CRM Idol 2011 Finals: Now for the Fun

Summary:This Friday at 6pm Eastern time, the seven CRM Idol finalists - 4 from the Americas and 3 from EMEA - will be submitting their videos that will pretty much determine who is going to be chosen the first ever CRM Idol finalist from the Americas and from EMEA. There is a lot at stake here.

This Friday at 6pm Eastern time, the seven CRM Idol finalists - 4 from the Americas and 3 from EMEA - will be submitting their videos that will pretty much determine who is going to be chosen the first ever CRM Idol finalist from the Americas and from EMEA. There is a lot at stake here. A HUGE amount of important prizes, recognition that they were the very first competition winners ever. Folklore in the making. Legendary activity.

Okay, maybe not that extreme, but the contest has gained its legs over the past several months and is an institution now - a competition that will be done annually.  On Friday, the seven finalists will be submitting videos that met the criteria that we laid out.  Then the extended judges panel and the general public will be voting and a winner declared for each of the Americas and EMEA - that will be on November 7.  Then they get all kinds of good stuff.

In any case, in honor of the finals and the videos, I'm reprinting the reviews we wrote about the 7 finalists. In date order here's what you'll see:

  1. October 19 - Crowd Factory, Assistly
  2. October 20 - GetSatisfaction, Stone Cobra
  3. October 21 - Zestia, BPMOnline, workbooks.com

I'm publishing them here and on PGreenblog.

Enjoy and vote responsibly. Watch for a list of "polling places" on Friday too - though of course, you can always vote at the CRM Idol website. There will be a survey monkey voting poll set up for that. No app though.

Here ya go!

Keep in mind, all reviews are signed off by the CRM Idol Primary Judges panels.

Crowd Factory

Social media marketing is a term widely used by many of us to define how we manage a Facebook page to gain Fans or to drive traffic with promotions using hashtags on Twitter. There are hundreds of free and commercial applications to assist in doing just that, but their value add is questionable. Is this really enough to call the process social marketing?

Not really. What the market needs (in our humble opinion) are solutions that help make your current marketing more social. This is what Crowd Factory does: help make your current marketing campaigns more social. Crowd Factory provides Social Marketing Automation (SMA) solutions (notice the omission of the word “media”).

Crowd Factory is built on the foundation that consumers trust, peer recommendations but few of us trust banner ads (or any ad for that matter). This trust should drive traffic, influenced by recommendations and suggestions from peers, to a purchase or a community of peers. Crowd Factory embeds its technology in many social media and digital channels to help drive traffic and engagement using voting systems, recommendations, promotions, discounts, comments and ratings widgets.  Some of these channels are:

  1. Facebook Pages
  2. Display Ads
  3. Landing Pages
  4. Mobile Apps
  5. Email
  6. Video

Crowd Factory provides a marketing process to convert traffic to your eCommerce site from a digital ad campaign.  Within the ad you can place a voting system with social share capabilities that customers can access without leaving the ad or landing page helping drive conversion or group buying. The fact that you are not taken to another site and the social activity is done within the widget is an important benefit. It optimizes the traffic conversion and, more important for social marketing and the marketer, makes it trackable and measurable.

The nice thing about this process is that you end up with a database of engaged customers, influencers or users. The marketing processes provided by Crowd Factory have different uses besides a voting system with social share.  Social discounts, viral comments and “like management” are a few more.

Crowd Factory has an impressive list of customers: Microsoft, HBO, MTV Networks, Universal, MolsonCoors and GolfChannel. According to Crowd Factory some of their customers have obtained significant lift on top of paid media (73%) and lowered their acquisition costs (7 cents per conversion).

Crowd Factory is a B2C social marketing tool that allows monitoring and campaigns optimization with combined analytics from Facebook, ecommerce, websites and other social channels. This gives the ability to provide continuous testing and measuring of your social marketing campaign.

Crowd Factory’s roadmap includes the integration to CRM, email and marketing systems. They have also joined Jive’s Apps Market. Their application allows engagement within the community by creating group offers and deals.

Crowd Factory provides more than hashtag marketing it really does support social marketing in all of its dimensions. It is an ideal solution for B2C organizations that are looking to create engagement and increase traffic conversion. If you need to test and measure your social campaigns, Crowd Factory is worth considering.

Assistly

Assistly is a cloud-based customer support platform focused on servicing small and midsize businesses.  Founded in October of 2009, it is the fourth startup created by a core group of four serial entrepreneurs with deep customer service software experience.  Three of their previous startups were customer service application service providers – including eAssist and eShare.

The company currently has thirty-six employees, with key executive hires bringing additional call center experience to the organization.  They have multiple locations including San Francisco and New York.  Their board of advisors is made up of executives with solid business experience and acumen, most notably Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.  Additionally, Assistly has raised $5.7 million over two rounds of financing.  Investors include Salesforce.com, Index Ventures and True Ventures, to name a few.

Assistly’s target audience is companies with  5-1,000 employees.   Additionally, 30% of their current customer base is headquartered outside of the US, although there has been limited focus on overseas distribution.

The solution is geared towards assisting their clients in providing multichannel support to their customer bases.  They emphasize being a contact center solution, as opposed to a more traditional call center application, as it is not optimized for telephony (CTI/IVR) integration.  They focus on companies with business models that are more web-centric because of the tendency for these organizations to favor a multichannel approach.

Assistly’s plaftform provides the following capabilities:

Interaction Management

  • Dynamic FAQs (on your website)
  • Community Q&As
  • Manual Telephony
  • Email
  • Chat
  • Twitter (reactively and proactively)
  • Facebook

Case Management

  • Including realtime executing business rules, workflows and filters

Knowledge Base

  • Internal and external support

The solution comes with interfaces for the agent desktop, system administration, and reporting.  Also included is the HelpCenter self-service portal, which provides the following out of the box functionality:

  • A searchable, skin-able, customizable place on the web that can connect with client websites
  • Client customers can go to discover their own answers or ask other users for assistance
  • Full knowledge base can be exposed

As a customer submits a request through the search function of the portal, Assistly will take a pass through the knowledgebase and display the top three answers that could provide possible solutions while the customer types.

The solution is a Ruby on Rails based, self-provisioning SaaS application, using Amazon’s EC2, S3 and Cloudfront services.  Its REST-based API allows developers the ability to retrieve cases for a particular customer, retrieve or update a customer’s information, and to create new interactions, cases and customers.  And they are working on native iPhone, iPad and Android apps for the agent interface to be delivered within next 60 days.

Assistly has come up with a pricing model that makes it attractive for SMBs to try it out.  The first user (fulltime agent) gets to use the system for free, with every additional fulltime agent costing $49 per month.  But the most interesting piece of the pricing model is how they charge for part time agents.  Assistly charges part time (or as they say flex) agents $1 per hour of usage.  So if a group of five part-time agents work a total of 80 hours, Assistly will charge the customer $80.  That’s a big discount from having buy each of them a $49/mo license.

Assistly also offers an onboarding “to-do” list that companies can go through to help them get set up for configuring the system, including:

  • Setting up email boxes (and outbound email boxes)
  • Writing macros
  • Writing articles to fill out Knowledgebase (same KB is used by agents, and website visitors for self help)
  • Adding Twitter accounts
  • Adding Facebook Pages

These tasks not only help customers and their agents to get up to speed quickly, but as you complete tasks Assistly gives you bonus flex hours to use – a nice gamification twist that creates a win-win scenario.

The customer support field targeting the SMB space is definitely an area more companies are focusing on.  But there is no eight hundred pound gorilla in the space and in many cases bug tracking systems and homegrown tools are the biggest competition.  But as more companies use social channels to provide support to customers, they will need systems that make it as easy as possible to do so.  Assistly is in a good position to be a leader at the SMB level.  The application has the needed functionality while being easy to use.  The architecture in place should allow them to scale their operations when needed.   And the pricing model will be attractive to SMBs needing to ease into using this kind of system.

Topics: Software, Enterprise Software

About

In addition to being the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, focused on cutting edge CRM strategic services and a founding partner of the CRM training company, BP... Full Bio

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