I reached out to TeamSupport Co-founder and CEO Robert C. Johnson to discuss what makes his product different and what he sees as the future of help desk software.
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
What do you see in the future for help desk automation? Customer service?
Customer service is becoming increasingly important as the software industry continues to move from perpetual licenses to the subscription model and customers have more potential portability.
[Cathy’s note: For an example and to learn more about this phenomenon, check out Cloud-Based Accounting: 3 Reasons to Move to the Cloud Now, Proud of the Cloud: Why Web-Based Software is Best for Field Service Management, and How Cloud Computing is Changing Event Management.]
The ability for customers to connect and share their experiences more publicly also will continue to drive the importance of exceptional customer support. As a technology vendor in the space, these are great trends and it has certainly helped accelerate our growth.
We feel that customer service will continue to become more and more important in the B2B world. Companies are finally understanding that exceptional support actually ends up helping the company’s bottom line by reducing customer churn and improving their industry reputation.
Another trend we are seeing is that customer support is no longer confined to the support department. Increasingly, companies are understanding that exceptional support needs to come from the entire company, and we are seeing TeamSupport being deployed very widely across organizations.
What’s the founding story of TeamSupport?
We founded TeamSupport in 2008 to solve a problem: customer support software designed for B2B companies simply didn’t exist. There were plenty of options for companies who support consumers, but the market had ignored companies who sell to and have to support business customers.
Prior to TeamSupport I was the CEO of an enterprise software company and we sold to television stations around the globe. Customer support was absolutely critical to our success, and while we searched hard for software that would support our needs it just didn’t exist. After selling that company I hired some of the great people I’d worked with and we created TeamSupport.
The market reaction has been great, and we are growing incredibly fast in a market that clearly needs a leader.
Describe your ideal customer.
The ideal customer for TeamSupport is a company who sells a technology or software product to other businesses. We are very B2B focused and the majority of our customers are supporting other businesses.
The interaction that a company has with a business customer is fundamentally different, and more complex, than the relationship a company has with a consumer customer, and TeamSupport is uniquely positioned to solve that need.
Since a lot of my early team’s background was in enterprise software, we also created TeamSupport to be extremely well suited for technology and software companies. We have several features which make us uniquely suited for technology companies, including the ability to track the product and version an issue is associated to, physical hardware inventory, and multimedia ticket tools including screen recording and straightforward screen capture.
What does TeamSupport offer that competitors don’t?
We have several features which are unique for companies who are selling to other businesses. First and foremost, we have a robust customer database which allows TeamSupport customers to track a great deal of information about their clients.
Many help desk solutions are designed to support an individual consumer, but TeamSupport is built to support businesses, and, as such, the customer database starts at the company level and allows a much better understanding of the entire relationship with the client business.
This means our customers can see all issues related to one of their customer accounts – from all contacts (users), related to any products, no matter what source or medium the inquiry came from. This is special, because most support software only lets you manage at a ticket level, or at best a user level, so if five different people from one company have submitted requests/issues you (the agent or support provider) have no idea of the other issues going on.
Related to our customer database, we recently released Customer Insights – This is a feature which automatically pulls data about client companies and contacts from public data sources such as LinkedIn and puts that data into TeamSupport. Having more information about the customer directly in the support tool gives support agents critical information about the customer and allows them to provide better support.
Another unique TeamSupport feature is our Customer Distress Index (CDI). The CDI is a computed metric which measures the potential distress that a customer may have and allows proactive interaction with them. TeamSupport’s CDI looks at all of the interactions that have happened with a company and measures them against the average of other clients to come up with a number that represents how upset a customer may be. This takes into account factors like average time to close a ticket, number of open/closed tickets, etc. Understanding this metric can allow for proactive support and will ensure that customers don’t get lost in the shuffle.
The Customer Distress Index is pervasive in all customer interactions since it lets the agent, in real time, understand the overall relationship with the client. Giving this level of detail to the agents empowers them to make decisions and address issues which can improve the relationship with the customer.
Since B2B customer support interactions tend to be more complex than consumer interactions, being able to reach out to subject matter experts in a company allows much faster resolution times. TeamSupport has a number of collaborative features in the system which allow for this type of interaction. One of these, the WaterCooler, is like an internal social network which enables real time communication between everyone in the TeamSupport account and lets agents get answers to issues from a broader audience. Of course, TeamSupport also allows two agents to work on a ticket simultaneously while tracking what each one does separately per your example (and directly related to our name).
In a B2B relationship, we generally know more about the customers than in a B2C environment, and that allows us to do some interesting things in the customer portal and knowledge base. For example, when a customer logs in to the portal, we know what particular pieces of software and versions that customer has purchased, so we can limit the knowledge base articles they see to just those relevant articles. Having the comprehensive customer database about the customer’s company (and not just them as an individual) allows us to do lots of little things like this, which allows a much better overall customer experience.
What are some features you’re planning to roll out in the near future?
At TeamSupport we are always innovating and adding new features to help our customers exceed their clients’ expectations. Some specific areas we are working on right now include improving our customer management tools to extend our best in class functionality. We are also working on a new generation of client facing tools so that our customers can deploy portal, knowledge base, and live chat components to their clients which provide exactly the right information at the right time.
We recently added video recording to our SupportView suite of visual support tools and we plan to develop that even further in the future. Customer support will increasingly need to support multimedia interactions and our SupportView suite is leading the industry in this direction.
TeamSupport’s best in class customer management tools are being enhanced to include hierarchical customer relationships. This will allow companies to be ‘parents’ and ‘children’ of other companies which is very important in cases where there is one company as a customer but that company has several locations. Access to the customer portal will be enabled so that customers as the ‘parent’ level will be able to see all tickets across all ‘children’ companies and see all support activity.
Who are your most direct competitors?
We see ZenDesk and FreshDesk most often, but in many ways they are not direct competitors in the B2B space. They both do an exceptional job in the B2C world, but TeamSupport is a significantly better solution for enterprise B2B support operations. We also see eGain, Kana, and some others in the enterprise space and compete very well against them. Of course, we also see the fully integrated CRM vendors such as SalesForce and Oracle, but we have tight integrations with several of these vendors that allow the support operation to use TeamSupport while the sales and marketing teams use the toolset best designed for them.
What are some examples of customers who’ve found success by deploying TeamSupport very widely across their organizations?
There are a lot of examples, but one that comes to mind quickly is a large financial services software firm. Their global nature means that they have both customer and employees relying on TeamSupport around the globe, 24 hours a day. All of their customer communications and a great deal of their internal communications are driven through TeamSupport, and they have called TeamSupport their “front porch” since it’s how they interact with their customers. TeamSupport is running across multiple divisions of the company and they are leveraging our Product Lines feature so that each division has their own settings and custom fields, but they can roll up reporting across all divisions. They have also implemented a centralized Tier 1 support team which provides support across multiple products to triage tickets.
Johnson’s note about the growing portability of customers making customer service an important differentiating factor is spot on. That plus easy public shaming of companies who fail to provide a good experience means even B2B shops need to take customer service seriously. TeamSupport seems to be a great solution for doing just that.