Sramana Mitra: Is there any specific area that you’re looking at as an area you want to bring expertise in-house for?
Alex Bard: That’s not something I can comment on.
SM: OK. What about innovation? What’s on your radar in terms of companies that are doing interesting things in this domain?
AB: I think there are a lot of companies that are working on various parts of connecting with customers and that are doing very interesting things. We look to some of the innovations that are happening on Facebook, for example. They’re now educating almost a billion users on how to engage and interact with one another. There are certainly cues we take from the experiences that Facebook creates. There are interesting things we learn from Twitter and how that environment drives engagement and communication. Certainly Apple and Marcus talked about this, and the late, great Steve Jobs is a huge inspiration for everyone in the industry. They’ve really consumerized the enterprise experience. Now it’s about not only delivering a great product to the enterprise, but it’s also delivering a great product that the end user, whoever the ultimate end user is, it’s making sure that we focus on delivering great experiences. I think Apple did such an amazing job of redefining what that experience needs to be like. Those are the kinds of companies we look to every day for inspiration. I hope that in many ways, we’re providing inspiration for a lot of the entrepreneurs and startups you may be working with.
SM: Yes. The one comment that I would make about Apple that is you do need certain levels of profitability to provide that kind of customer service.
AB: To provide what kind of customer service?
SM: The level of customer service that Apple provides is extraordinary. It has the profitability to be able to do that. Not all businesses have that level of profitability.
AB: I would argue that the level of service drives the level of profitability you’re talking about. I imagine that with a lot of the entrepreneurs you’re working with, they certainly don’t have anywhere near the profitability, of Apple, but if they’re building interesting businesses and tools for business or direct B2C businesses, they’re focused on delivering exceptional service. What I would call “wow” service is a way to create a competitive advantage, build a better product, and get to that profitability you’re talking about. I can tell you that when we started Assistly, outside of the founders, our first two hires were our head of customer support and our head of customer “wow.” That was the title at the time and continues to be the title of people inside that group. That’s because when you are a solutions provider in customer support, you have to set the precedent for what great customer support is. We have been deeply invested in that from day one. And “wow” to us is, What do you do above and beyond? What do you do proactively? What do you do to create unexpected moments of delight on behalf of your customers?