Get Satisfaction goes mobile with HTML5-based web app

Get Satisfaction, the company that makes online customer support tools, has finally gone mobile. On Wednesday, the company announced the public beta launch of its first customer-facing mobile app, built with HTML5 and running entirely on the mobile web browser.

Get Satisfaction gets $10M in new funds

Get Satisfaction, the company that builds web-based community support tools, has closed on $10 million in series B funding. This round brings the company’s total venture capital investment to $21 million. The San Francisco-based company will put the money toward growth, CEO Wendy Lea says.

Big opportunities for big data in untapped industries

Big data has the potential to cut operating costs by nearly 50% across all sectors of manufacturing.

Get Satisfaction makes several interesting claims about opportunities for big data in an infographic released this month. Market segments such as manufacturing are generating far more data (966 petabytes in 2009, according to the McKinsey Global Institute survey, from which Get Satisfaction drew its numbers) than the technology sector, and there is a massive opportunity here. However, there are issues to address before providers of big data solutions such as Cloudera and Splunk can explore these possibilities. McKinsey, for example, estimates that the United States will need 140,000–190,000 more data workers than it is producing. And among the potential beneficiaries in manufacturing and elsewhere, there may not be the recognition that their data is of value, or that big data tools may be able to help them.

For more information on the opportunities offered to big data companies by non-traditional markets, and the difficulties big data providers might have in realizing them, see my latest weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Big data needs to think outside the tech box

Web companies like Google and Facebook gain business advantage by analyzing large volumes of rapidly changing data about their users, but they are far from alone. A recent infographic from Get Satisfaction charts the volume of data stored in 17 key industry sectors, illustrating that most data comes from some surprising areas, such as manufacturing. But are well-known big data companies like Cloudera and its competitors in a position to address these largely untapped pools of content, bringing big-data-powered analytics to companies outside the technology sector?

In May, the McKinsey Global Institute published Big Data: the Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity, a report from which Get Satisfaction drew its statistics. The McKinsey team notes that “data have swept into every industry and business function and are now an important factor of production, alongside labor and capital.” Data volumes are significant in the market segments that we might anticipate, including health care (434 petabytes in 2009), banking (619 petabytes) and ICT/communications (715 petabytes). But these are dwarfed by the 966 petabytes produced inside the manufacturing sector, where the infographic makes a point of highlighting McKinsey’s assertion that “big data has the potential to cut operating costs by nearly 50% across all sectors of manufacturing.”

Knowledge-based industries typically have the advantage when working with big data, combining educated staff and dependence on IT systems with processes and workflows that are typically more amenable to change than those based on physical production lines. But even in the physical environment that dominates manufacturing, there are opportunities to analyze data at scale.

For example, the analysis of stock levels, currency fluctuations, fuel prices and the weather can lead to a leaner and more efficient global supply chain, and with as many as 4,000 suppliers contributing components to the manufacture of a single automobile by Ford or GE, for instance, the resulting web of dependencies may contain many opportunities for small improvements in the time and manner of shipping various components. McKinsey’s analysis suggests that a further 2 to 3 percent could be added to the profit margin on every product. Two to three percent may not sound like much, but those cents rapidly add up when global businesses sell millions of units. A big data store like Hadoop can bring just as much to nuts, bolts and car stereos as it can to the tweets, Likes and transaction logs that big data tools more typically work with.

McKinsey’s analysis also identifies a significant shortage of employees with the skills to exploit data-based opportunities, suggesting that in the U.S. alone there could be a shortfall of 140,000–190,000 skilled staff. Even in companies where the value of big data analysis is recognized, such as LinkedIn and Google, it may therefore still prove difficult to recruit staff with the necessary skills. Cloudera is already building a business dominated by professional services and consultancy engagements with clients, making it one company well placed to expand and fulfill this need, provided it can acquire sufficient knowledge of the sectors (like manufacturing) into which it might grow.

Alongside a potential lack of skilled staff in sectors such as manufacturing, there may also be a gap between the technology companies with big data solutions to sell and the customers for whom these technologies could deliver value. For example, Cloudera highlights a number of customers for its Enterprise product; not one of these featured customers is from outside the ICT/knowledge-worker space. Over at Splunk, the list is more inclusive, and it even includes manufacturing. However, of eight manufacturing companies highlighted, only two (John Deere and Bridgestone) fall outside the high-tech area. And Lockheed Martin certainly does manufacture goods, but it also displays many characteristics of a knowledge enterprise.

McKinsey’s analysis and Get Satisfaction’s illustration point to massive and largely untapped potential, both in traditional information markets and beyond. But to adequately address new markets such as manufacturing, there will be a clear and continuing need for the industry to do more than simply sell today’s software.

Question of the week

Will the current generation of big data startups be able to deliver services to new markets, such as heavy industry?

Talk to Your Customers With Bearhug

Enter Bearhug, a new “customer engagement platform” that provides businesses with something better than a basic support ticket customer feedback system; an app that enables them to hear what customers are experiencing and saying and actually do something about it.

Customer Service at the End of the Line

customer-serviceAs web workers, we are at the end of a supply line that brings together Internet connections, software, services and operating systems produced by large multinational corporations. We’re the 21st-century equivalents of the general store proprietors of an earlier age: we choose from a vast array of products and services, and offer those that will best meet our customers’ needs. We repackage those products, add our own creativity, and, importantly, include the service and support that large corporations can’t, or won’t, provide.

Many technology companies have come to the end of the line on providing personal customer service. I won’t point any fingers, but some of the biggest names in software, web sites and online services have no way for customers to contact them by phone or even online chat; even email forms go unanswered. Instead, users must rely on volunteer help on bulletin boards, discussion groups and the like.

We should be taking advantage of our “end-of-the-line” position. Web workers and small businesses can maintain professional relationships with customers in ways that large companies cannot. Clients should know that they can get help from us, and we should make clear what support services we offer. Service is how we can differentiate ourselves, compete with larger businesses, and thrive in difficult economic times. Read More about Customer Service at the End of the Line

Preparing for News About You on the Web

In the astonishing time surrounding the news of Michael Jackson’s death, there were several false rumors that other celebrities had died. I started wondering how I would react if someone posted false information about me and my business.

Now, I’m not famous, so I doubt that any news about me would cause a spike in Internet traffic, or get me invited to appear on “The Colbert Report.” But recent events made me realize that I still needed to have a plan in place to be able to respond to news (both real and false) posted online about me. Here’s what I came up with. Read More about Preparing for News About You on the Web