Jon Ferrara on #CEOonSupport

Written by on May 23, 2014

I had a chance to sit down with Nimble CEO, Jon Ferrara, a man known for “swimming in the social river” and actively engaging customers on social channels. As the founder of Goldmine, Jon is a pioneer of the CRM industry. In 2013, he was named as one of the top 10 social CEOs on Twitter.

Alan Berkson: Let’s talk about CEO on Support. We just want to get a feel for what CEOs get out of getting involved with customer service in the organization.

Jon Ferrara: Even since my Goldmine days, I’ve always believed that everybody should participate in the entire customer lifecycle. It’s not just salespeople that sell, it’s not just customer service people who do support. Ultimately it’s not just one person who touches the customer.

One of the reasons I built Goldmine was to enable everyone in the company to be on the same page…so, no matter who picks up the phone they know who they’re talking to, what they need, who’s going to do it and what needs to be done. That’s why we were so wildly successful.

Back in those days, when we were scaling the company, I’d have everyone go through the customer support first. That’s where they really understood the customers, their pain points. And I’d go down too; often enough because it’s how I learned. You learned where the sharp edges are in the journey of your customer – whether it’s the product, whether it’s your partners or 3rd party developers or whatever.

And that’s something I’ve carried forward with me in my Nimble days as well. I have access to every inbox, whether it’s care@nimble or sales@nimble, and I read and respond to them on a regular basis.

AB: You can’t really respond to everyone.

JF: And I can’t read everything. But if I keep my finger on the pulse of the business where I’m getting a good idea of the level of and the topics of our customers, it’s easier to make decisions as an executive team. So, I actively listen and converse with our community on a regular basis to understand their needs and to serve them more effectively.

AB: It’s more proactive than waiting for the phone to ring or an email to come in.

JF: It’s walking in the digital footprint of your customer and understanding their needs and their buying process so you’re able to create experiences, and products, and services to serve them better. Because ultimately, it’s all about service. If you come at things from a service mentality — how can I help my customers grow and succeed — I think that’s how you succeed as a business.

AB: Has customer feedback changed your perspective on something that you thought was trivial otherwise?

JF: Absolutely. If you hear enough customers saying the same thing, or even if one customer says something that is extremely important, you do make changes and adjustments.

AB: Anything specific?

JF: I think the realization about how rich and important the contact record is to people. From spending time in the social river where that customer is, as well as reading emails, it’s where we’ve really begun to focus in the past year.

AB: Obviously that came from a lot of feedback. Was that from a customer support point of view or market research?

JF: No, it really was having conversations with the customers. Nimble started out by combining contact, calendar and communication signals into a unified system, not unlike Goldmine. People at first were delighted with the combination, but then they said: “OK, I get this but tell me something I don’t know. Help me lower the signal-to-noise.”

It was really when we started to derive the signals — +1’s, Likes, comments, retweets or people otherwise engaging with you — that we [focused on surfacing] the most important signal, not necessarily every signal. Show me the important signals so then I can then take action on them. It’s the Nimble Daily that really changed the way people perceived Nimble.

AB: What have you learned looking over the shoulder of your customer service agents?

JF: So, basically, our agents have direct access to our product team. They prioritize what gets fixed and what gets put into the product. So, they have a seat at the management table to drive what the product becomes. They’re the voice of the customer. I truly believe in the entire customer experience and the customer journey, not just in getting them signed up, but making them successful. Barb Giamanco, our new Chief Customer Ambassador, owns this experience. The entire journey, all the way from inspiration and education to on-boarding and success.

AB: Is that something we’ll see more of in organizations?

JF: I really believe that the Chief Customer Officer is going to become more important than even the CMO. The Chief Customer Officer will basically own the experience across marketing, sales, customer service AND product because ultimately, you have to have access to each of those departments to maximize the customer experience.

AB: When you interact with customers and they see it’s Jon from Nimble: Are they surprised? What are some of the interesting reactions you’ve got?

JF: They’re delighted. I think they’re surprised, but I think that our brand and our culture really speaks about that type of engagement and interactions with the customers. In many cases, it solidifies their decision that we’re a company that they want to do business with.

AB: If you stopped doing this, what do you think would be the impact on Nimble?

JF: With the volume that we’re doing, I don’t think me directly connecting with customers has a measurable effect. But I do think that I would lose touch with the ability to really understand where the product is, where the company is, and where we need to go. It’s something I’ll continue to do, and I relish it. When I’m able to get on the phone or meet in person with customers and learn about them and help them grow, it makes my day.

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