Years from now when people ask me to reflect on the challenges I faced early on in my career, I'm going to remember my first six months at CoreBlox. As we began this venture in late May 2005, the group was well aware of its strengths (knowledge of support best practices, worked together several years and had great deal of trust and confidence in one another) and weaknesses (new fish in the pond, never built a business before). We started out with a focus on building superior online tools that technology support organizations could use to run their operations. We outlined a list of support site capabilities and features that stretched for pages, all the while believing that we were focused. But the message that came back from potential investors was fairly consistent: the hosted support space is crowded, come back and see us when you have some customers.
Rather than becoming discouraged, we decided to take a step back and answer a simple question: if the market is crowded, then what can CoreBlox offer that truly differentiates our solution from the other players. Fortunately we didn't need to look far to answer this question. One of the items on that initial feature list seemed to stick out and consistently catch the attention of the investment community and our prospects: partner enablement. This concept that we had lumped into the same category as comprehensive knowledgebase search, full lifecycle case management, and customizable e-mail notifications was actually so much more important than any of these other items, because it meant extending the reach of these online support features to partners and the customers they service. For prospective CoreBlox customers that already use a system like SalesForce Service & Support, we could offer a simple plug-in which allows all support transactions to flow into a unified knowledgebase, with visibility for all direct customers, partners, and channel customers (we often refer to channel customers as "indirect" customers).
While these ideas began to surface, we realized the Channel Services Management concept had become so familiar to us that weï¿½d taken its potential impact for granted. Companies that rely on selling through channels typically ask partners to provide front-line support in order to defer the cost of dealing with what are assumed to be 'simple' issues. Unfortunately, while they may provide a sales portal to collaborate during the selling cycle, support portals for partners are few and far between. Partners are forced to rely on their own support systems, and in some cases this means no system at all. Either way there is a lack of visibility and access to important information:
- The company which distributes through the channel lacks visibility into the most common product issues being handled by the partner; issue escalation is difficult because of the lack of integration between systems
- The partner lacks access to the most recent knowledgebase content that would assist with providing front-line support
- The partnerï¿½s customer may have little or no self-service capabilities, and customer service suffers due to delays caused by issue escalation across disconnected systems
So there it was. Finally, we had found a focus for CoreBlox that's summed up by our tagline: 'Empowering Channel Services Management'. Reconsidering our direction allowed us to turn the companies we anticipated to be our competitors into potential business partners. We now have the opportunity to define and pursue an entirely new market opportunity with a team that welcomes the challenge. Will we ultimately succeed as an organization? The next year should tell us a lot. But regardless of the outcome, no one can say CoreBlox isn't differentï¿½
- Chad Northrup