With the upcoming return of the guest interview series at CSI Season 2, I thought I'd take time over the next week to showcase the best from Season 1. One of my favorites is the interview with Technorati Founder and CEO David Sifry. Enjoy!
Be of Service (Originally posted on November 20, 2006)
David Sifry is founder and chief executive officer of Technorati. As part of CSI's monthly guest series, David was kind enough to answer some questions and offer his insights regarding client/customer service and its vital importance to this three-year-old company.
CSI: Tell us what commitment to customer service means at Technorati?
DS: When I founded Technorati more than three years ago, I thought a lot about what sort of credo I would want to both define the company as well as guide its growth. What I came up with is pretty simple and certainly not revolutionary: “Be of service.” We work hard every day to live by this credo at Technorati, and this effort starts with me. In this way more than any other, I strive every day to lead by example. We’re not perfect by any means, but we do put the highest priority on keeping all those we serve in mind as we constantly improve our offering even while we continue to innovate new ways to be of service.
CSI: How does Technorati strive to deliver and maintain service at a high level each and every day?
DS: We have a tradition at Technorati that is called the daily Stand-up. Every day at 10 a.m. people from across the company gather around a table for a few minutes to discuss what is required to be of service that day. It’s a way to constantly check-in with our co-workers about the agreements we make to one another and all those we serve, and to keep us honest and focused. We also have weekly reports from the folks who provide our free technical support about how we’re performing on that front, which are given at our weekly all-hands staff meeting, and we make it a habit to include that in our development schedule. I emphasize that while we have folks at the company dedicated to support, it’s the job every person at Technorati to provide assistance to all those we seek to serve.
CSI: How do you manage to stay in touch with your users' expectations? Does getting involved personally help you achieve that?
DS: We try to eat our own dog food. Using Technorati, we have watch lists – which are save searches – for our name, URL, products, etc.. If someone is unhappy (or very happy) with our service, believe me we hear about it. We take this feedback very seriously and I try to do my part every day to ensure we are responsive to this dialog. We also have an engaged group of friends and advisors that we are regularly talking to, getting feedback from, and learning from.
CSI: What are your biggest challenges in meeting those expectations in a business that's experiencing such rapid growth?
DS: It’s both an honor and an extraordinary challenge to serve the exploding universe of “citizen publishers.” This universe grows every day and includes not only blogs, but also podcasts, video, games, photos and more. Just in terms of blogging, Technorati now tracks around 60 million blogs globally and our full-time staff numbers about 35. These citizen publishers are in many ways changing the world in unexpected, exciting and often profound ways, so it is definitely an honor to help these folks amplify their voices. The key is to get a GREAT team. I am so proud to be working with the team here at Technorati – when you have a team that is experienced and dedicated like ours, the rest falls out naturally. As I said before, we’re certainly not perfect, but I’m so proud of our team and the talent and dedication they bring to our mission each and every day.
CSI: Talk about the challenge of meeting or exceeding expectations when your users' technology savvy varies so greatly.
DS: I think the great challenge around meeting and exceeding expectations has everything to do with our users’ facility around technology and web publishing. Our early users were predominantly in the “digerati”, which meant that they could often trouble-shoot issues they might encounter. As more and more folks are publishing to the Web, there’s a wide range of ability that these people bring to the table and we’re challenged to meet people where they’re at in order to help them be successful. I’ve found it requires a commitment to listening and to patiently responding. Where we are able, we do old fashion hand-holding to help folks address their issues. We’re also constantly looking at how we can better enable people to resolve their issues on their own – both from a technology approach and in terms of things like FAQs.
CSI: How do you know that your commitment to customer service delivers a tangible return on investment?
DS: At Technorati we look at a number of factors including repeat visitors, membership and, of course, feedback via blog posts. Happy users will become addicted advocates for our service and that is great for the bottom line.