What they do:
Phone.com is a cloud-based telecom service provider tailored for the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Their service is a comprehensive business phone solution purchased exclusively online. Customers can build their own phone solution similar to the way a larger office or business would and the service is sold as a monthly subscription and changes can be made at any time. Founded in 2007, Phone.com now has more than 25,000 customers; it is #262 in the last INC 500 rating of fastest growing businesses in the US and #23 in NJ. Phone.com customers are located in all 50 states and come from any type industry. The majority of their customers have less than10 employees.
Why they won:
When they started the business in 2007, the principals at Phone.com had a lot of experience working in the technology and in the telecom (VoIP) market, but working in a service business was much different. Optimizing customer service so it could scale, be affordable, and yet still be excellent was all new to the principals. The inexperience may have actually helped them to innovate best practices in customer service from scratch rather than trying to improve on an ineffective existing approach.
Ari Rabban, CEO, Alon Cohen, EVP & CTO, and Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Service devised the program around the theme of being “awesome.” The first component to the program was to encourage employees to be open, direct, and honest and not hide behind rules and templates. Next, customer service reps were empowered to make decisions about resolving customer concerns without having to go through layers of approval. Another component was to not limit the reps’ time on the phone, email, or text and let them help any customer, no matter big or small the account was—as needed.
Phone.com has a customer service team of 25 reps—all based in the US—and is still growing. These reps work without a script. Instead, management emphasizes connecting with individual customers and understanding their needs. While there are no canned responses, there is one response that is forbidden—“Unfortunately, we…” By not permitting service reps to say “no,” they are forced to come up with a creative solution to customers’ problems. Customer service reps also follow up with customers via phone or email to make sure they are satisfied with the service they received.
In August 2012, Phone.com implemented an aggressive social media program that included a customer service blog, Communicatebetterblog.com, and a Twitter feed. They have experienced an average growth in Twitter followers of 37 percent per month and experienced a total of 50 percent growth in website traffic. The Huffington Post invited Phone.com’s customer service manager to participate in a roundtable discussion on customer service and several other publications have published interviews with other Phone.com managers.
“Our customer service department is our entire company,” says Rabban.”All 42 employees - even if they do not take customer calls directly - will be asked to think or help with customer matters. In most case customers can contact our agents through their direct email or even using social media. We actually have customers and customer service reps who became Linkedin contacts, Facebook friends or follow each other on Twitter.”
As a result of these customer service practices, Phone.com increased their average satisfaction rating from 2012 to 2013 by 15 percent and have achieved an overall 90 percent customer service satisfaction rate. During the same period, positive reviews increased by 30 percent per month, sales increased an average of 10 percent per month (with no increase in marketing spend) and churn was reduced by 0.3 percent.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com