Do we need to talk?

I keep reading blogs and articles about how social media can destroy enterprises. Well, to be truthful – I don’t work in an enterprise. Did, twice – but I didn’t like it so much (but learned a great deal, and loved the people I worked with).
But at my current title – I really need to know if you’re writing about my startup. But not just about it – about anything that might be relevant. For instance – if you’re writing a blog on MySQL scalability – I probably want to talk to you.
I’ve used this blog to bitch about the tools I’ve used. But this, by far, is the biggest challenge I have. I wasn’t happy with any PR agency auto responder. Doing it myself is better, but timezone differences and out-of-internet access zones (United – will you please have internet on planes already?) make this undependable.
But first thing first. To track what people are writing about my company and the topics we care about I use Google Alerts and Twitter Search (my current tool of choice is MetroTwit – whose main value is that isn’t developed in Adobe AIR, so it doesn’t kill my windows machine).
Google alerts let me configure auto running search terms, and get the new results to my email box. So far, it has proven very effective, and usually I’m the first to comment on blogs that interest me. It offers multiple level of configuration, but I rather get some results twice, and not wait till the end of the day to get interesting links.
I use twitter for the same result. Twitter searches are very useful, and people are sharing allot of data in their twitter feeds. So when anyone writes about my company – I make sure to retweet him, and follow him, from both my personal account and from the company account. When someone writes about a relevant topic – I follow him from both accounts, and answer his tweet. I try not to be pushy, because I feel it’s rude to talk to someone I don’t know – but hey, it’s my company, and my kids future 😉
So I’ve built a nice system, but it takes huge amounts of time, and it is not scalable. I’m still researching for new tools and service providers that can help me. If you have any idea/experience – please share in the comments section.

ZenDesk vs. SalesForce

Once we were ready to go GA, we needed an online tool for our support. In this post I’ll cover how we decided on our support tool.
We had quite an extensive set of requirements, and started out with ZenDesk as our tool of choice. We were extremely happy with it, and were very unhappy with SalesForce Support options, which were both expensive and limited (a great business model).

So how did I end up using SalesForce support?
Well, it’s a long story, but for short – we decided that features are not as important as ease of integration – and although ZenDesk offers good integration with SalesForce, SalesForce support is even better integrated. It all came down to a small little feature – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Requirements list
As I said – we had a very extensive requirements list from our support tool. I wanted most of our support to happen online, since it’s easier to manage, and easier to keep history of what our customers are doing. These are just the leading items I had in the requirement list:

  1. Communication
    1. Customers can open support tickets by sending emails to a pre-defined address
    2. Customers can open support tickets online
    3. Support team can open tickets on behalf of customers
  2. Notifications
    1. Our management can get notifications whenever support tickets are opened closed, or any sort of communication occurs.
    2. Customers get email notifications when changes to their tickets occur
  3. Publishing
    1. It’s possible to make tickets global, for all to see
  4. Security
    1. Customer will have username and password access to the support portal
  5. Integration
    1. It must be possible to see in a contact or account view in SalesForce the tickets this customer opened

Evaluation

I feel comfortable saying ZenDesk is better at points 1-3. SalesForce made me write rules so that management gets a notification when our support staff answers a ticket. Making tickets global is very limited, and what’s worst is the limited customization options of the SalesForce support portal (yeah – they have a more customizable portal, which cost by named users, an impossible pricing model for us). ZenDesk and SalesForce are at the same level for point 4. Point 5 proved fatal for ZenDesk. I just couldn’t implement it. When a customer creates a ZenDesk user, it is impossible to map that user to the customer in SalesForce. If the account name and company name are not the same in those two tools – and the integration just doesn’t work.

Bottom line

For me – point #5 was a blocking feature, and I had to settle for a much more limited SalesForce support. Now, SalesForce is so limited, I can’t even automatically create a support user for a customer – something that is just painful. Still – I can get a 360 degree customer view – and I was willing to give up any functional requirement for this integration.
But I’m checking ZenDesk periodically. They offer a great solution and I’d love moving the minute this tiny integration point is solved…