Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Parature, Specialist in Cloud-Based Customer Service, Challenges

As something of an adjunct to all the activity around “social enterprise software” these days, there’s been in recent weeks a lot of movement around software that’s aimed at helping companies get a handle on their customer service experience.

People who do business with you want to talk about your brand wherever they happen to hang out online. That may be on a Web forum somewhere or it may be on Facebook and Twitter. A few weeks ago we saw unveil its Service Cloud 3, which aims to do a lot of that, but it’s not the only game in town.

Parature, a venture-backed player in the business of what it calls the cloud-based customer-engagement software business, is today announcing a significant update it’s calling Spring 11. The point of the software is to reduce the cost and time commitment required to answer the same support questions over and over. The company added support for Facebook earlier this year, allowing customer support teams to track discussions and engage consumers there. Today it’s adding support both for Twitter and for Lithium web communities.

“Our vision here is that you have to be where your customers are,” Duke Chung, Parature founder and chief strategy officer, told me. “When we started supporting Facebook we saw a lot of traction there, but more and more we look at our business as making sure we help our customers connect to wherever they are.”

Chung says he thinks Parature is the only vendor out there able to integrate all these channels into one product. Salesforce added a lot of social aspects to Service Cloud 3, but a key piece of that is a Radian6 app for monitoring blogs and forums that is not expected to hit the Salesforce App Exchange until August of this year. Salesforce monitoring for Twitter is up and running, while Salesforce for Facebook is coming during the second quarter of this year. On balance, Parature looks ahead of Salesforce for now.

Another new feature generates two automatic answers based on the customer’s submitted question. The more you can reduce the number of one-to-one conversations, the more you reduce the overall cost of customer support.

Another new feature is the analysis of search terms. Parature users can analyze the service experience by looking at what people are searching for. That helps support personnel detect patterns and can speed up and improve support responses, plus serving as an early warning system for problems with a product or service.

Parature is backed by Accel Partners, Sierra Ventures and Valhalla Partners, and is used to support 25 million customers around the world. Its customers include language-training software company Rosetta Stone, IGN Entertainment and Hitachi.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google