HelpSocial looks to broaden who 'does' an enterprise's social media

Is per-seat pricing limiting the impact that social customer service can have?

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There have been many examples over the years of large enterprises doing a great job of customer service and social outreach. Going back three or four years, the blogosphere spent a short period of time obsessed with Comcast's social persona, Comcast Cares. In my antipodean neck of the woods, my airline of choice, Air New Zealand, was an early adopter of social service and a strong proponent of engaging customers wherever they may be.

But times have changed. While back in the day one or two individuals could handle all of an organization's social support conversations, today, social channels -- be they Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever -- are an increasingly large source of comments and questions. Organizations really need to change the way they think about supporting these channels.

Which is somewhat in conflict with the way that traditional customer service tools charge. The usual mode for these tools is to charge a per-seat monthly fee, where every customer service agent attracts a new license fee. That model worked well (arguably) in a static world of limited traffic and fixed social service agents, but in today's more dynamic and fluid world? Not so much.

So I was interested to hear from Matt Wilbanks, CEO of HelpSocial, a company that, as the name implies, is focused on helping organizations help their own customers on social channels. HelpSocial actually got its start in life at Rackspace, where Wilbanks and his colleagues ran Rackspace's well-respected social outreach programs. HelpSocial was born from that experience and is all about integrating various social media and messaging solutions with customer care.

Net result: Enterprises can bring their externally facing social capabilities into their existing service systems.

According to Wilbanks, HelpSocial has changed the way it is pricing its service. Touted as a "more cost-effective way for businesses to provide social customer service," the real benefits are more around flexibility and adaptability in my mind. Under its new pricing model, customers will pay for API usage based on how active they are.

As I've pointed out, the per-seat pricing structure of enterprise social media systems is expensive, and compounds the cost of scaling social and messaging outside of a small, specialized social media team. By pricing on API usage, there is no barrier to spreading social support far wider across an organization and integrating it more deeply into peripheral business activities.

To this end, HelpSocial is also changing its API. The open API means that endpoints can easily and quickly be integrated into existing customer service systems -- great for those organizations that have nonstandard service tools or a variety of different systems.

"Customer service happens from everywhere across a business and response time matters," said Wilbanks. "The faster, the better. The new version of our open API is modularly built, giving organizations the ability to select features and integrate them into the service platforms they use today. This allows for social media to be used on any team, in any department in any company.

"Additionally, our utility-based pricing model ensures fair and flexible pricing that provides companies a cost-effective option to fully scale social media across contact centers full of agents, so they can consistently deliver a near-instant response to social comments."

Social support is a huge growth area and one which is seeing much competition. HelpSocial has its work cut out for it to build a viable business, but the new approach should prove interesting in the marketplace.

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