Why Customer Support Should be your New Sales Model

Live support (phone, chat) is increasingly being phased out by companies in favor of systems that require – or highly encourage – their customers to self-support when they have questions or need help. As a result, more people than ever are using self-support to find information, solve problems, or diagnose issues. But this shift in behavior is not due to a choice on the part of consumers to eschew live support in favor of self-support, but rather to the industry forcing behavioral change on consumers in order to reduce costs.

Two large online businesses, Rackspace and Zappos, have adopted a different model, “Customer Support as Primary Sales Channel” (CSPSC). Contrary to common industry practices, these companies drive as many customers as possible through live support channels and use self-support to strengthen the consumer experience. Their primary goal is not efficiency (the hallmark of a self-support model), but rather to touch as many customers as possible to develop personal, human-to-human relationships – relationships that lead to strong brand loyalty and high levels of engagement, which in turn drive more sales and result in higher profits.

Opponents to the CSPSC model claim that live support appeals to older customers and that young customers prefer the self-support model. They presume as time goes by, the shift from live to self-support will increase dramatically. Zappos in particular has proven this idea false by demonstrating young buyers respond just as favorably to live support as self-support.

customer support

This excerpt from a Forbes article on Zappos sums up the spirit of CSPSC very nicely:

“While Zappos uses technology to make the customer experience easy and hassle-free, they recognize that there are just some things that technology can’t do. Nothing can replace the human touch, especially when that person is empowered to go to just about any lengths to help the customer. They understand that the customer experience is not singular, but it’s in each of those singular moments when interacting with the customer that loyalty is forged or lost.”

Most companies look to reduce the cost of customer support, but Rackspace and Zappos seek instead to invest in it – and heavily. In the CSPSC model, every dollar spent drives multiple new sales and reduces the average cost of acquiring new buyers. Support driven sales are more cost-effective than advertising driven sales.

Higher customer support ratings (Zappos and Rackspace routinely win best-of-industry awards) and higher gross margins emerge because CSPSC companies can charge premium prices. Customers are willing to pay more because of the human relationship they develop with the company, and live support is seen as an integral part of the product they are buying.

Live support also creates a natural competitive barrier between the companies who practice it and the rest of their competition, who are usually in a race to the bottom on prices, necessitating low-cost self-service support in order to compete on price. The CSPSC folks routinely spend as much as 60% of their operational budget on live support personnel, but successfully maintain premium pricing.

For those that doubt the power of live support over self-support, just walk into an Apple store. Apple stores earn more profit per square foot than any other major retail operation in the world. They also have more sales/support staff per square foot than any other major retail store in the world.

SavvyCard has chosen to embrace the CSPSC model, while building an extensive and comprehensive system of self-service support options. Our primary support channel is – and will continue to be – live support through phone, chat, webinars and in-person trainings. We choose to seek out live interactions with our customers as often as possible. We strive to empower our clients to choose the support system that best fits their personal needs. And we promise to be here for our customers whenever they need us.


Nico, a SavvyCard Customer Advocate, trains a new SavvyCard user through a live web demo

Karl Kilb, former General Counsel at Bloomberg LP, and Jim Sampey, former President of Valpak, Join SavvyCard® Advisory Board

Karl Kilb and Jim Sampey to advise mobile tech startup SavvyCard on strategic business initiatives.

St. Petersburg, Florida (PRWEB) December 02, 2014

SavvyCard today announced that Karl Kilb, President and CEO of N2 Global Solutions and former General Counsel at Bloomberg LP and Jim Sampey, former President of Valpak and EVP of Cox Target Media, will be joining its Board of Advisors.

Karl Kilb is an entrepreneurial leader and lawyer with strong technology, financial, media and legal experience and relationships. Specializing in revenue generation and risk management, Mr. Kilb spent more than 15 years as Bloomberg’s General Counsel and provided leadership in all aspects of Bloomberg’s global businesses (product and business development, sales strategies and relationships, vendor relationships, insurance and risk management). He built and managed Bloomberg’s global Legal and Compliance Department as General Counsel from 1996 to 2011.


Karl Kilb

Over his 21-year career at Valpak, Jim Sampey held senior leadership positions in sales, marketing, operations and information technology and led the design and construction of the company’s $220 million Valpak Manufacturing Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Prior to Valpak, Mr. Sampey worked in the direct marketing industry at Donnelly Marketing and Wiland Database Services and focused on database management and data analysis.


Jim Sampey

“Both Karl and Jim bring unique perspectives and invaluable experience and insights to SavvyCard, particularly as we expand from a regional to national mobile technology provider in the real estate marketplace and enter future verticals,” said David Etheredge, CEO and Co-Founder of SavvyCard. “Karl has an extraordinary network and deep experience with technology startups, and we’re looking forward to working with him to gain access to key strategic and capital partners and new business development opportunities.” Mr. Etheredge also commented, “Jim has tremendous insight into home service businesses in the real estate marketplace and his knowledge will prove invaluable as we refine our affiliate strategies, especially for targeted promotional mechanisms.”

“I am very impressed with the product and the team at SavvyCard,” noted Mr. Kilb. “SavvyCard is a unique solution. It very effectively combines innovative mobile marketing technology with traditional relationship marketing strategies. I was immediately able to appreciate the value SavvyCard brings to its customers in real estate, as well as other industries they plan to target. The SavvyCard team combines vision with experience and understands the scope of the opportunities in front of them. I’m looking forward to helping them manage the growth of their company.”

Mr. Sampey also plans to help SavvyCard navigate its rapid growth, notably in the real estate market. “A large part of my career was focused on the power of relevant local solutions for the consumer. When you are able to deliver local expertise and tie that to accurate and instantaneous data, and deliver that on an easy-to-use mobile platform that’s immediate and specifically caters to the needs of the consumer, you’ve got a powerful engagement solution and that is SavvyCard at its core. It will revolutionize the way local businesses market to their consumers.”

Both Mr. Kilb and Mr. Sampey start their advisory roles immediately. For more information on SavvyCard, please visit http://www.SavvyCard.com/SavvyCard.

About SavvyCard: 
SavvyCard, a mobile technology startup based in St. Petersburg, Florida, helps organizations rapidly and inexpensively deploy mobile engagement tools and systems. SavvyCard’s proprietary platform enables the creation of branded web apps so every brand, person, product, service and cause can engage with consumers through smartphones – effectively, quickly and inexpensively. With SavvyCard, users can readily share and refer people, products, places, events and services they love, and businesses can better engage and transact their brand in the mobile age. For more information, visit http://www.savvycard.com/savvycard or call us at (727) 502-6012.


Follow SavvyCard on Twitter: @SavvyCard
Follow SavvyCard for Real Estate on Twitter: @SavvyCardRealty

Need Help with your SavvyCard®? Call Nico, the Helpful Voice of SavvyLand

SavvyCard® Doesn’t Keep Their Customers at Arm’s Length

If you’ve ever tried to get support from a typical tech company, you’ve likely been lost in an automated voice prompt hell or gotten redirected to any number of online assets. You know what we’re talking about – companies are glad to direct you to voice mail boxes, support writeups, videos and forums whenever you have a question. But try talking to an actual person and … well, let’s just say a snowball has a better chance of surviving a meteor strike than you have of getting a live person on the phone when you need them.

And that’s just not right. Here at SavvyCard, we’ll admit, we do have support videos and materials and such because some people are DIYers and like that sort of stuff. But we’ve also got Nico, and we think he’s a bit of an improvement over snowballs and meteors.

Nicolas Garcia, SavvyCard Customer Service Advocate

Nicolas “Nico” Garcia, SavvyCard Customer Service Advocate

Nico’s Phone Number: (727) 502-6012

When you call SavvyCard with a question of any sort, we’ll connect you directly with our support staff. If you get the privilege of talking with Nico, you’ll understand what Great Customer Service really means.

You see, Nico moved to the U.S. from Peru and is now spending his days helping SavvyCard enthusiasts. Nico speaks both English and Spanish and many of our customers who call us are pleasantly surprised when they get through to him – first, they are amazed that they’re talking to a live person and second, they’re pleasantly surprised that unlike many other experiences they’ve had, Nico is super friendly and pleasant and really cares about them and their needs. As a bonus, Nico is bilingual, so he can help both English and Spanish speaking SavvyCard customers. If you ask any of the hundreds of folks he’s helped, they’ll tell you the same thing – his inimitable accent and cordial demeanor will make your support experience that much better – and certainly, more fun than reading a help page.

Better yet, Nico isn’t the only one at SavvyCard who can get you a quick and helpful response. Justin or Ruth make up the rest of our forward facing customer team and both are just as brilliant as Nico when it comes to assisting our customers.

Nico at his desk doing what he loves most, helping people.

Nico at his desk doing what he loves most, helping people.

SavvyCard is About People – Ours, and Yours

When you call SavvyCard, we’ll make sure you talk to someone who knows their stuff, because we want you to get the most out of our product, from mobile MLS search to email signatures to Property SavvyCards.

Our support philosophy is just part of our bigger goal here at SavvyCard – to use mobile technology to help connect people. We believe real connections don’t happen through Google searches and Facebook likes. Subscribing to someone’s news feed isn’t a relationship – a relationship is when you can call them up and talk.

Well, you can call us anytime and you can call Nico about anything. He’ll be happy to hear from you.

Good Luck to the Ironyard Academy’s First St. Pete Class!

It begins! You may have already heard some big, exciting news for the St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay startup community: St. Pete is now home to a new location of the coding academy known as The Ironyard, and their first class started yesterday. In just 12 weeks (crazy, right?) we’ll have a fresh crop of coding talent to help push the local tech and entrepreneurial communities forward.

The Ironyard launched in Greenville, South Carolina just two years ago, and has rapidly expanded across the Southeast, to places like Austin, Asheville, and Houston. We’re honored that the founders chose St. Pete as their next target for expansion – and we’re even more excited that they’ve located themselves directly across the street from the SavvyCard offices, in the beautiful Station House building (where we also hear we’re going to get a great new café).

The Ironyard’s St. Pete location will start by offering two courses of study – Ruby on Rails, for people interested in building the functional guts of applications, and Front End Engineering, for web and app design and user experience development. They’re both crucial parts of the coding puzzle, and as SavvyCard continues expanding, we’re sure to benefit from the new workforce they’ll be polishing.

So, keep your noses to the grindstone, newbies – we hear the Ironyard program is a tough, 12-hours-a-day, boot-camp style experience. But when all’s said and done, you’re not just going to be doing yourselves a huge favor career-wise: You’re going to form a great new addition to St. Pete and Tampa Bay’s startup and tech communities.

Join SavvyCard for Lunch in St. Pete, September 23rd.

Every couple of weeks here at SavvyCard, we host a Lunch and Learn event that gives folks in St. Pete a chance to learn more about the company. We’ll be sharing some of the startup insights we’ve gained from these events soon, but if you’re in Tampa Bay and interested in meeting our team in person, please come out to next week’s event, on Tuesday, September 23rd.

Click Here to RSVP

We’ll buy you lunch at our office and share our story and a demonstration of our technology. To make sure we get enough food, and the right kind, click above to RSVP, or contact Catherine Cheshire with an RSVP and dietary needs by calling (727) 512-5369, or emailing cat@savvycard.com.



When:Tuesday, September 23rd, 12pm to 1:30pm.

Where: SavvyCard Offices

200 Central Avenue, Suite 135

St. Petersburg, FL 33701



12pm-12:15 – Introductions

12:15-12:45 – Learn about SavvyCard

12:45-1pm – Q + A

1-1:30 – Post-Lunch Networking

SavvyCard Image

SavvyCard is always looking for ways to increase our visibility, adoption, and support, and we appreciate your help as we work to make St. Pete the home of something truly new. Even if you can’t make it yourself, we’d appreciate you spreading the word about this to anyone who might be interested in new developments and opportunities in mobile marketing and technology.

You can also click on the image to the left to see our company SavvyCard, which has a lot of great information and can be easily forwarded to any mobile device.

SavvyCard Welcomes Ian Nerney: Grower, Brewer, Entrepreneurial Doer.

Ian Nerney

SavvyCard continues to grow, and we’re very happy to introduce you to Ian Nerney, who will be helping us out as a project manager. Specifically, that means Ian will be making sure that new SavvyCards look great, and he’ll also be helping us get processes in place to keep customers informed about the progress of their new cards, particularly Property Cards for Realtors.

Ian’s own SavvyCard is still in progress at the moment, but it’ll be done soon.

Ian was previously a web development PM at BayShore Solutions in Tampa, but he says he’s happy to be with a startup like SavvyCard. “I’m interested in seeing something that’s going to grow, and working on a single product, with a single vision.”

He’s also got big entrepreneurship bona fides. When he was a student at Florida State in Tallahassee, he helped organize the first-ever Startup Weekend there, a project which in turn inspired FSU’s ongoing 3 Day Startup event. So he’ll be a great fit at SavvyCard, not just because we’re a startup ourselves, but because we’re connected to other great St. Pete projects like Franks Wells’ Venture House.

Ian is also an avid cook and home brewer (you can check out his brewing blog here). Those have plenty in common with the startup world – as he puts it, “It’s neat to see something evolve.”

We’re looking forward to growing, evolving, and maybe doing some brewing with Ian.

How to Prepare for the Zillow/Trulia Merger? Make Yourself a Search Portal.

For the past two weeks, Realtors have been in something between a flutter and a frenzy over the purchase of realty data aggregator Trulia by its competitor, Zillow. Zillow and Trulia have been triggering angst in Realtors for nearly a decade now, and the prospect of them joining forces is, for some folks, a little alarming.Disintermediation ahead!

Realtors’ worries are rooted in Zillow and Trulia’s basic operating principles. The sites are called ‘aggregators’ because they collect real estate listing data, then use it to attract the eyeballs of house hunters. The data mostly comes from seller’s agents, for whom all those eyeballs are great. Zillow then sells advertising positions to buyer’s agents local to each home listing.

There are a few sources of Realtor worry in all this. Because many agents and brokerages act on behalf of both buyers and sellers, they can find themselves buying ad space next to listing information they gathered themselves, or homes they represent. Galling to say the least. Even worse, though, is the thought that one of a Realtor’s clients or prospects might see an ad for a competing Realtor while searching for homes. Realtors have also pointed out frequent inaccuracies in the sites’ data.

Then there’s the bigger, less specific worry – that as Zillow becomes the shopping destination for a greater and greater portion of the realty market (pretty likely as more digital natives reach homebuying age), it will expand its influence and increasingly marginalize Realtors in ways large and small.

There would be parallels, if that unfolds, to the way Amazon has marginalized booksellers in the last fifteen years, or the way Netflix has put video rental stores out of business. It’s something the internet is very good at – centralizing processes and squeezing smaller players. Realtors are less likely than bookstores to be totally marginalized, since they provide a range of tailored services, rather than just serving as middlemen. But there is plenty of potential for their profits to be squeezed and their relationships with clients to be weakened.

Obviously, Realtors aren’t okay with this. And in fact, nobody should be okay with a scenario where a piece of technology devalues professional expertise. SavvyCard is a technology company, and we love anything that makes life easier – whether we’re talking about searching for houses or buy books.  We’re not such big fans, though, when that convenience is being leveraged to undermine or exploit relationships.

But how to fight back? We’ve got a simple recommendation for Realtors who want to prepare for a world with ever more powerful aggregators: Make yourself a technology hub.

There has always been the option for individuals or organizations to build technology to compete with the big search portals, but that’s incredibly expensive. Even a simple mobile application can cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop, not to mention that you’re not in the software development business, and don’t want to be. Still, it’s a path available to large organizations and their members  – NRT, the nation’s biggest brokerage, is attempting to build its own lead-generation portal.

But there are other options for smaller players. Digital services are much less expensive to build than they were even five years go, and a new wave of services are offering personally-tailored versions that don’t have to be centrally housed.

The most obvious example is the expansion of IDX services, which dozens of providers can now help you install on your own website. The bells and whistles vary, but it lets you give clients a way to look for houses, just as they would on Zillow, while staying connected to you.

There are also a number of mortgage loan calculators out there that can easily be plugged in to a WordPress website. It’s the kind of small value-add for viewers that will keep them connected to you.

We’re building something similar with SavvyCard for Realty, but tailored for mobile. You share your branded SavvyCard and its integrated MLS search with a client or prospect, and they can search for homes on the go. Then, when they find something that appeals to them, their inquiry comes straight back to you – instead of to whoever’s ad happened to be next to the listing on Zillow.

We’ll be talking about this story plenty more in coming days and weeks, since it has a lot to tell us about the role of technology in the future of real estate, and a lot of other professions, to boot.

Do you know of other individually-branded technologies that can help professionals stay connected to clients? Please share in the comments.

Attention Artists: SavvyCard Wants to Help You Connect!

Our hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida is rich in the arts, which is one of the reasons SavvyCard’s founders and staff love being here. Unfortunately, rather than wandering the streets looking at art all day, we’re inside, so we’re looking for some pieces to help keep our minds, spirits, and walls fresh.

Just a tiny sample of St. Pete’s street art. Courtesy Darumaeye – click to see more.

We’re still trying to figure out what terms we can offer that will work for both us and artists. We’re a startup, so we don’t have thousands of dollars to sink into buying art, but we thought we might display art for sale without commission. We’re in the glass-walled, ground-floor offices of One Progress Plaza, at 200 Central Avenue, so the art we put on display will have plenty of visibility, and we also have regular foot traffic from business folks who may have more money to spend than we do. We can also hook you up with SavvyCard tools.

Artists can submit their available portfolio and a short bio for display to David Morris (View his SavvyCard here). SavvyCard employees will select artwork on a rolling basis.

Debuting the RSVP Button for Mobile Event Promotion!

We’re always excited when we can debut a new button here at SavvyCard. They’re the building blocks that make SavvyCards what they are – they’re the tools that get users engaged with your card, they’re the gateways to help them learn more about you, and they’re the functions that let them reach out or buy from you.

The latest addition to the SavvyCard family is the RSVP Button. Awww, isn’t it cute?

Our SavvyCard Jacksonville Lunch and Learn Event Card, with the new RSVP Button.

Our SavvyCard Jacksonville Lunch and Learn Event Card, with the newborn RSVP Button.

We designed the RSVP button to use on the cards for a few of our Lunch and Learn events in Austin, Houston, and Jacksonville. These are invitation events for friends of the company, and especially friends of friends. Just like our customers, SavvyCard relies on lots of referrals, and this is just one of many cases where we, as the saying goes, eat our own dog food.

Here’s what a user sees when they click on the RSVP Button:

The Input fields for the new RSVP Button.

The Input fields for the new RSVP Button.

What the RSVP Button does is fairly simple, and we developed it in just a few days. When a user inputs their information into the above fields, the button generates two emails. One is sent to the user, with all of the event information defined by the host, so they have a record of their RSVP. A second email is sent to the host, with all of the user’s input information, so it can be input into whatever system they use to plan events.

So, nothing revolutionary – but the current RSVP button is just the barest of bones version of a lot of different possible directions it could be tweaked for a variety of uses. That could include selling event tickets directly from a SavvyCard, or interfacing the input data more directly with whatever database the card’s owner uses. Even in the basic RSVP case, we found that we wanted to add further functionality for dietary restrictions and for choosing between multiple events on one card, which we had to wait on.

Eventually, the RSVP Button will be added to the menu of available options on our fully-formed SavvyCard back-end. For now, if you’re interested in building an event card like the one above, you’ll need to get in touch with us directly for a custom build. You’d be part of helping us make this and other new features even better.


Tampa Bay Business Journal features Roundtable with David Etheredge and Other Local Leaders

The Tampa Bay Business Journal has just released their writeup of a roundtable discussion between a number of local business leaders, including our very own David Etheredge, Joey Redner of Cigar City Brewing Company, and Peter Dobler of Dobler Consulting.

Unfortunately, the conversation is behind TBBJ’s subscription paywall . . . but shouldn’t you have one already?