Ask a communications expert about the distinctions between internal and external communications, and odds are good he or she will tell you the barriers aren’t as strong as they used to be.
The folks at Moxie Software agree. It’s the reason it integrated its social media software packages (Customer Spaces and Employee Spaces) so that employees can find what they need to know.
“What we do is connect people to people, whether those people are employees or customers or partners,” says Tara Sporrer, Moxie’s vice president of marketing and sales operations.
Moxie has offered its Customer Spaces software for years, Sporrer says, while Employee Spaces is relatively new.
Customer Spaces facilitates customer response, sort of like a call center, with sales agents answering customer questions and concerns. The difference is the Customer Spaces software handles customer interactions from a slew of different sources—email, texts, and social media.
A “unified customer history” page shows every interaction with a customer so agents know every interaction a customer has had with the company.
Managers can view an administration panel “to create things you care about listening to,” says David Lowy, Moxie’s vice president of product management. Managers can create a list of “listeners,” topics they most want to hear, and instantly see what people are saying. Each message comes with a measure of sentiment, how many followers the person saying it has, and how many people are responding.
Managers can also generate reports on sales agents to find out how quickly they respond to customers and how often.
Employee Spaces offers blogs, wikis, ideastorms, discussion groups, participation badges, a media library, a task list, a calendar and more. “Things that are common in social consumer tools, we’ve brought the best of those into those enterprise application,” Sporrer says.
Employee Spaces groups employees by project, Lowy says, and facilitates workflow so that a wiki about a customer problem can become a blog, which becomes a knowledge base article, which then goes onto a customer support site.
Sporrer says Employee Spaces, with its components for collaboration as well as top-down news, could “be an intranet in and of itself,” though some companies would perhaps want to use a tool such as SharePoint for document management.
Moxie worked with design firm Ideo to develop its tools. In creating Employee Spaces, Ideo researched the reasons why some employees don’t use intranets. The firm found the reasons were often simple, such as multiple logins.
“There can be no barriers to entry,” Sporrer says. “It needs to be as easy to use as the consumer tools that we’re all used to.”
Employee Spaces’ design is such that it locks down certain design elements so companies don’t hide important features or clutter things up too badly.
“With SharePoint, you can get carried away with your flexibility to design it,” Sporrer points out. She compares Employee Spaces to Facebook, while she argues SharePoint is more like MySpace.
Customer Spaces can be integrated into any customer relationship management tool, Sporrer says. It’s “CRM agnostic.”
The big differentiator, however, is how the two software suites bridge employee and customer communications. In Customer Spaces, an agent can escalate a customer request or concern so an alert is created in Employee Spaces. From there, an expert within the company can calculate an answer and relay that back to external communicators.
Both tools are available through mobile devices.
Who’s it for?
For Customer Spaces, Moxie is obviously looking for clients with high volumes of customer interaction, Sporrer says. Employee Spaces has helped lots of different types of companies, from those within a supply chain to education. Sporrer says Moxie’s clients typically employ 500 or more, and should be looking for a nimble intranet.
She adds that companies must have a culture of collaboration.
“If you’ve outgrown microblogging, we’re a great next step,” she says.
What a client says
Ian Bodsworth, senior manager for service and support at Epson Europe, says Customer Spaces has helped reduce cost by making communication with customers more efficient.
“It enables our customers to choose the method that they prefer for contacting our technical, customer service and direct sales teams,” he says.
Epson has only just started using Employee Spaces, he says.
“We believe that it will allow our employees to engage in things that are outside of their normal field of view,” Bodsworth says. “It is likely to also help identify people who have interests in other areas of the business and so help with recruitment and staff development.”
He says he envisions future cost reductions once Employee Spaces becomes the main avenue for internal communications and builds a “wider sense of belonging in the company.”
Why did Epson pick Moxie Software? The company not only listens to its customers and actively seeks out ideas, it implements updates and changes based on suggestions, Bodsworth says.