Moxie Software skips buzzword wars, finds growth in Social CIM apps for customer service

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Moxie Software briefed me on the recent announcement of an update to its Customer Spaces™ applications—a suite of apps supporting traditional and social-powered customer service.

Moxie is an interesting company with a somewhat tortured history. It’s one of the trailblazers in integrated social business, but it has largely failed to be recognized for this. Partly because it did business under the clunky name nGenera until a name change in Sept. 2010 to much-improved “Moxie Software.” What business wouldn’t want to get more “moxie”—slang for vigor, nerve and know-how.

I wrote this about nGenera over two years ago in nGenera Pushes Vision for Collaborative Business Management.

Steve Papermaster started BSG Alliance in 2007 to create “a unique platform of services and tools to enable organizations to become next generation enterprises.” Sounds good, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that verbiage a few other places. (What does “BSG” mean? I have no idea.) Anyway, Papermaster convinced some top-drawer VCs to invest ($70M+), acquired Don Tapscott’s New Paradigm research firm and Kalivo in 2007, then Talisma in 2008. Oh, and rebranded to nGenera Corp.

Despite being one of the visionaries in collaborative enterprise software—which industry insiders tend to call Social Business these days—acquisitions, name changes and shifting marketing messages have made it difficult for BSG/nGenera/Moxie to establish a strong brand. But I think they’ve finally got it right. Now Moxie is selling social/collaborative solutions that help customers (Customer Spaces) and employees (Employee Spaces).

In short, the vision has always been strong. Now it seems execution is catching up.

Collaborative customer service

Moxie offers more than the usual yada yada social software, on the customer side at least. Customer Spaces includes what used to be called Customer Interaction Management (CIM) by Talisma (acquired in 2008), which helps agents provide customer service through chat, email and phone channels, with support of a knowledgebase.

What we’re really talking about here is collaborative customer service—bringing together the best of social tools to enable customers help each other, and the internal tools that agents have been using for some time now.

What do we call this type of solution? Well, Social CRM wouldn’t be a bad name, because Moxie really does integrate social with CRM (customer service). One of the early Social CRM vendors was Helpstream (now defunct) concentrated on this sort of mashup.

But Moxie doesn’t offer a full CRM solution. The company is positioned in an interesting niche to add value to existing CRM solutions (from Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, etc.) with more robust interaction support. Customer Spaces is not intended to be used as a full incident management solution. So maybe “Social CIM” would be a more precise nickname.

No thanks to buzzword bingo

I had an interesting chat with Moxie VP of Marketing Tara Sporrer about the buzzword bingo going on in the industry right now, and the terms that business managers are using. Instead of Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business, they are more likely to use “Web 2.0” or just “social networking,” she says. (No word yet on whether Social CIM will catch on, but I have my fingers crossed.)

As to how Moxie is positioned, Sporrer says, “We call ourselves an enterprise software company that enables collaboration between employees and customers.” Wow, remarkably clear and concise, and no claims of changing the world or re-inventing society. Love it.

This explains why you won’t find any of the hot buzzwords prominently displayed on the Moxie web site. For now, Moxie is using a very straightforward term “enterprise social software” for employee-focused software, rather than Enterprise 2.0. (Good move, the buzz has worn off.)

The customer solution suite is a bit trickier to label, however, because it’s a mix of interaction tools, self-service, knowledgebase and, of course, social. But I give Moxie credit here for avoiding Social CRM buzzword gimmicks and just telling prospects what it is selling.

KM was a failure? Then try Social KM

I guess I missed the memo that Knowledge Management (KM) was a failure, but then I haven’t been following KM very closely. According to Sporrer, KM is an important part of Customer Spaces, but because of the negative reputation they went to some pains to leave out “KM” out of a stack diagram and use a light bulb graphic instead.

Well, maybe it’s just another case of the real-world not living up to hype. Overinflated expectations is what led me to write that 80% of Social CRM projects will fail in 2011. In the case of KM, I think it’s fair to say that success is largely dependent on the organization building and maintaining the knowledgebase. You know, using some of those expensive people that the big corporations are using judiciously these days.

Social media is seductive because it leads some to conclude they can just outsource their customer service and knowledge management to their customers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. CrowdService (community/forum) applications require a lot of care and feeding, and should be connected to existing service/support processes and knowledgebases. Moxie is adroitly straddling these structured/unstructured worlds, offering Knowledge Spaces™ so that social customers and employees are partners in the knowledge management process.

So just for fun, I’ll call this Social KM or maybe Collaborative KM. Then if I claim it’s a strategy, I could even write a book about it. Oh, to dream.

Prospering in a niche

As I said, Moxie is interesting because it’s not a full CRM or even Customer Service/Support (CSS) solution. Instead, it adds value to existing CRM/CSS solutions with interactive tools (CIM) and now social.

Salesforce.com, for example, has been marketing its Service Cloud for a couple of years, but lacks such tools. Chatter, while a nice collaboration tool for employees, is not really for customer support. The mainstream social business vendors like Jive, Lithium, etc. can be used for customer service communities, but also lack these CIM tools.

Probably the most direct competitor is RightNow, which has CIM capabilities plus social (via HiveLive acquisition) along with CSS functions that most vendors call CRM (RightNow prefers a CEM positioning).

For those that want to stick with their existing CRM system and add “Social CIM”—Moxie has found an interesting niche where it appears to be prospering. Early this year the company reported a 61 increase in software bookings and 78 new customers—which Sporrer says brings them to around 600 total customers.

Balanced vision for Social Business

CIM aside, I also like Moxie’s social software strategy because it’s balanced between employee and customer collaboration. While Sporrer notes that currently their prospects (and I think the market in general) tend to buy these separately, there is increasing recognition that this is a false divide.

In the short term, however, Moxie will have to compete deal by deal with more focused E2.0 and SCRM vendors, until those buzzwords outlive their usefulness. Long-term, the balanced approach would help them win deals when prospects think beyond their immediate silo needing attention.

To sum up, Moxie Software has made good progress in the past couple of years. A much improved name/brand. Strong social business applications. A suite of CIM and KM tools that really add value to customer service teams.

And what do you know, no buzzwords required! I’ll add Moxie Software to the growing evidence that “Social CRM” is dead and “Enterprise 2.0” is on life support.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Bob,

    In one form or another, getting stakeholders (both external and internal) across an organization’s entire ecosystem to (selectively) collaborate generating synergistic outcomes benefiting the effectiveness and efficiency of the ecosystem is clearly a desired outcome for all these “social” software solutions. Like you said, all these buzzwords and positioning stuff mainly confuses things and really is more about marketing than anything else.

    Concerning the knowledge base, it clearly can serve an important place to get internal and external stakeholders to content that a brand should be able to stand behind as accurate, thorough and written in understandable terms.  
    However, the problem with traditional KBs is that to provide sustainable value (for most content) they must continually be evolved using relevant stakeholder input while still preserving the editorial controls by subject matter experts the brand stands behind.  Most all KBs have the editorial controls, but totally lack the capabilities to facilitate or motivate community engagement around existing KB content.

    For us, that meant building a reputation engine directly into the KB to measure and motivate desired participation and extending 2 primary KB components for each KB article:

    1. The KB content that always goes through editorial control but perpetually evolves using community insights.
    2. The open community dialog around the KB article, viewable and ratable by all those having access to the KB content, which in turn is systematically presented as appropriate to relevant editors for review and possible inclusion in the KB, resulting in more reputation points being earned by the contributor.

    Whatever people want to call it, the technology available today to connect people across an organization’s ecosystem can clearly have far reaching benefits in virtually every aspect of every organization ……if merely “talk” is not good enough.  

     
    Cheers, Chuck

  2. Way too crowded of a market. If I had a dime for every company that is trying to do this “Social Enterprise” I would have bigger returns than the VC’s foolish enough to invest in this crap. Google will reign supreme over every other “niche” player in this overcrowded and overhyped market.

  3. Google will continue to get people to content and provide content aggregation, but it is highly unlikely their business model will ever cross over to facilitate content evolution by SMEs or anyone for that matter.

    The “social enterprise” market is certainly crowded and over-hyped, but the technology is still immature and tons of untapped potential still exists to facilitate and leverage focused collaboration by people with the necessary expertise, experience and context to advance desired objectives.

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