Jive Comes Around, Focus on Customers

Social communities are instrumental to both social media and customer support strategy

Jive’s announcement this past week to focus more on Social Customer Service is further validation that customer communities are instrumental to both social media (marketing) and customer support strategy. Employee collaboration software offers an array of benefits for companies but increasingly what they are finding is that if they want to deliver not just on behind the firewall ROI but change their business in a way that can deliver sustainable competitive advantage, then they need to put the customer front and center.

It’s not enough to give your employees a better way to work… leading companies in every sector are discovering that they also need to deliver on a better way to collaborate with their customers!

If you will excuse me for taking a minute to pitch Get Satisfaction, this is exactly what we are entirely focused on, a better way for companies and customers to engage each other online.

People often ask me “why don’t you guys offer a help desk system?”. The answer is that while we offer a product that a business buys, the primary user is a customer and we don’t believe that pushing more stuff into a ticket based system, with the heavy workflow and attendent costs, is what will deliver a better company-to-customer experience.

I’m tempted to say that our mission is to make the help desk system less important to you, as a business, but in reality we hope to make it more important by focusing it on the issues that defy self-service help and customer-to-customer interaction.

With Get Satisfaction your customers get something better, and it’s not focused exclusively on complaints and problems. Instead of customer service around issue management we offer customer service through relationship management and what that means is that problems get resolved – certainly, this is a primary need – but questions get answered, positive feedback means doing more of what works, and questions get answered, by you, your advocates and other customers.

Get Satisfaction has as it’s core DNA that concept that a customer is at the center or a customer community. We offer a better, faster, and cheaper model than traditional enterprise software solutions, and perhaps most strikingly, we have delivered a platform that meets the needs of the very largest of companies, while also remaining approachable and productive for the smallest of startups.

I am glad to see Jive recognize that the Social Customer is an integral part of any social business. This won’t be easy for them or anyone else to deliver on, enterprise software doesn’t easily translate into strong customer experiences because it is a solution designed around a business process and employee experience first… but acknowledging that the Social Customer is the foundation is a good first start.

 

Jive SBS Launches

I spoke with Sam Lawrence at Jive about their new Social Business Software (SBS) product and came away impressed on two fronts, the first being that the product is wicked cool and perhaps more significantly they are skating to the proverbial puck rather than following in the footsteps of other companies.

Longtime Jive followers will notice something immediately, Clearspace and Clearspace Community have been retired as naming conventions. For SBS, the technologies represented in both of these products are now referenced as “Jive Foundation” which forms the underpinnings for the new products and initiatives.

200903100946.jpg Jive is looking at the market opportunity from the standpoint of what people do with the software, and that represents the work centers which map to a neatly presented perspective on what happens in all companies. Within each of these centers is a business process in which a social component is integral. Based on my own experience in very large companies, I think this is a realistic perspective and it’s worth noting that the overlap between centers is probably proportional not by design but based on what actually happens.

In addition to process centers there are cross application modules that allow for top down functions across the entire suite of services. Analytics represent an obvious cross application module but it was the Bridging Module that really captured my attention.

200903100920.jpg

What the Bridging Module enables is a federation of related communities for an integrated view. As an example, Kaiser is a Jive customer and with the Bridging Module any Kaiser user could add components that represent content and functionality in the American Heart Association community.

To be clear, this federation capability works exclusively with other communities that are built on Jive technology, but with 2,500 customers this is a significant list and represents the greatest strategic opportunity for Jive, to become a vertical industry standard where they have strong representation. This is class Law of Accelerating Returns stuff, a vendor will win more new business as a consequence of being perceived as the accepted standard by a group of competitors within a specific vertical industry.

In the “old days” we would have called these things portals but it’s really an understatement to reference any of these products that way now. Portals relied on a single vendor or approved partners to supply functionality that was unavoidably focused around a single vendor’s products and was also typically transactional data focused. With the emergence of unstructured content and social interactions being the bigger drivers of user focus, portals were poorly equipped to deal with this and it opened the door for a menu of competitive products to emerge, Jive being one of the more successful offerings.

A further data point that underscores the point above is that the technical specifications for what constitutes a portal component are less of an issue today, and as Jive and Socialtext both demonstrate, an OpenSocial widget is just as accepted as a native component. The evolution of widgets demands that they move beyond content and creative to social awareness, in other words, how the widget or component interacts with other components is of equal importance to what the widget or component itself does.

This is a pretty competitive sector and there are firm lines that are developing. Microsoft and IBM offer the biggest footprint enterprise social software stacks and as can be expected they are expensive and timely to implement but on the other hand they offer a lot of functionality and demonstrable ability to scale to very large user numbers while also offering strong integration options to other important enterprise products. Other vendors have emerged that challenge Microsoft and IBM, such as Jive, while another class is extending the big enterprise offerings (most significantly what NewsGator is doing on Microsoft Sharepoint). With a flight to quality as a consequence of current economic conditions, the large vendors will continue to dominate while challengers like Jive with extensive customer lists and mature product offerings will close the window for new startups to establish a foothold.

Today the focus in on what users are doing rather than what companies want them to do and Jive’s SBS is well positioned to take advantage of that with a compelling user experience, strong social functionality, a “marketplace” for third party components and federated community sites, and lastly, advanced functionality (e.g. analytics) that grow in importance as usage grows.