How FreshBooks Puts Customers First with Social Media

A user-friendly perspective on customer service


FreshBooks is not your average accounting solutions provider. The cloud-based software company has one primary, deceptively simple-sounding goal: give small business owners the ability to easily send, receive, print, and pay invoices; track time; and capture expenses.

The idea was born when FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment was a small business owner. After he accidentally saved over an old invoice, he realized there had to be a better way. He created his own software that became the foundation for what is now FreshBooks.

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Finding new ways to put customers first

With a modest start of 10 paying customers, FreshBooks now provides accounting software to more than 10 million users in 120 countries—and counting. The company’s success can be traced in no small part to its customer-centric focus, which is evident in all parts of the business. And the customers have taken notice: 94% of customers would recommend FreshBooks to a friend.

The FreshBooks approach to customer service is rooted in the desire to be human. A system of “Support Rockstars” that answers the phone within 1.5 rings, connecting callers with a person’s voice rather than a prerecorded message or a long wait on hold, differentiates FreshBooks from the competition. Not only are these Rockstars solving problems quickly, they are building a loyal customer base.

Maintaining those high levels of positive sentiment around the brand is made easier with a strong social media plan, too. Melissa Loomans, the Community and Events Manager at FreshBooks, credits social media for playing a big part in helping her and her colleagues bring the company’s customer-first vision to fruition. But keeping up the Rockstar-level support while managing all the other tasks related to social media planning and execution can get complicated—fast. FreshBooks uses Hootsuite to easily perform all aspects of the company’s social strategy from one central place. Individual team members can post content to each of the FreshBooks social accounts, proactively reaching out with insights, suggestions, and responding to messages.

The personal touch comes naturally to the FreshBooks team—their Twitter account covers everything from the CEO’s take on inbound marketing strategies to comparisons between number of invoices generated per year and the earth’s ostrich population. They also use streams in their dashboard to save searches for local discussion around the brand, industry, and related topics. For example, if they want to see who is going to be in the area during an upcoming conference, they can set up streams for specific hashtags and mentions (for example: the conference name, venue, keywords or topics related to the event) and watch as they are continuously updated. This kind of visual representation—columns of related information updating in real time, side by side—provides a unique, inside view into any topic of online discussion.

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FreshBooks is also able to work together interdepartmentally without missing a beat. They can quickly respond to customers by assigning messages to dedicated team members, and follow the conversation from the first point of contact right through to the resolution—so no message ever gets missed or left unresolved. And because FreshBookers love meeting and talking to their customers in person, they are often out of the office. They use the mobile app and notification system for real-time access to conversations, messages, and relevant news so no matter where they are, they are working together as a team.

“Social media lets me interact directly with our customers, the people who love our product and love getting in touch with us.”

Melissa Loomans, Community & Events Manager

On the road to customer service success

The FreshBooks team summarized the #FreshBrew campaign in a short and sweet video.

Social media isn’t just about the numbers, according to Melissa, it’s about creating and sharing stories and building a quality community. Customer relationships increase engagement and sentiment, as people respond favorably to those efforts—especially when they are fun, humorous, or unusual.

FreshBooks wanted to do something special for Small Business Week in Canada—to show that it is a company that cares. And that’s how the team came up the #FreshBrew campaign.

The team piloted the jauntily wrapped “FreshMobile”, a food truck repurposed to deliver hot cups of fair-trade coffee to entrepreneurs and small business owners in downtown Toronto, tweeting out their route each day via the #FreshBrew hashtag. But unlike a regular food truck, they would surprise individual offices with hand-delivered java if they indicated on social channels that they couldn’t make it out to that day’s location.

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The team knew about the activity and sentiment around the #FreshBrew campaign during the week by monitoring the hashtag, company mentions, and tracking who was interacting with their content and messages. As the FreshMobile team traveled around downtown Toronto bringing caffeinated joy to an enthusiastic audience, the information they were gathering from social media was directly influencing the truck’s day-to-day activities, as well as the campaign itself. Now that’s efficiency.

Measuring the success of FreshBooks’ interactive, customer-centric approach

Freshbooks puts customers first with social mediaThe campaign was a success: by the end of Small Business Week, it had generated more than 900,000 impressions. And since FreshBooks is all about the customer experience, the team looks beyond the numbers, too, when reporting on the success of the #FreshBrew campaign. With the team literally hitting the pavement and listening to their customers’ stories and feedback in person, they more than exceeded expectations in terms of fostering an engaged, quality community. Melissa’s final thoughts on the campaign tie back to FreshBooks’ overall humanistic approach to social media: “It’s a mix of life and personality going into social that gives us great results.”

“Events help us show our customers that we’re more than just a program that they use. We’re people who really care.”

Melissa Loomans, Community & Events Manager

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