Introducing StepOne Contextual Care

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A crime of passion. A passionate romance. A passion for the arts.

Passion can be uncontrolled delight or unflagging interest.

We often speak of our passions in a positive connotation. However, the Latin root, patoir, means to suffer and endure.  At StepOne, we understand the passion customers can feel when frustrated with a product’s technical problems, a billing question, or an implementation snafu. Our passion for a great customer experience drives us to find smarter, more elegant ways to solve those problems. That passion also led us to build our new product, Contextual Care.

I hate this stupid thing!

When a product or service refuses to follow the desires and wishes of its user, the user often draws upon their less-mature tendencies – they’re frustrated, disappointed, suffering from valuable time lost, experiencing feelings of ineptitude, and a sense that the they have chosen the wrong product, service or provider.

Customers have pre-set expectations about what a product or service will do for them. Often, whether by fault of the user or of the product/service, those expectations are not met. What happens next is critical to the reputation of the business. Customer service, mismanaged, can be very detrimental, especially in an age when a negative comment in the social cloud can have twice the impact of a positive one.

At StepOne, we believe in the phrase, “Customer Service is the new marketing.” We want to turn the customer service experience into positive passion. The Corporate Executive Board determined that 75% of consumers would prefer to get their product and service questions answered and problems solved on their own, through self-service. However, most consumers are unable to find the help they need through company web pages and search engines, with nearly 60% of callers who speak to help desks having first tried self service unsuccessfully.

Imagine what’s going to happen as the Internet of Things trend puts more connected devices in our pockets, on our wrists, and in our homes, then asks all of them to talk seamlessly with each other.

Understanding this gap and recognizing a few enabling technology trends—see below—is what drove us to start StepOne in late 2011.

The Next Step In the Journey

For over a decade, our team had helped call centers improve the service they provide by developing better software troubleshooting tools. We were able to use these tools to incrementally improve self-service, but we never were able to make a transformational change to the end-consumer’s ability to solve their problems through self-service. One of our customers stated the need succinctly, “I want to take these screens you built for our agents and turn them around and show them to our customers!”

Our mission is to reimagine and revolutionize self-service by leveraging a few key technology trends, including:

  • The ubiquity of smart phones
  • Dramatically improved access to customer context through APIs in the back office
  • The explosion of online help content, including videos and crowd-sourced articles
  • The maturation of big data and predictive analytics

We had plenty of ideas about how to capitalize on these trends, but ideas are the easy part. The true heart of innovation lies not in the idea itself, but on courage and creativity to act upon that idea and the passion to endure and overcome obstacles to make it happen (the subject of a later blog post).

For years an immense positive passion built up among our founding team to create something of significant consequence. The culmination of this passion has pushed us outside the comfortable confines of our corporate jobs. The new journey began for Bill Gravette, Erik Noren and me at the end of 2011. This journey actually began in a Journey—a Winnebago Journey RV.  Yes, the Dell commercial is missing one fun startup story…

Alex and the Journey
Alex and the Journey
Erik and Bill in the Journey
Erik and Bill in the Journey

Our first meetings and even some of our business travel were conducted in my RV. We parked it for a few days in the parking lot of our former employer while we figured out how to get started achieving our dreams.

Guided by Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany and the Lean Startup approach, we decided to take our ideas to former colleagues in the Communication Service Provider market, working toward initial validation of the problem area and solution ideas. Were end-customers having trouble getting to content to solve their problems? Could smartphone capabilities be used to improve self-service? We considered storming the market in the Journey but couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a StepOne branded wrap for the 40-foot behemoth.

Now we’ve moved beyond the RV, and we are helping big companies make real strides in improving their customer’s service experiences. We started with a strong, cross-functional founding team (again, a subject of another blog post), and we are growing stronger with every great employee we bring in. We are fortunate to have world-class investors in LiveOak Venture Partners and Silverton Partners. As a team, we are compounding on our passion for building a great company and solving hard problems, and we are hard at work creating positive passion in customer experiences.

Alex and Joe further along the journey
Alex and Joe further along the journey

The Launch

That brings us to today, which is the official launch of StepOne Contextual Care. Contextual Care makes it easy for customers to resolve their own problems online by proactively delivering personalized support recommendations based on contextual data. Instead of reacting only once the customer is frustrated, we anticipate their needs. When you answer the customer’s question before they’ve even asked it, they’ll stick with you for the long run.

Additionally, using the same user context that drives support recommendations, Contextual Care presents “calls to action”, driving users to do things like download and register the company’s mobile apps.  StepOne customers are using this capability to increase digital engagement in a contextual manner—for example, if a customer visits a retail store, the business can lead the customer to continue their experience (i.e. getting setup or help instructions) in the digital world by giving the customer a handout with instructions for accessing Contextual Care or by sending a message with a unique link through an email or SMS text message.

We’ve been working closely with innovators like Telstra to build out the product and implement it in a demanding live-production environment. These early implementations have been a shining success, and we’re eager to begin serving more organizations, and their customers, soon.

Customer service has always been a challenge and an imperative for organizations large and small. But we’re confident that the right blend of experience, technology and passion can transform your customer experience and do more for your business than just reduce costs.

To learn more about Telstra’s use of Contextual Care, please check out the video below. And if you’d like to learn more about StepOne Contextual Care, please do get in touch We would love to hear from you.