall and her team often intercepted suggestions and ideas from customers in the course of a support interaction, and these were sent to product management for consideration. The company was looking to formalize this process. “We wanted customers to feel a sense of engagement with our product management teams,” McDouall said. “Community presented a way to capture customers’ ideas, hear what others think of those ideas and then communicate out our plans and timing.”
The Community Effect
Lower contact volume
SPS Commerce launched its customer communpity in January 2013, beginning with a six-month pilot, and the results were immediate: 450+ registered users, 78,000+ page views and 26,000+ unique visitors right out of the gate. Once the community was fully integrated into the company’s web site, private customer portal and within the product itself, adoption multiplied. By the end of the first year, SPS Commerce estimates it deflected over 28,000 customer contacts—300% more than forecasted.* The team anticipates meeting or exceeding that contact number again in 2014.
Better customer support
McDouall is quick to point out that cost reduction was not the driver behind reducing customer contacts. The objective was to enable the team to focus on high-value support activities. Customers were asking many of the same questions over and over, and many wanted to be able to self-serve for those kinds of requests. With the community addressing some of these common questions, staff was able to turn their attention to identifying new problems and adding those to the knowledgebase. “We’re still as busy as ever, it’s just a different type work,” explained McDouall. “We’ve gone from more tactical and reactive to more strategic and proactive.” For example, SPS Commerce’s typical phone and chat contacts average ten minutes and 17 minutes, respectively. As a portion of these interactions migrate to the community, the team spends more time analyzing what people search for most often and uncovering new trending topics that require attention.
Better capture of customer ideas
Customers use the community’s Share an Idea button to offer their suggestions—anything from a new product feature or reporting capability to a desired integration. After the idea is posted, the support team acknowledges the idea and routes it to product management for review. Product management then reaches back to the customer to get clarification or detail on the need. More collaboration may take place with the customer, and other customers often jump in to comment or build on the idea. “The community is helping our product management teams uncover and validate what’s most important to customers, flesh out new product requirements and better prioritize what goes into future releases,” said McDouall.
SPS Commerce was surprised how simple it was to get its customer community up and running quickly. Start to finish, it took approximately five weeks to go live—thanks to a small dedicated internal team as well as support and guidance from Get Satisfaction. Going in, none of the team members had previous community experience. “Get Satisfaction made it very easy,” said McDouall. “We trusted the Get Satisfaction experts, followed their best practices and saw engagement immediately.”
The team has been pleased with the high degree of interactions between customers and SPS Commerce employees. Now they are ready to take their community to the next level, increasing engagement between customers and even prospects. “It’s exciting when we see customers answering each other’s questions and offering unsolicited advice. We’re looking at ways to encourage that, such as gamification,” said McDouall.
Community as a differentiator
Community has enhanced SPS Commerce’s strong culture of accountability, giving the company not only a quick way to identify issues but a vehicle for communicating what the company is doing to address those issues. “Openness and transparency is so important to the customer relationship,” said McDouall. “No system is perfect. There will be issues in any company. It’s how you deal with them that defines you. Community gives us a platform to collaborate with customers to get issues resolved quickly.”
About Get Satisfaction
Based in San Francisco, Get Satisfaction provides an online community platform connecting companies with customers to foster relationships that unlock new value for both sides. Companies of all sizes and industries—from Kellogg’s, P&G and Intuit to Sonos, HootSuite and SugarCRM—rely on Get Satisfaction to deliver online communities that modernize customer support, accelerate sales, differentiate their brand and inspire new innovations. Get Satisfaction’s community platform offers the fastest time to value for companies ready to embrace the way today’s customers want to engage.
- Deflected 28,000 customer contacts in the first year (300% higher than expected)
- Automated frequently-asked questions, freeing up time for high value customer interactions
- Operationalized collection of customer feedback and ideas
- Captured 50 customer ideas in a 12-month period
- Reinforced company’s strong culture of accountability
- Community up and running in five weeks
- 1,200+ community members
- 71 new members per month
- Total page views in first 18-months: 415,596
- Total video views in first 18-months: 41,727
- Integration with Salesforce.com, LiveAgent, LiveChat and Google Calendar
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