Influitive, a Toronto-based marketing technology startup, helps enterprise companies identify and mobilize their strongest online advocates to encourage referrals, references and product reviews. In 2013 Influitive was growing quickly, and execs wanted to follow the company’s own playbook by converting customers into advocates.

To pull this off, Influitive “had to provide a phenomenal customer experience,” says Chad Horenfeldt, vice president of customer success. Easier said than done, since the budget-strapped, 20-person company had just two people on staff handling customer service requests through lengthy email chains.

The Fix

Influitive moved its customer service department onto the Freshdesk platform. The software-as-a-service program centralized support tickets, allowing Influitive’s customer service agents to manage them through Freshdesk’s cloud-based software. Agents could claim tickets to answer, leave internal messages and reply to customers using response templates or customized responses. But even more valuable, Influitive was able to build a knowledge base to address and post FAQs, reducing the number of customer support requests.

“We also needed a support system that could be embedded into our internal Salesforce platform, and Freshdesk does it tightly,” Horenfeldt says.

While Freshdesk offers ticket management and other basic automation functions for free, Influitive signed on to the first-tier, subscription-level service for $16 per agent per month. This level includes community forums and gamification features (such as contests for who can handle the most tickets in a day) and pulls in Influitive’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, allowing agents to monitor social mentions and immediately assign support tickets to any issues.

The Results

Influitive had 15 customers when it began using Freshdesk. Two years later, the company’s client roster has jumped to more than 200—including LinkedIn, Hewlett-Packard and Ceridian—yet only recently has Influitive considered hiring a third support agent. Meanwhile, Influitive’s average first response time to customer support requests is just over 30 minutes, with a 98 percent customer satisfaction rating.

A Second Opinion

“The idea of completely automating everything is a significant cost saving,” says John Fleming, chief scientist for Gallup’s Marketplace Consulting and HumanSigma practices, where he advises clients on customer engagement. He likes that Freshdesk enables companies to pull in customer information from multiple sources and get a comprehensive view of the customer experience, but he warns that automating too many services comes with some risk.

“Although companies could automate all customer communication with a system like Freshdesk, they should resist the urge, because people tend to prefer human touchpoints,” he says.

To hedge against the risk of over-automating, Fleming suggests that Influitive identify its top accounts and make sure those customers always receive some kind of in-person contact.