In Customer Service, Transparency is the New Black

    ShoreTel Sky Customer, Appfolio, Takes Candor to a New Level

    Trust has always been a core value of the ShoreTel team.  We earn the trust of our clients and employees by making every possible effort to keep our commitments and by openly discussing it when we miss the mark.  We've led the industry for years by publicly reporting our system status and customer service statistics at  We make this information available to our clients, prospects and even competitors because we believe it's important for everyone to have access to this unbiased, unpolished data.

    Our client, property management software provider AppFolio, agrees with this philosophy and has their own unique approach to sharing what it's like to work with their customer service team.  At the end of each interaction with customer service, AppFolio sends the client a quick survey about the experience.  There are only 2 questions:

    1. How likely are you to recommend AppFolio based on your Support experience? (0 = not likely, 10 = most likely)
    2. What is the reason for the score you gave?

    This question is based on the popular Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric that many companies use to measure their client's satisfaction.  Collecting this transnational NPS score data isn't that unusual.  What's unusual is what AppFolio does with it.  They publish the most recent 25 surveys on their website with no edits.  That's right, anyone can visit the site and see exactly what AppFolio's clients have to say about their experience.

    We spoke with AppFolio's VP of Marketing, Aimee Miller and she explained.  "Providing this unvarnished look at how our customers feel about the service they are receiving does two important things.  It signals our willingness to take responsibility for the quality of our customer’s experience and it allows prospective customers to get a strong sense of what it will be like to receive support as an AppFolio customer.  Plus our team loves to see the comments right there on the website!”  As you might expect, most of the comments are full of praise for the AppFolio team, but once in a while something less positive appears.  "We are always listening for opportunities to improve for our customers and this is another way we can quickly listen and respond.”

    ShoreTel and AppFolio aren't alone in practicing radical honesty.  In fact, social media has made it so easy for customers to share their experiences (good and bad) with companies that keeping mistakes in the closet is as difficult as it is disdained.  Customer service, PR and social media have converged.  Smart companies treat every customer interaction like it is happening in full view of the entire world and, in a way, it is.  AppFolio has embraced this new reality and made it an advantage.

    Transparency in business isn't a trend.  It is the approach that modern companies will need to take to develop deeper, more lasting relationships with customers.  Domino's Pizza is a great example.  In 2009 they ran a campaign that could have been called, "Our pizza sucks."  The campaign included quotes from customers like, "The crust tastes like cardboard."  Domino's then committed to listen to this feedback, fix the product and provide a money back guarantee to customers who gave them a second chance.  They could have just said that the pizza was “new and improved,” but without specifically acknowledging what made it bad in the first place, they were unlikely to develop trust.  Did it work?  It doesn't seem to have hurt.  Domino's stock traded at around $8 per share in 2009.  Today it is trading at $68.66.

    We salute companies like AppFolio and others that are willing to provide a peak into the health of their business through the eyes of the customer.  Please tell us a bit about what transparency means to your company and to you as a customer.