Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 .

Let’s face it: sometimes our beloved customers, are a lot of trouble.  And every once while in a while we feel like this:

One of the most important decisions we made leading up to the launch of UberConference was to have live customer service.  If we had service problems (and there is no company on the planet that doesn’t have service problems), then we wanted to make sure that was a live person our customers could talk to.

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Actually, for many American businesses, the decision to have live customer service is not obvious.   But it has been for us.   It is in customer support where we differ from other companies.

  • Most startups don’t do much with Customer Support. We have two offices to cover 5am to 6pm PST (both coasts) with live support during business hours.

  • Most companies think of Customer Support as a cost center. We think of it as a marketing opportunity to make our best customers, aka the ones using the product, the happiest.

  • Most companies dread support. We relish it.  Everybody in the company from the CEO to the newly hired intern, spends a week doing CSR and it rotates every week.

One of our company policies with new hires is that each employee at some point in their first month on the job must spend a week working in Customer Support. One week. Everyone. Each new employee working Customer Support has to go to either our San Jose or Raleigh office and spend a couple of days training with our CSRs there. Not only does this help build up the knowledge base about the product for our employees, it gives us all a better sense of what our customers are dealing with, in the field, on a daily basis.

With everybody sitting in a Customer Support Representative (CSR) seat, every employee gets a sense of what our customers are like: how they are using the product and what suggestions, problems and concerns they have. This experience creates a great insight to the product and empathy for our users. We have an entire company of fully trained CSR agents to help out.

We keep and track detailed data on our customer service requests and queries: what kinds of issues come up frequently? Why? What types of complaints do our customers have?

The other fascinating aspect of this system for us has been the number of product features, suggestions and improvements we have received through our customer support system.

Some of our best product insights come from listening to our customers’ requests, and having an attentive, responsive and respectful CSR team makes that a close loop of innovation.

Friday, April 25th, 2014 .

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Congratulations to CEO and co-founder Craig Walker who will be receiving the 2014 Georgetown Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Outstanding Alumni Entrepreneur. Craig was chosen by the board of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Alliance for his level of innovation and service to the entrepreneurial community, demonstration of positive impact on business, and other qualities of an entrepreneur and Georgetown graduate. The award will be given as part of Entreprelooza on Georgetown’s campus.

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 .

My first job was working as a sales manager at computer giant CDW, a large computer company in Chicago, where I chatted on the phone all day with I.T. directors and helpdesk managers.

Most of my clients were I.T. guys who worked at the helpdesk and were responsible for keeping the company’s technology infrastructure up and running.

When tech support issues are straightforward, I.T. professionals resolve them with a quick phone call, instant message, or email to the customer.

When tech support issues cannot be resolved immediately, the standard protocol is to log the issue as a ticket in a helpdesk ticket tracking system like Mojo Helpdesk. From there, the ticket is assigned to an expert, or team of experts, who can most efficiently resolve the issue.

Sometimes you’ll have up to 3-4  employees getting involved to solve a support ticket. This is where the combination of a ticket tracking system like Mojo and a conference calling system like UberConference can start to aid internal efficiency.

Instead of flooding a support ticket with ton of comments and creating a confusing ticket thread that’s hard to follow, the support staff can hold a conference call to resolve the customer issue, using the helpdesk ticket as a reference during the discussion.

Very frequently, support staff can accomplish more in a 5-minute conference call than they can by exchanging 20+ emails.

Even if the conference call doesn’t fully resolve the issue, support staff can record the call, and make note of outstanding follow ups.

Those follow-ups can be added as tickets in Mojo and then assigned to the appropriate topic experts, and tracked to completion (i.e. the answer is sent to the customer). Once the ticket is solved, Mojo saves it automatically for future reference in case another customer has a similar issue.

Friday, March 14th, 2014 .

UberConference is a super proud sponsor of the SXSW VentureBeat and Buzzstarter Win30s contest, where startups compete for a chance to win investments, prizes, press and more by submitting their company video pitch and promoting it across all social media channels. Videos with the most votes and shares win.

We praise creativity here at UberConference, and can’t wait to see what each startup comes up with.

Fans can vote until Wednesday March 19th, and you can find the daily winners of Win30s at VentureBeat.com/tag/sxsw. Other category winners and the overall winner will be announced on Monday March 24th.

Best of luck to all those who enter!

Friday, March 21st, 2014 .

“The jungle is dark, but it is full of diamonds, Willy.”

-from ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller

And that is the problem salespeople have had for years and years and years: the jungle is dark but it is full of diamonds.  There are sales out there to be made.  People, businesses, organizations, families — they need the things salesmen sell.  The problem is the jungle was dark, and finding the customers who need or want to buy what you are selling is time-consuming, wasteful and exasperating.

My first job straight out of college I was in sales. I sold dictation equipment for Lanier.  It was a grind.  I’d walk the streets of San Francisco — my territory was from the point where Market Street and California Street meet and extended as a triangle all the way to Van Ness.  This was old-fashioned knocking on doors selling.  I had virtually no information about any prospect and would try to find a picture on a desk or trophy on the wall to find something we had in common.  It rarely worked.  How great would it have been to have the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was pitching?  Where he went to school, where he used to work, etc?  Or what connections we had in common!

When I’d stay in the office to cold call, that was it…COLD.  Blindly dialing businesses.  Ouch.

Everyone who has ever worked in sales immediately recognizes this scene from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

That was sales preparation in those days: here are the leads, now go out there and make some calls and close some sales.

It was a remarkably frustrating and inefficient system.  All I knew about these “leads” was a name, a business and a phone number.

This has begun to change dramatically in recent years.  A number of cloud-based software packages have emerged that significantly increase the amount of data a salesperson can access from almost anywhere about customers and potentials customers.

Knowing more about my leads, as I do today…boom!  Success.  And I don’t need to be in the office tied to some proprietary database to do this…it’s all in the cloud.  I’d rather do it from home in my pajamas anyway, and now I can.

Salesmen are now armed with enormous amounts of information.  They have access to prior purchases with the company (great for upsells, renewals, etc), complaints from the customers (Zendesk), and basically every interaction anybody in the company has ever had with a prospect or existing customer (Salesforce).

They also have the ability to work from anywhere, 24/7, and appear as professional as if they were sitting in their office, thanks to all the cloud-based information and tools.

My frustrating experiences in sales informed a lot of the product decisions we made early on in designing our company’s teleconferencing product: UberConference. UberConference makes great sales calls possible in four ways:

1. We make it easy for a potential customer to get on a call (no PINs).  The easiest way to lose a potential customer is to provide them with even the smallest barrier to communicating with me.  PINs are a potential barrier.  That’s why I insisted we not require them in UberConference.
2. You won’t waste everybody’s first 15 minutes figuring out who just joined the call (visual).  We provide on-screen updates so you know who is there as soon as they sign on.  No need to reintroduce yourself each time a new caller signs on.
3. You know who’s talking at any point: is it the IT guy or the finance guy? That may not only be helpful to know, it could be critical in closing a sale.
4. You get a rich UberProfile on each caller.  You can see their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts and get an idea of who the person is to whom you are speaking.  This could prove to be crucial in the trust-building phase of a sales relationship.  The more you know and understand about your customer, the better you can serve them… and sell to them.

I lasted only one year in sales.  I realized it was too hard for me so I went back to school to get my MBA and then to law school to hide for a longer time.   Had I had these tools I may have stayed in sales.  Thank God they didn’t have them back then!