Offering one of the largest third-party QuickBooks add-ons, Clearify provides business analytics for small businesses.
“Essentially, it’s a data warehouse for QuickBooks that allows people to drag and drop information into the tool of their choice,” shared owner and chief architect Chuck Vigeant in a recent conversation. “You don’t have to deal with tables and relationships and mapping and dictionaries and all that stuff.”
While Clearify’s solution simplifies the process of getting value out of a business’s QuickBooks data, it does require the customer to follow specific setup steps to work right. It’s all too easy to skip a step and run into trouble—and Clearify is ready to jump in and help. As Chuck put it, “You don’t want a customer having to struggle with your product. In our case, we have a lot of education.”
And this is exactly why he started looking for a better way to help his customers.
Delivering a High-Touch Solution in a Self-Serve World
Chuck has been using Communifire at Clearify for so long, he can’t even remember how he came across it in the first place. He does remember, however, the challenges his company faced before implementing his unique instance of Communifire.
Clearify is a technology company, first and foremost. Chuck believes in the power of offering a superior product that’s constantly improving—and that means funneling more resources into the technology, and less into headcount.
“The number of employees we have can vary. Most of our resources are tied up in product and programming,” Chuck said.
But while Clearify’s product is incredibly easy to use, the initial setup can be challenging simply due to the limitations QuickBooks places on third-party apps.
“That’s just the way QuickBooks works,” Chuck explained. “There’s no direct access to the QuickBooks database, so you have to jump through hoops to get everything connected and all that stuff. So you have to provide very specific documentation to allow people to get started on their own and to have a positive customer experience.”
It didn’t make financial sense for Clearify to have a lot of full-time support staff team members, though.
“You can’t afford on-demand support,” Chuck shared. “You hire somebody to answer the phone, and it goes in spurts. In an eight-hour day, you’ve probably got an hour and a half or two hours where they’re doing something.
“What are they going to do the rest of the time? If you’re a small business you go, ‘Well, you give them something else to do.’ But that’s not what you hired them for. Every job that you hire somebody for is a particular skill. So you pay the dollars for a particular skill, like talking to customers or giving them information. But for technical skills, now you’re paying a different dollar for a different skill. So it’s really unrealistic in a small business to have people wear multiple hats.”
The other challenge Chuck found when it came to onboarding new customers successfully is that the steps, the common issues customers encountered following those steps, and the solutions to those issues were almost universal. So his few staff members were sharing the same information over and over—and it wasn’t efficient for the customer or for the company.
Chuck explained, “I don’t want to regurgitate something to every customer. I had to find a way to provide a variety of methods of providing information to our customers.”
He went on a search for a solution that would give him key tools for his company:
- Private tickets
- Public forums
- A wiki
- Blog posts
- File sharing
“We were looking for a way to have a library of information for people, in a place that people could interact.”
That search led him to Communifire.
One Platform to Rule Them All
“[With a product like ours,] you try and provide as much information as you can so that people can look at things in their own time, in their own manner; and then you provide methods of communication in case they get stuck,” Chuck shared.
“We actually went through two platforms before we got to Communifire. This platform provides us with several mechanisms, like an instant messenger and a ticket system. And the great thing for us is that we provide either videos or articles that you can just point somebody to. So your medium here is the Communifire platform.”
Though most Communifire customers use the tools primarily for internal communication, Chuck and his team took things a step further. Much further. They took advantage of the intranet capabilities to enable customers and solution provider partners to have private conversations with Clearify support team members (tickets and private messaging) and made certain features available to the public for self-help resources (articles, videos, wikis, chat and files) and crowdsourcing solutions (forums).
“To my knowledge, there’s no platform that provides all of these options,” Chuck stated.
“This is a platform with mini platforms, different ways of communicating. You’ve got a public interface with things like blogs and announcements. Then you can have a ticket which is private. You can have forum posts where people can interact, places that people can download information, videos for those people who learn better by video as opposed to reading. You can do anything you want here.
“So Communifire is designed for a company that has lots of information internally that they want to share and discuss and communicate about. We do the opposite,” he expounded. “We make this public. Instead of having to have this as only for internal communication, we do this as an external [resource for our customers].”
“I don’t know why more companies wouldn’t do it the way we do it, because you’re providing information to your customers on demand, and then you can also provide a private portal so that your solution providers can log in and you can talk about things with them that you wouldn’t [share publicly].”
While Communifire may be a super flexible intranet solution, there’s no stopping a creative mind like Chuck’s from using it as an external support platform … or even a full-blown website.
“We had a separate website in the beginning,” Chuck shared. “Then the lightbulb went off and I go, ‘You know, we could just make this all one place.’ Now everything is central to the customers.”
Putting resources where they matter most—and saving huge on hiring costs
Making information and self-help options easily accessible has benefits far beyond a better customer experience, though. Clearify’s creative instance of the Communifire platform allows Chuck to be more thoughtful about his hiring practices as well.
Chuck shared his thoughts on hiring support personnel for Clearify. “If you’re going to hire somebody, you’re looking $50,000 or $60,000 by the time you’ve tacked everything on, and you do the training and all that. We take that money and we put it back into the product. It just doesn’t make any sense to me to fritter away all that money for something that only helps for a couple hours a day and could be answered by just using [the platform we built with Communifire].”
What Chuck found most surprising about how people used the platform
What Chuck found surprising after launching this platform with Communifire, though, was how more customers used the support ticket feature than the forums when they need help.
“People can just press a button from our product, and it creates a private ticket automatically. Most people actually feed towards that. In my perfect world, I would like to have people, A), share more things that they do, and B), use the public forums, which are available on this platform—but people just don’t do that. It is rare. Everything is pretty much private, and I would say that was one of the big surprises to me when I undertook this years ago.”
This is what makes Communifire such a powerful tool for a business like Clearify: the flexibility of being able to make some aspects public-facing and some aspects private between the company and the customer. Chuck took this flexibility and ran with it, and Clearify’s platform grew into a truly impressive, 360-degree customer experience.
$120,000 Per Year in Savings, Better Customer Service, and a Few Other Happy Surprises
“[The platform we built with Communifire] easily saves us $120,000 a year. Easily,” Chuck gushed during our conversation.
But the cost savings he experienced not having to hire additional support teams was only one of the many benefits he uncovered using Communifire.
Self-help features assist 90-95% of customers—and online support helps manage the rest quickly and seamlessly
“The self-help probably helps 90% to 95% of the people,” Chuck said. “But you still always have people that have a special problem.” And that’s where Communifire’s support and communication features come in.
“People want two things: One, acknowledge that they have a problem, and two, fix the darn thing. The fact that they can communicate with us in real time [with chat], and the support tickets are answered very quickly—people love it.”
Customer communication no longer falls through the cracks—and Clearify is better able to respect customers’ time
Chuck loves that with Communifire, he and the rest of the team at Clearify can be more respectful of customers’ time. “Things do not fall in the cracks with something like this,” he shared.
“Phone tag is the most wasteful thing in a business. So here you have a method that even if somebody has a ticket and we have to log in, we can coordinate a time and say, ‘We will log in at such and such and such a time.’ And that way everybody’s ready for it. It’s is just a more efficient way of running a business and you’re respectful of your customers’ time.”
Keeping all customer communications running through Communifire ensures nothing ever gets lost in the shuffle—and it enables more people at Clearify to weigh in when a customer is having a problem.
Chuck explained, “With a system like this, I don’t have to worry about it because nothing’s going to come through regarding our product unless it goes through here. Multiple people can look at a situation, too. Again, it’s more respectful of people’s time.”
A surprising SEO boost and lightning-fast support
Because Clearify used Communifire’s content management software to build their entire website in addition to the support tools, Clearify experienced a boost in search engine visibility as well.
“Communifire has the mechanism to have SEO, which is obviously important. We did a lot of work with Communifire this last year. We found issues that had to be fixed, so they fixed them all. I give them a lot of credit.”
Chuck went on to share how the Communifire support team was always available to help quickly.
“If we have a problem, we post a ticket to Communifire and, God, those guys answer it just as quick as can be.”
“I wouldn’t leave it for the world.”
In no uncertain terms, Clearify relies on Communifire to run their business efficiently and with the highest level of customer service. As Chuck put it, “I wouldn’t leave it for the world.”
“There is no other platform on the planet that allows us to communicate with our customers and our partners with such a wide variety of information. If you have information and if your product demands a lot of information, then this is the product to go to.”