HubSpot customer service tool Service Hub aims to transform SMBs

HubSpot's Service Hub, the new customer service product, aims at helping small and medium businesses complete the view of the customer, combined with the company's sales and marketing products.

HubSpot has been able to carve out a niche for itself in the CRM market by offering sales and marketing tools to small and medium-sized businesses at a reasonable price.

To complete the customer experience triad of sales, marketing and service, Hubspot released Service Hub, a HubSpot customer service tool that helps its customers -- primarily small and medium-sized businesses -- connect with their customers after the sale.

"For all of these vendors, it's important to have a clear view of the customer across marketing, sales and service," said Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner at SMB Group Inc., a small and medium-sized business consultancy.

Beyond that complete picture of a customer, the importance of having software tools that can interact and integrate with each other is a valuable asset for a company's business processes.

"Businesses can try to integrate something as an add-on solution, but it's much easier to use a solution that already looks and feels integrated," McCabe said.

'HubSpot needed to complete that wheel'

The HubSpot customer service product is comprised of several individual products that focus on various aspects of customer service, including conversations, tickets, automation, knowledge base, customer feedback and reporting. Bundled together, they make up Service Hub.

The conversations tool creates a universal inbox that connects messages across chat, email and other messaging channels to improve collaboration, while the ticketing tool helps track and organize CRM objects. Rule-based automation helps with workflows, while the knowledge-based tool helps create templates. The customer feedback tool helps with survey creation and audience insight while reporting features a new service dashboard that will include reports on how the service team is handling tickets and how customers are sharing feedback.

"They covered the major bases, like making it easier to have conversations with customers and share those conversations across sales and marketing," McCabe said.

And while there's no standout feature that would make the HubSpot customer service offering separate from others in the crowded customer service field, it does tie back to the importance of product integration, which will be a selling point for existing HubSpot customers.

If you're using HubSpot and another customer service product out there and you had to integrate -- even with open APIs, it doesn't mean it's easy.
Laurie McCabeco-founder, SMB Group Inc.

"If you're using HubSpot and another customer service product out there and you had to integrate -- even with open APIs, it doesn't mean it's easy," McCabe said. "You're taking one more obstacle off the end user's plate when [HubSpot] can provide the full suite of CRM. HubSpot needed to complete that wheel."

The Salesforce for small business

And while the HubSpot customer service product will be appealing to HubSpot customers, it might not be needed for all HubSpot customers. In the small and medium-sized business space, certain customers have enough customer service inquiries to require software to help with tracking, but there are others that don't need to spend $400 per month for Service Hub.

"A business may be fine starting with just marketing or sales," McCabe said. "But if your business grows, you want to be able to add new capabilities when you need them and have it integrate easily."

From HubSpot's perspective, adding Service Hub was a way for the CRM company to help its customers focus more on retaining customers, rather than just acquiring new customers -- a process that is often more expensive for companies than it is to keep existing customers.

"The acquisition funnel has been considered the most effective model for growth," said JD Sherman, president and COO of HubSpot. "But as people have become more skeptical of sales and marketing, the funnel has become less effective. Your biggest untapped growth opportunity today is in fact your existing customers. With Service Hub, we're giving businesses the tools they need to tap into that opportunity."

As HubSpot has been able to fill a void for small and medium businesses, it isn't the only company looking at this market and seeing the potential for growth. There are roughly 27 million small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S., according to SMB Group, and companies that have typically focused on enterprise-sized companies are turning their focus to the minnows in the pond.

Roughly two months ago, Salesforce released its Salesforce Essentials product, aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. While Salesforce is hoping some of the smaller businesses that adopt its Essentials product eventually turn into more enterprise-sized companies, they are still adding more focus and competition to HubSpot's forte.

It's possibly with the competition from Salesforce in mind that HubSpot added Service Hub, making it a more complete and attractive option for smaller businesses.

"There are a lot of customer service products out there and a lot are geared toward larger companies," McCabe said. "Is HubSpot trying to be the small business version of Salesforce? SMBs are their bread and butter market. But there's a lot of investment and commitment to developing the same kind of platform for small businesses." Pricing for Service Hub starts at $400 per month with five users included.

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