Service: A Dirty Word in Ad Tech?

adam berke“Data-Driven Thinking” is a column written by members of the media community and containing fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Adam Berke, president at AdRoll.

“We’re a technology company, but we provide managed services for large accounts.”  How many times have you heard something along those lines from someone describing their company?  Why is service always mentioned along with a caveat?

The age-old product vs. service question seems particularly striking in the display ecosystem. Maybe that’s because there are literally hundreds of companies competing for attention and funding. Ad tech companies find themselves conflicted, principally because they want the world to recognize their crucial value-add somewhere along the surprisingly long supply chain between the advertiser and the publisher. They’ve invented real technology and are not cleverly wrapping consulting services around some other provider, as is often the case.

The downside of the service stigmatization is companies with truly great tech sell themselves short when it comes to helping customers. The truth is you can be a highly scalable tech business, while still offering incredible customer support as a core principal. In fact, the key to delivering great service is to develop and utilize technology to delight customers in a way that is efficient and scalable.

Here are five strategies that technology companies can embrace to make customer service a core strength:

1.  Automate to scale service

  • What could be more core to a top notch technology company than using machines to automate manual, repetitive tasks so people can do the things only people can do?
  • Look to ad operations and account management as an internal customer. Build amazing tools that allow them to do their job better. Technology can allow you to grow your customer base exponentially, but your headcount linearly.

2.  Implement a system for measurement

  • A customer service dashboard helps to quantify the ambiguous notion of “satisfaction,” provides tangible goals, and ensures that your investment in customer service is scalable and profitable. 37Signals, an often-emulated technology company, goes above and beyond by broadcasting this data publicly.
  • Data points you can track include ticket volume, unique ticketers, avg. time to close, number of live chats that lead to conversions, and tickets per account manager. This data can ensure that you scale successfully and not get too bogged down in certain areas.

3.  Make UX a priority

  • Just because the underlying technology is highly sophisticated doesn’t mean the UI has to be complicated. Making complicated things simple and easy to use is one of the most challenging problems a technology company can solve.
  • Remember that just because a product is designed for talented professionals, doesn’t mean those talented professionals aren’t humans.  At the end of the day, your product is being used by a person that will prefer to immerse themselves in software that is attractive, straightforward, and isn’t painful to operate.

4.  Develop customer service feedback loops into product

  • Once you have the data captured, ensure support channels feedback into product to remove bottlenecks, frequent issues, and areas of confusion over time.
  • Use data to inform product in a way that makes your platform more user friendly. For example, look at support ticket keyword density to identify areas of the app that need improvement and to help prioritize new features and help topics that address specific problems your customers are having.

5.  Solidify service channels and policies

  • If you don’t implement channels for customers to communicate with you, they’re going to find their own way, and chances are it’s going to result in unfortunate Tweets and lots of crisis control.
  • Decide on the service channels that make sense for your different customer segments, and make it clear that they exist.  Depending on your business, this might include live chat, phone, or specific email addresses, i.e.

Whether your customers are small, medium, or enterprise, on the other side of your technology is a human that is going to need help at some point in the lifecycle of using your product. A great ad technology company needs to go beyond bidding and optimization algorithms, and embrace developing innovative, technical solutions that address those customers’ needs. Regardless of your algorithms and QPS, how you respond to service requests can often be the difference between a satisfied advocate and a churned customer.

Follow Adam Berke (@adamberke), AdRoll (@adroll) and AdExchanger ( on Twitter.

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