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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Alex Bard, VP and GM of Desk.com, a Salesforce Company (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Oct 13th 2012

Sramana Mitra: There are limits to what you can do for your customers without blowing your profitability or viability. For example, we have taken this charter of democratizing entrepreneurship education. One of the value propositions we are working on is democratizing management consulting. Now, that cannot possibly happen. We charge a $1,000 annual membership fee, and that’s all. We have created a delivery model as well as a business model that allows us to offer a level of incubation service to anyone and everyone. We are working on a completely inclusive basis. Anybody who wants to use the program is welcome to use the program, be it an entrepreneur in Indonesia or an entrepreneur in Africa, whatever. One of the things we don’t do is one-on-one mentoring. We do group mentoring. We do online, video-based roundtables where we provide mentoring. We do a lot of the mentoring with a curriculum that is video lecture and case study based. And it’s self-service. Now, if each entrepreneur wants to talk to us one on one, the business model goes completely out the window.

Alex Bard: I don’t think that great customer service means you have to talk to every single one of your customers one on one. As a matter of fact, in many cases, customers don’t want to have to talk to you one on one; they just want to find the answers to their questions or they want the product to answer their questions for them. So, you just talked about the great things you do in providing outstanding customer service, the seminars, the self-service. I’m sure you have communities where entrepreneurs come in and you have folks from your side to participate in those communities to democratize that knowledge even further.

I would hope that people who participate in your program would say that you have an outstanding level of customer service. Again, that doesn’t mean that you talk to every single person every single day. Great customer service doesn’t mean that.

SM: I think for what we promise to do and what we deliver against that promise, we do an outstanding level of customer service.

AB: That’s great.

SM: But what I’m pointing out is that people have expectations.

AB: Setting customer expectations is an important part of making sure that you deliver that great customer service. If they know the expectations and you’ve set them fairly, then you can deliver on that promise.

SM: Yes. That’s my point. You know Apple has this one-on-one program for a very small amount of money. It used to be $99 a year. You could get one year of one-on-one customer service. You could go to the Apple store, make an appointment and get what you need to get. That’s a very high level of customer service.

AB: It is, and it’s absolutely outstanding, but it doesn’t mean that every business needs to live up to that level of service to deliver an outstanding level of customer service.

SM: Some business models may not allow you to do that level of customer service.

AB: Yes, but you have to aspire to deliver great service in any way that you can, which may not be one-on-ones at the genius bar like Apple offers. But there are other ways to wow your customers. Again, Zappos is a great example. Virgin is a great example. I think we’re a great example. And certainly in what you’re doing, you’re a great example of delivering an unbelievable amount of value to your community and supporting it in the ways that you can.

SM: Yes. I think we are providing something quite extraordinary. Is there anything that you want to add?

AB: The only thing that I’d say is it’s a really exciting time because we had the cloud revolution and then we had the mobile revolution, and now we’re having the social revolution. This revolution is creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs to build exciting businesses in different ways, to build solutions to help companies connect with their customers and employees and partners in whole new ways. This is an exciting time for entrepreneurs and businesses if they have the right philosophy. That’s more what I was commenting on earlier. It’s the philosophy of customer service rather than thinking of it as a call center or specific department. If you have the philosophy, then you can think about the best ways to be able to deliver on your promise to your customers and make them partners in your success. That’s what, as a company, Salesforce continues to strive to do.

SM: Right. Well, thank you, Alex. It’s been nice talking to you.

AB: Thank you so much.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Alex Bard, VP and GM of Desk.com, a Salesforce Company
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