Category Archives: UserVoice

UserVoice Enables Customer Engagement through Online Support and Feedback

UserVoice provides software to support help desks and engage customers in providing useful feedback. I recently spoke with CEO, Richard White, who said that their goal is to help Web-based companies better understand their online customers in the context of providing them with help.

They do not want to simply provide help desk support but also increase customer engagement. This is a wise move as it can only also increase customer loyalty and revenue.

Richard White, CEO, UserVoice

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that operate exclusively online. The relative low cost of doing virtual business is enabling smaller companies to get into the market.

The issues facing this new breed of companies are very different than traditional brick and mortar firms that set up a Web presence. UserVoice is designed to address the needs of this new breed of companies.

Richard made the very important point that companies that are exclusively online have few ways to interact directly with their customers except in help situations. Without a feedback system such as UserVoice, the only remaining form of feedback is revenue swings and companies need to stay ahead of this curve if the potential direction is downward.

These companies also face the need to support large numbers of customers with small staffs. UserVoice allows them to operate at scale with small support staffs. It offers two interrelated solutions: UserVoice Helpdesk™ and UserVoice Feedback™ .

UserVoice Helpdesk™ provides a simple, easy to use platform for customer support. Their target population for this offering is support teams ranging from 3 to 15 members so it is not overburdened with unnecessary features for this population. It is actually available for free for only one agent seat. Here is a sample support queue screen.

UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen
UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen

Some companies operate with one person or a rotating team of people and make full use of this free version. Others use the single seat to test it out before obtaining licenses for additional seats.

The HelpDesk is for support tickets to track customer requests. Instant Answers™ (see below) reduces the need to answer the same question over and over as it provides customers with relevant answers while they’re submitting a support request. Customers can give support staff kudos at any point in the support process which further encourages proactive customer service.

UserVoice Instant Answers
UserVoice Instant Answers

Here is a kudos screen.

UserVoice Leaderboard Screen
UserVoice Leaderboard Screen

UserVoice’s other offering, UserVoice Feedback™ makes it easy to collect feedback from customers — prioritized by votes — via a simple feedback forum. It is their more unique offering.

UserrVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen
UserVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen

Many large companies that already have entrenched and complex help desk systems still make use of UserVoice Feedback to collect customer input and increase engagement – both inside their organization’s firewall, as well as from external customers. Customers can easily submit and discuss ideas without having to sign up for a new account. Their voting system also prevents fraud and vocal minorities from distorting the true voice of the customer. Here is a partial sample voting screen.

Richard described how the Feedback management system interacts with other tools.  For example, AppFusions has built a connector with Atlassian JIRA, the widely adopted issue tracking tool (i.e., UserVoice to JIRA integration).

This allows companies to act on the feedback. Once the proper actions have occurred inside product management or engineering, then the results are passed back from JIRA to UserVoice Feedback to alert the customers of the result of their input. Here is an email notification of an update.

UserVoice Status Update
UserVoice Status Update

Richard said that this integration is key, as UserVoice does not want to be a point solution but part of an integrated customer response system. He mentioned that while most applications have APIs for connecting, it is not always easy. Having a ready-made integration tool through AppFusions makes this essential connection easy.

Putting customer input into JIRA also has the added benefit of letting engineers and product development people see what customers really want. Those responsible for product upgrades can see the actual numbers connected with requests to help guide their decisions.

Many studies have shown that customer involvement in product development increases the possibility of product success. This has also always been my personal experience too.

Understanding the voice of the customer has become an increased market need in the past few years. UserVoice addresses this need for online companies, providing a means for ongoing customer engagement at both the daily service level and for product improvement.

If you have additional questions on UserVoice or the JIRA integration, please do not hesitate to contact AppFusions at info@appfusions.com and we’ll help you – or get you going on a trial asap!

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

Where AppFusions Fits – Connecting the Enterprise

Before we describe the place of AppFusions in the new world of Enterprise 2.0, it is useful to go back to look at the Enterprise 1.0 world which is still current for many.

Enterprise 1.0 – “A Single System For All”

In the Enterprise 1.0 world, large ERP systems claiming to be  a “single system for all” integrated many (if not all) departments and functions across a company into a single computer system.  They attempted to serve all the different department needs, running the business, successfully in some places, and not so successfully in others. These systems bridged the needs of products, customers, employees, and suppliers. (Below image from this excellent slideshare by Samuel Driessen.)

Credits: Samuel Driessen

For many years, this cross-functional single-uber-system was thought to be the ultimate glue to solve all problems: the silver bullet solution to propel corporations fast forward in their business success.

However, despite best intentions, these lofty goals were hard ones to meet in a single system, given many mixed audiences and purposes between departments.

  • Cross-functionally, departments wanted to control (customize) their workflow.
  • While ERP systems were configurable out of the box – to a point – in most cases, they required costly customization SLAs to develop or configure the workflow exactly how a department wanted it.
  • Data integrations to other systems were extremely expensive ($50K – $200K+), given the reliance on niche technical knowledge in closed systems.
  • All integrations were like “black magic”, requiring ongoing support and vendor reliance without a natural support path.
  • Integrations where time-consuming and costs could be as much five times the software fees.
  • Over time, specialty purpose-driven or “rogue” systems crept into organizations (large or small), as department heads rebelled against the rigid IT uber-system, and shopped for their own systems to meet their department needs.

For the companies that succeeded in their ERP deployments, they paid dearly in implementation costs, yet also they got bigger and faster with these large system infrastructures. For a while, they enjoyed a competitive edge in their locked-down systems.

Credits: Bertrand Duperrin

In such organizations [2], the general top-down management attitude was:

  • this is how it will be,
  • we do not really want to hear your opinion, and,
  • no, you cannot change the process or system (without an enormous amount of additional churn, cost, pain – to which we have no more money to expend).

Employees were forced to adopt the new inflexible systems, a change that often felt like steps back even from their slower, yet functional desktop processes.

Compounded with normal human resistance to change, the new systems were not always warmly received. People had to conform to rigid systems, rather than having flexible systems built around how people worked best.

The enormous level of cross-functional process coordination upfront, as well as the long term support for these systems, was often more crippling than helping. The systems had the potential to control corporate data in a better/faster way than previous manual ways, but it held employees hostage in so many other ways, and caused new problems organizationally.

Politics and internal fights evolved to ever high levels as employees felt duped when the new systems didn’t really do everything that they thought it would, and no customizations were allowed. If a department absolutely required customizations, they’d have to take the heavy cost hit in their departmental budget (not ITs), let alone the time-hit to implement (e.g., another 6 months often, assuming it got done before some other organizational crisis hit).

Companies would endure the growth of excessive politics, mistrust, and infighting causing systematic morale issues and lower productivity. Employee dissatisfaction grew at a higher than normal rate, as well as distrust for management who forced the new monster system on them in the first place (even if it was justified at the time given where technology was at).

In short – it was a vicious and often ugly cycle, especially for large corporations enduring these growing pains.

Outside the Enterprise 1.0 World, the Beginnings of Enterprise 2.0 Technology Moved Forward

Meanwhile, the open source movement had gained “officialness” in 1998 thanks to Netscape (Mozilla), and during the 2000s, the open source trend and collaborative engineering mindset grew more popular with the growth of Linux, further proving the value of both iterative agile engineering, open APIs, rapid development methodologies, and at the communications level – transparent collaboration.

Concurrently, the Internet was taking off well beyond the Silicon Valley, thanks to Yahoo! (1995), Google (1998) going big/global (as well as Microsoft with Internet Explorer). For the Enterprise, early pioneers Jive Software, SocialText, and Atlassian Software were founded in 2001 and 2002, respectively – three corps that would become pioneers in the Enterprise collaboration tools space in the years to come.

Atlassian also would become a leader in many of the open source stirred trends, namely agile development, ALM, engineering tools, and issue tracking, while boldly treading on common industries lead by big heavyweights like IBM, HP, and Microsoft, among others.

Overall – the timing of these new Enterprise collaboration businesses couldn’t have been better, overlapping with early social sites like MySpace (2003), Delicious (2003), Facebook (2004), Digg (2005), Twitter (2006), FriendFeed (2007), and a strong new-way-to-business Millenials culture pushing into industry with all their might.

The collective force was a perfect storm, landing down on a smug and controlling decades old proprietary industry and decades old command-and-control management styles.

By late 2009, open collaboration and social networking was no longer an idle idea.

It was a fast moving trend and way of the future, that had proven the beginnings of enormous business value for getting things done faster in the Enterprise. Concrete data began to emerge on the quantified value of these new approaches (see The Business Value of Application Connectors).

However, to be successful in the new world, people-centered Enterprise 2.0 apps need to connect with the old world transactional-centered Enterprise 1.0 systems. They needed to connect to each other to avoid establishing even more silos within organizations.

While AppFusions does not really believe in the legacy gigantic one-size-fits-all system ideal, at the same time we know that in most cases, these systems are largely not going away.

The new social systems of engagement still need to connect to the old world transaction systems to get work done.

AppFusions Bridges the Gap with Enterprise 2.0 Content Management Integration Connectors

We believe that business information and process management should be handled by a collection of systems that make up a whole. To make this happen, connectivity is the key driver. It is the glue that makes real work happen. It brings the benefits of social systems to work processes.

Modular system architectures in the Enterprise – from the same vendor or many vendors – provide greater flexibility, while also allowing organizations to pick and choose the best-of-breed systems for their purposes.

There are reasons for purpose-built systems, and a collection of many we feel is stronger than a single rigid system, especially if you can connect the strengths (data and workflows) of the different systems with common use case connectors vs. getting on an endless customization path.

Our integration connectors (current and future) bring together workflows, data files, and information between Enterprise systems for your collective purpose-built Enterprise 2.0 corporate solution of many systems. They allow companies to quickly and cost-effectuvely create the needed connectivity without going through the old-world pain of massive, costly, and time consuming integration efforts.

These connectors provide the means to close the gap between old and new, enabling the promise and opportunity within the capabilities of the new people-centered, social systems.

This blog will become the vehicle to tell this story and provide use cases demonstrating the essential nature of connectors.

Post by Ellen Feaheny, CEO of AppFusions