An Evangelical Approach to Converting More Sales, Part 1

I’m always in the mood for a good chuckle, but the last place I thought I would find one was in an article in MSNBC’s blog “The Red Tape Chronicles” by Bob Sullivan:

A new survey shows that 75 percent of high-tech titans say their companies provide “above average” customer care.

OK, I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing. Apparently, these CEOs don’t have to call the standard 1-800 number.

As you might expect, high-tech consumers don’t share this perception. To be precise, nearly 6 in 10 respondents told researchers they were somewhat upset or extremely upset with the way their most recent customer service experience was handled.

Seems high-tech CEOs are badly afflicted with chronic “It’s-not-us-itis.”

“So we say, ‘I understand you think you are great, but let’s do a little survey,'” said Brian Sprague, of consulting firm Accenture, in the article. According to the article, most surveys show a “disconnect between what executives and their customers think about service.

“The consequences can be severe,” the article goes on. “Consumers who feel they’ve been badly treated are incredibly disloyal, the Accenture survey found; 81 percent said they’d purchase from a competitor next time.”

Most companies don’t make the customer service cut. But a few companies have found ways to raise the bar in an era where word of mouth and disaster stories spread quickly.

TechSmith, makers of screen-capture utility Snagit, Camtasia Studio, Morae, and Uservue, is one such company. Good friend and TechSmith’s evangelist extraordinaire, Betsy Weber, was eager to answer my questions about her role.

Bryan Eisenberg: What do you do on a daily/weekly basis?

Betsy Weber: One of the best parts of the job is every day is different. Still, there are a few constants, such as jumping on planes, speaking at conferences and user groups, blogging, going out for dinner, and making a difference in products and services.

But the best part of the job is getting out of the office to meet with people who have been TechSmith customers for years and those who are brand new.

It’s important for any company to have an effective conversation with their customers. The key is it has to be two-way and transparent — users to us and us to users. We can’t only listen to what we want to hear or only build relationships with customers who like the product. It’s not a matter of convincing customers. It’s more of a constant process of listening and sharing. I do a lot of this.

It’s important for an evangelist to act as a public-facing conduit between the company and the customer, being an advocate for both. The focus of my job is to create deep customer relationships that have ongoing, direct, and authentic conversations, bringing those conversations with customers into TechSmith so the user’s voice is heard and a community is built.

BE: Who do you work with inside and outside the organization?

BW: Internally, I work with every department at TechSmith — everyone from development to tech support to sales and marketing — because evangelism works for any size company as long as you have a company-wide ideology that says, “Customers always come first — and we mean it and practice it.”

Everyone at the company has to be on board. It’s not only about evangelism. We have to have high quality products as well as service (shipping, customer service, technical support). If not, word of mouth would rapidly spread about our failures.

Externally, I work with a variety of people and groups. I’m always looking for people who are already talking about us and reaching out to them.

I don’t control or attempt to control the conversation or what’s said. My job is to identify people who are already evangelists and help their cause. I also work to get people to look at our products and services. I’m always researching and looking for people who might be interested in the areas our products and services benefit.

Like I said before, it’s a constant process of listening and sharing.

Anywhere I can have these conversations, I will go: from the blogosphere to professional associations to Second Life to Facebook to Twitter and beyond. I publicly post my cell phone number, schedule, and instant message contacts. I don’t want to miss any conversation online or offline because someone couldn’t get in contact with me.

BE: Wow! Tell me a little more about how and where these conversations take place.

BW: A lot of my conversations take place in the real world, even more take place online. Every day involves writing: blog posts, comments in forums, blogs and articles, and most of all e-mail. E-mail to users, potential customers, and a lot of internal e-mail with product and customer feedback. Being accessible, open, and honest helps deepen relationships. It’s also my job to make sure I bring those conversations with customers into TechSmith so the user’s voice is heard — send feedback to product teams, set up lunches with users, Webinars that the product team is involved with, sneak peeks to get feedback from users before launch, meet-ups at trade shows and conference, build a community around using our products and, yes, even if it means virtual.

Thanks, Betsy. In part two, how success and return on investment are measured for her job and how a company can go about finding an evangelist of its own.

Meet Bryan at SES Training Classes on August 8 in Boston.

Related reading

site search hp