When we started Kustomer in 2015, we did so with the vision of reimagining customer service for a new generation of businesses and consumers. We understand consumers want more from the companies they do business with. They want effortless and seamless customer service across all communications and social channels. They want businesses to understand them and keep pace with how quickly their needs change – especially when there’s a question or issue. These practices are not just good business. They are the factors that build brand loyalty and repeat business, which translates directly into positive impact on the bottom line.
With this as a starting point, we set out to build the very best custom service platform for today’s modern businesses. The result is the Kustomer omnichannel CRM platform that provides a unified picture of the customer in a single view. It helps businesses automate repetitive tasks so agents can maximize their time and the quality of interactions with customers. Our priority is to deliver efficient and effortless experiences that delight businesses, agents and consumers.
Throughout the last five years, we have had the opportunity to power the customer experiences of many of today’s most innovative global companies. And we’re just getting started. We are delighted to share with you the next step in our journey and the news that we have signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook subject to customary regulatory review.
Once the acquisition closes, we look forward to working closely with Facebook, where we will continue to serve our customers and work with our partners as part of the Facebook family. With our complementary capabilities, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however they need it–via phone, email, text, web chat or messaging. In particular, we look forward to enhancing the messaging experience which is one of the fastest growing ways for people and businesses to engage.
Jeremy and I are immensely grateful to our clients and partners who have joined us in our mission to redefine what it means to deliver excellent customer experience. It is because of you that we keep innovating on the question of what does it mean to exceed the expectations of today’s modern consumer.
We also want to recognize the dedication and drive of the incredibly talented Kustomer team. They are the best at what they do and work tirelessly to give customers the platform for delivering exceptional customer experiences.
We hope you’ll connect with us to be a part of the next chapter of Kustomer.
Closing Conditions: This transaction will be subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approval. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Data Privacy: Kustomer businesses will continue to own the data that comes from interactions with their customers. Facebook eventually expects to host Kustomer data on secure Facebook infrastructure. In doing so, Facebook will act as a service provider at the instruction of business customers. This is an industry standard practice among many companies that offer service solutions. While Facebook will not automatically use Kustomer data to inform the ads that a user sees, businesses will have the option to use their data at Kustomer for their own marketing purposes, which may include separate advertising services on Facebook.
On Wednesday October 21st, thousands of CX leaders around the globe gathered (virtually and socially distanced!) to learn about the modern customer experience, and have some fun in the process. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, hearing perspectives from those that are not often heard from, and networking with their peers.
Whether hearing from Drybar founder Alli Webb about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind, or learning how artificial intelligence changed the game for Glovo during the pandemic, there was no shortage of actionable and insightful sessions. After Kustomer NOW, attendees were sure to know what’s new, what’s to come, and what’s actually working in the world of customer experience.
But in case you missed it, we wanted to be sure you could still get the highlights. Read on for our recap of Kustomer NOW, the modern customer experience summit.
Delivering a Superior Customer Experience
When we get down to brass tacks, a superior customer experience should be at the center of everything we do. And the pandemic only heightened this need, as customer loyalty was more important than ever. Kustomer CEO, Brad Birnbaum, kicked off the day explaining how central the customer experience was to success in 2020. “Customers are still expecting a high level of responsiveness, the highest level of quality customer service. And that doesn’t change despite the pandemic, unfortunately, right?” said Birnbaum. “So those that were able to adapt, whether it be through tooling, whether it be through processes, whether it be through personnel… will come out of this strong. And those that are having a hard time are probably going to lose a lot of brand loyalty, customer loyalty because customers will find another alternative.”
Alli Webb, CEO of Drybar, realized the shortcomings of other businesses when it came to the customer experience, and vowed she would not do the same. “We were just kind of shocked by how poorly most businesses were operating, you know, and how they were missing so many little things that were so easy to fix and be better and make the overall experience so much better,” said Webb. “We wanted to create this beautiful experience, this beautiful space and concept, but where you would be treated incredibly well, no matter who you are, what you’re wearing or what you look like.”
While we all strive to deliver the best possible experience to our consumers, and use that as a differentiator, sometimes creating an effortless experience, versus “wowing” the customer, can drive just as much brand loyalty. Matt Dixon, in his session The Quest for Customer Delight Failed; What’s Next? explains that only nine percent of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude of behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. “It turns out that when we do cost benchmarking, we look at companies who deliver high effort experiences compared to those that are low effort, easy experiences. There’s almost a 40% difference in cost per contact,” said Dixon.
Understanding what customers truly want is key to being able to deliver an effortless, superior customer experience. According to Mary Drumond, CMO at Worthix, if you are able to reset a customer’s expectations when something goes wrong, you no longer have that negative feeling of frustration. Drumond advises that you “make sure you have systems in place that can reset your customer expectations if you can no longer meet them. This is a make or break moment for your customers. Trust. So make sure you have systems in place to step in when something goes wrong.”
What ESPN fans wanted during the pandemic, was to talk sports. Most sports were on pause for months on end, and the role of the customer service rep shifted significantly. “We are fellow fans in the stands. We are not suits in the suites. We understand what you’re going through and if you want to talk a little sport, we do too, and that’s what we do. And our CSAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion,” said Doug Kramon in his session Keeping the Fan Experience Alive at ESPN During the Pandemic.
Modernizing CX With Modern Strategies and Technology
Another key theme during Kustomer NOW, was all around modernizing CX. What that means to every organization can be different. Whether it is adopting new tools, shifting to a DTC model or changing success metrics, the customer experience is constantly shifting and evolving and brands need to keep up. For Expedia, they chose to test and learn new strategies to understand what an ideal experience was for their customers. “We had an interesting test that we ran because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative,” said Shannon Martin, CX Executive at Expedia. “And so we said … you guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test month so that you can do this constantly. The result was that we saw customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners are learning how to do their business better and we saw return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group.”
For an organization that isn’t as digitally native, tools and technology can be a springboard to modernize the experience they provide. Ernest Chrappah, the Director of the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, falls into that bucket. He made a commitment to improve the customer experience by focusing on operational excellence, innovation and data-driven decisions. “As part of the reform, we decided, based on feedback from customers, we’re going to shift all our services from analog paper-based processes, into the digital age, so that we eliminate the need for a customer to physically have to visit our offices just to get a service,” said Chrappah.
AI and automation are powerful tools to not only offer self-service and digital-first options to customers, but also to scale customer service efficiently. Before the global pandemic, delivery company Glovo was already testing out automation and self-service, but the pandemic accelerated that need. “A conversation bot helped us to address some of the inquiries we were receiving from our couriers and from our customers, and we were able to keep our agents available for other … more complex inquiries,” said Ludovic Magnier in his session How a Food Delivery Startup Delivers Modern Customer Service with AI.
Dan Burkland, President of Five9, agrees that AI can seamlessly and effectively assist CX teams. “There’s ways to implement AI that is not disruptive. As an example, assisting an agent with post-call wrap up. I don’t need to change anything about what the agent has been trained to do, in the scripting they follow, and the various answers that they retrieve for their customers. But they may spend two or three minutes after a call, putting in their notes and then dispositioning the call and inserting that into a CRM. And nowadays, what we can do is because we have the ability to listen and transcribe the call and now pull out key summary data. We can actually summarize the call for the agent … and just automatically insert that into the CRM.”
In the end, a “modern” experience always comes back to the customer, and how businesses are able to deliver on their expectations in a prompt and personalized manner. “I think attention and compassion need to be the two leading elements of how we head into 2021,” said Luke Williams, the SVP of XM Institute at Qualtrics. “I think really centering in on what the value is that people are attached to, and then figuring out how to build a business around that. I think … in 2021, we’re going to see a lot of companies pivot a little bit towards something that historically they may not have done.”
A Whole New Way of Working
Practically overnight, the CX world transferred to a remote environment and agents were servicing customers with a whole new set of needs. Gordon Schleffer, VP of Customer Care at Magellan Healthcare, thinks that the companies who succeed in a remote environment have strong cultures, and keep their staff engaged.
HopSkipDrive, a vehicle for hire company that provides service to children, has had a remote workforce since inception, and was well-equipped for this new working world. “I think you really need the buy-in of everyone across the company to make a remote team work long-term,” said Michelle McCombs, VP of Safety & Support at HopSkipDrive. “You need your executive team to support some of the costs which… it’s a really easy ROI because you’re not paying for desk space, you’re not paying for parking … and people are happier.”
“You know, there’s always been a reluctance to do massive work from home or remote contact centers,” said Burkland of Five9. “And mostly it’s been due to the apprehension that… I’m gonna lose control and visibility and tracking and monitoring of the agent population.” But the pandemic forced many organizations to transform digitally, and many of them found that productivity either stayed the same or increased, and there were tools available today to make remote work successful.
As CX teams adopted these new tools and adapted to working from home, they also took on a new and extremely important role — being the face of the company. “There really is no face of a company when storefronts are closed, it’s all up to the branding and the marketing and then the customer service agents,” said Lauren Panken in her session DTC or Be Disrupted: How UNTUCKit Uses Conversational CRM to Win. “They’re the ones that are responsible essentially for reflecting the company values in the spirit of the company and making sure that, you know, the customers are served and nurtured and feel good after their interactions with the company. So, I feel like, truly, during this time, customer service teams really shined because of that.” Williams of Qualtrics agrees: “For some reason we’ve overlooked, I think until now, the value of what the agent is until companies figured out that right now, they’re the only human that your customer may actually interact with. And that’s a big deal. And I think we’ve been under investing there.”
A Diverse CX Team Is a Successful CX Team
For most businesses today, their client base is made up of a wide variety of individuals, across different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, geographies, and ages. Having a customer service team that can cater to all of these modern consumers is imperative for success. “I can’t think of a reason why it would not be better to have a diverse team,” said Liz Keys, Product Manager at Stella Connect. “Our customers are diverse people, all different types of people from all walks of life, having different experiences, and to be able to build that personalized, incredible support experience that we all talk about and strive for, there is no way you’re going to meet every customer where they are … and communicate with them in a language they understand if your team all looks and speaks the same and comes from the same background.”
David Cane, VP of Customer Success & Trust and Safety at Wag Walking agrees with this, and believes that inclusivity should be embedded within the culture of an organization. “I would just encourage companies… don’t just focus on the numbers, make sure that the culture is inclusive and you also give them equity, and they have parity with others and feel valued. That’s how you get loyalty. And you’re gonna get the best work and it’s going to increase your top and bottom line,” said Cane.
Brooklinen is a company that made sure to break the mold when it came to inclusivity, with over 80% of their manager-level employees being female. Not only does this diversify the perspectives coming from leadership in the company, but the CX team benefits from unique qualities that women typically hold. “It really is kind of an invisible ‘sisterhood’. People start to feel that it really connects us all in CX. There’s a lot of empathy… to be able to sit and listen and understand. Women are just great listeners,” said Caroline Nolan, Customer Experience Manager at Brooklinen.
Drumond of Worthix, sees similar benefits. “When you are in CX roles you are trying to walk in the customer’s shoes and pay attention to what their pains are and provide solutions,” said Drumond. “There is something remarkably female about being able to recognize the pains in others and truly do something about it.” But at the same time, advocates cannot stop after achieving equity in just one area. “If we are branching into this world of legislation, we should talk about every aspect of diversity. I think you can’t really have a conversation about female vs male without also taking into account race, age, and sexual orientation. Thought diversity is very important and very beneficial for business growth,” Drumond explained.
While the CX world of 2020 saw drastic changes and faced steep hurdles, it also became increasingly clear that the role of customer service is essential for business success — especially during challenging times. Whether creating a diverse team to cater to all the needs of your customers, adopting new tools to achieve modernity and efficiency, or really getting to the bottom of what consumers expect, the trends of 2020 are certain to carry over to 2021, and CX should continue to be prioritized.
“I think it’s a good time to look at customer service,” explained Webb of Drybar. “Everyone’s really on the edge. Everyone’s really sensitive. So make sure … the people that you’re bringing in to work for you, represent you, are being very sensitive and empathetic. Taking for granted that clients are always going to be there… this is an opportunity to say… oh shit, it’s not gonna always be the way it was. And now, I’m gonna have to work a little bit harder, to get back to it… And if you’re still a business that’s standing, take advantage of that time and be the best you can be.”
Want to learn how Kustomer can help you deliver a modern customer experience? Request a demo here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging
Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.
Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels
Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.
Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX
Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.
To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?
Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.
Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.
Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?
Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.
Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”
Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.
Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?
Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.
Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?
Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”
Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.
Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.
Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?
Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.
Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?
Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.
Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?
Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.
Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?
Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –
Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –
Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.
Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.
Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –
Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –
Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.
Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –
Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –
Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.
Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.
Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.
Exit Voice: (33:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
Kustomer is recognized for its unique approach to modernizing customer experiences in multiple industries as the company experiences unprecedented growth, top ratings, and executive team expansion.
New York, NY – August 11, 2020 – Kustomer, the top-rated CRM for modern customer experiences, announced today that it has been recognized as one of the Fastest Growing SaaS companies of 2020 by SaaS Magazine. This award comes as the company more than doubled annual growth, receiving industry recognition as the CRM of choice for businesses to deliver more effective and efficient customer service. To address growing demand while consistently delivering exceptional value, Kustomer also announces that Blaga Lund, an innovator in the use of data science, has joined the team as Vice President of Engineering.
“Our momentum is the result of a relentless focus on improving the customer journey and enabling the types of customer experiences brands require and customers demand today,” said Brad Birnbaum, Co-Founder and CEO of Kustomer. “Strong revenue growth, expansion across a range of verticals, and consistently high customer reviews, demonstrate the universal value of a modern CRM that eliminates tickets and overhead that get in the way of lasting customer relationships.”
As part of this sustained company momentum, Kustomer has achieved these major milestones:
Exceptional Business Performance: Driven by the move to digital-only experiences, changing consumer behavior, and demand for omnichannel service, businesses in many industries have turned to Kustomer in record numbers. The company tripled the number of consumers helped within the platform, while more than doubling annual revenue and new customer growth.
Industry Recognition and Awards: In addition to making SaaS Mag’s list of fastest-growing SaaS companies, Kustomer was named to the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center and received the Stevie Award For The Most Innovative Tech Company of the Year – Up to 2,500 Employees. Kustomer was also recognized by the 2020 SaaS Awards for Best Customer Service or CRM.
Industry-Leading Product Ratings: Kustomer outperformed Zendesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, and Intercom in verified G2 customer reviews on almost every criteria. Kustomer received top scores for user adoption, user satisfaction, momentum and leadership (average score 4.4 across 140 reviews.
Rapid Product Innovation: Kustomer continues rapid innovation with new expansion of KustomerIQ, the AI engine embedded across the company’s CRM platform. In addition, Kustomer acquired Reply.ai, a customer service automation company that leverages AI and machine learning models to improve agent efficiency through self-service chatbot and deflection capabilities. Lastly, Kustomer continues to build out it’s industry leading customer relationship management capabilities to give brands a full 360-view of their customers.
New Engineering Leadership: Blaga Lund, an accomplished machine learning and AI engineering leader, joins Kustomer’s executive team as Vice President of Engineering. Ms. Lund has been a pioneer in the application of data science in addressing customer needs with more than a decade of experience leading engineering teams.
“As customer needs transform, there is an urgency for brands to deliver a smart and seamless customer experience across multiple channels,” added Birnbaum. “By empowering agents to deliver efficient and effective customer service through our AI-powered CRM, we are helping companies manage the quantity and quality of customer service requests while successfully navigating ever-changing market conditions.”
Kustomer is the top-rated CRM, helping top brands deliver modern customer service that creates customers for life. Powered by AI-powered automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of contact centers and businesses, enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.
Evaluation based on ability to execute and for completeness of vision
New York, NY – June 11, 2020 — Kustomer, the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences, announces today that it has been named in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center (CEC) report, published on June 4, 2020 by the research and advisory firm. This is the first time that Kustomer has been recognized in the report and we believe this recognition underscores the company’s important role in the space, where they are paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences. Vendors in the report were evaluated on seven ability to execute criteria and eight completeness of vision criteria.
According to the report, “consolidation of customer service functionality is redefining the CRM CEC. Artificial intelligence and increased investment in digital engagement are top priorities on vendors’ roadmaps. We researched 16 vendors to help application leaders navigate this increasingly complex landscape.”
Further, “the current reshaping of the customer engagement center (CEC) market is characteristic of the consolidation of the customer service technology market. Customer service and support organizations must deliver consistent, effortless, intelligent and personalized customer service to their customers. The ability to orchestrate customer requests with assisted service, as well as with self-service, is one of the four pillars of great customer service within a leading customer service and support operation. The four pillars of great customer service are: getting connected, process orchestration, resource management, analytics and insights.”
“Kustomer is a modern CRM for customer service, focused on the customer to follow their entire service journey and optimize every experience. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. Kustomer is a company’s single record of customer truth, managing and contextualizing data to drive smarter processes that scale your business, not your headcount,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “We are honored to be named in the Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center and to be recognized by Gartner.”
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS CRM platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences. Built with intelligent automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business by unifying data from multiple sources and enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.
Here at Kustomer, we believe artificial intelligence plays an essential role in helping companies scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. And we aren’t alone. Gartner predicts that 72% of customer interactions will involve technology such as machine learning and chatbots by 2022. That’s why we are excited to share that Kustomer is acquiring Reply.ai to deliver even deeper intelligent self-service and agent assistance to our customers.
As a long-time partner of Kustomer, Reply is able to seamlessly integrate their tools into the Kustomer platform and help brands efficiently scale without compromising quality of service. The partnership furthers our commitment to integrating Kustomer IQ, our artificial intelligence engine, throughout the customer journey, while providing some powerful benefits to businesses and customers.
Reply is ranked as one of Forrester’s Top 10 AI Providers for Customer Service Automation, leveraging sophisticated machine learning models to power incredibly accurate self-service chatbots and deflection tools. With an astounding 40% average deflection rate, Reply, now a part of Kustomer IQ, can successfully resolve nearly half of all initial customer communications without the need for live interaction with a service agent. And with 67% of customers preferring self-service over talking to a company representative, deflection tools are not only a win for businesses, but also for customers.
With Reply now a part of Kustomer IQ, our customers will save thousands of hours spent answering simple questions, so they can focus on the most important cases that have a much larger impact on business and loyalty. At a time when customer service teams are being asked to do more with less, our suite of AI tools can tackle your growing queue of inquiries around the clock, while drastically minimizing costs.
We are so excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera, and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew. With Reply’s engineering offices in Madrid, this acquisition will also expand our presence in Europe and accelerate our growth in the region.
It goes without saying that we’ve always been committed to revolutionizing customer service. Today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in that journey.
What Customers Can Now Expect From Kustomer IQ
Built within Reply’s natural language processing engine, these best-in-class chatbots feature visual flow builders and templates for easy one-time creation and deployment across multiple channels and languages, providing effortless experiences by connecting customers to the right information.
Knowledge Base Deflection
An enhanced deflection widget can be embedded in forms, email, and chat, and features a powerful information retrieval system in which a semantic search engine and answer extractor not only provide relevant articles and content, but the exact answer to a question.
The platform can plug into third-party APIs to leverage a company’s most critical customer data points when deflecting. For example: a chatbot can answer the question “where is my order” or “when does my policy expire”.
Relevant answers and subsequent actions can be suggested to agents based on historical behavior, user text and conversation context. Actions include routing or auto-tagging conversations, as well as responding with relevant templated content.
Deflection success rates are measured and chatbot behavior can be evaluated, with functionality to support custom events, set conversion goals and segment audiences.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by the CEO of Kustomer, Brad Birnbaum. They discuss the transformation and evolution of the customer service experience over the last two decades. Brad started his customer service career by founding eShare Communications. As Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Product Development, he helped create the first chat tool used for customer support. He later co-founded Assistly, which was acquired by Salesforce and rebranded as Desk.com. With his extensive knowledge and experience in the CX space, Brad knew where solutions in the market fell short. He decided to create what customer service agents were looking for and founded Kustomer, a company dedicated to creating a modern customer support tool for the 21st century. In this podcast, Brad and Gabe discuss how the industry has changed, the different channels being used today, and what companies can do to create rich support experiences. Listen to the full podcast below.
The Evolution of the Customer Service Experience
Customer Service has drastically changed within the last 10-20 years. With the advent of online support, customer service was done over chat, and it was very transactional in nature. Phone support was used, but chat options were preferred. Due to the creation of new technologies, chat use declined at first but came back strong. Channels like Facebook messenger, SMS, and web chat solutions soon became popular. Brad summarizes this point well by stating, “We were doing a tremendous amount of support through chat and I sort of saw chat tapering off in the […] 2010s. It wasn’t nearly as popular. And I think with … mobile phones coming online and then people starting to really text… chat just took on a new light.”
An Omnichannel Approach Creates a “Rich Support Experience”
Today, there are multiple channels used in communicating with customers. In order to create a “rich support experience,” companies need to consider their customer when deciding which channels to use. Brad specifically warns against singular channel customer service because it often creates frustration for both the consumers and the agents involved. Although phone calls generally come to mind when customer service is mentioned, Brad suggests that calling should not be the only option available. In fact, he recalls what issues surface when you focus on a singular channel.. “In those traditional systems, a ticket or a case can be a one channel type, a singular channel type. What that does though is [it] creates a really miserable experience for customers because, in the end, you’re going to get agent collision.”
Supporting Customers and Creating Success
Now more than ever, consumers are demanding excellent service from brands, and the bar is constantly being raised. Brad gives a great insight into what the attitude of an organization should be when it comes to supporting their customers. He states, “mak[e] sure you’re supporting your customers in the way that they want to be supported.” It’s all about the people. The more brands focus on their customer’s needs, the happier and more loyal that customer will be, leading to company success.
Brad shares a few ways to keep customers happy, but first he asks brands to remember that negative experiences travel faster than positive ones. Consumers immediately turn to social media, friends, and family when something goes wrong. Therefore, companies need to overemphasize the positive experiences they have and put all of their efforts into creating a quantity of quality experiences. Brad mentions that this can be done by having a “higher caliber of agents” with exemplary training. Having the right tools to enhance the training of the agents is also essential. Brad knows Kustomer’s product is the type of tool to “enable […] agents to be successful” in creating the support system that consumers are looking for.
To learn more about the evolution of the customer support experience and how that affects businesses, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How Customer Service Has Transformed in the Last 20 Years with Brad Birnbaum
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s podcast. I’m excited to get going. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum here, CEO of Kustomer. Brad, thanks for joining. How that the heck are you?
Brad Birnbaum: (00:19)
I am great. I am great, excited to be on my first podcast with you.
Gabe Larsen: (00:22)
That’s right. Kicking off the Customer Service Secrets Podcast. I wanted to have Brad on. Brad, can you tell us just a little about yourself and what you do over here at Kustomer?
Brad Birnbaum: (00:32)
Sure, my name’s Brad Birnbaum, CEO and co-founder of Kustomer. Been in the customer service space my whole career, started my first company in the mid-nineties, focused on doing internet-based customer service. We were one of the first companies doing so. We used to be the online customer service for companies like Microsoft, Dell, Sprint, AOL, et cetera. And, I’ve just been a part of many, many companies along the way and on that journey, had a couple of great exits. Fast forward a little further along, I co-founded Assistly in 2009 and we’re all about SMB, SaaS services. It was kind of awesome back then and we were doing real, real well. It was frankly 18 months from–
Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
That’s so cool!
Brad Birnbaum: (01:14)
[inaudible] from Salesforce and it was a super fun ride being a part of Salesforce, but ultimately –
Gabe Larsen: (01:22)
Three years with Salesforce. Right?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:22)
I spent three years with Salesforce.
Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
And what were you doing over there?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:25)
Well, when Salesforce bought Assistly they rebranded it to Desk.com and that was our SMB play for customer support.
Gabe Larsen: (01:33)
Brad Birnbaum: (01:33)
And we were very focused on that; frankly, doing well. But, decided that there was a bigger vision out there. And, we just saw the opportunity to do something in a much more modern way than what Salesforce was doing at the time. We understood the value of the Salesforce platform, but it was 20 years old. It was built in a different generation; I would argue almost two generations ago. It was built pre-AWS, it was built pre-mobile, the tech around it was different, there was no such thing as documents stores, and was built on RDMAs. We knew that the world needed a better version of it and decided to set forth and create Kustomer with that in mind. Right? So we wanted to reinvent, or re-imagine the customer service space.
Gabe Larsen: (02:18)
Brad Birnbaum: (02:18)
So, the platform first approach. It took us over two years to build our platform and our platform was designed to know everything about customers, to be able to take that information that company has acquired about customers and use it to enhance support experiences.
Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
I love it. I love it.
Brad Birnbaum: (02:34)
Use it to present support agents with the relevant data they need to provide that optimal support experience customers want. Use it to automate routine and mundane tasks in RPA like fashion with our business process automation, especially in retail. We’re seeing just amazing benefits and efficiencies around that and overall improvements in customer satisfaction. It’s been a great journey and, Kustomer is about five years old now and it’s starting to transform the world.
Gabe Larsen: (02:58)
I love it. I love it. Well, let’s get into that. I think that’s a good introduction. 20 plus years in customer service. You highlighted a little bit, some of the challenge, but also what customer service looked like back then. And then as we start to translate into, what it does look like now, how would you paint that picture of some of the big changes?
Brad Birnbaum: (03:19)
So, it was back in the 90s and early two thousands, it was super transactional in nature.
Gabe Larsen: (03:25)
Brad Birnbaum: (03:25)
We still see some people’s view of that as transactional in nature, but it was, it was very transactional in nature. In the late nineties and early two thousands, we saw chat as a really up and coming channel and everybody was jumping on chat.
Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
But that would have been new because phone was–
Brad Birnbaum: (03:41)
Yeah it was. Phone and email was coming online, but we saw a lot of chat. We were doing a tremendous amount of support through chat and I sort of saw chat tapering off in the two thousand and 2010s. It wasn’t nearly as popular. And I think with the resurgence of, well mobile coming along, mobile phones coming online and then people starting to really, you know, text and things went right. Chat just took on a new light.
Gabe Larsen: (04:06)
Right, right, right.
Brad Birnbaum: (04:06)
It’s become an incredibly popular channel and all forms of chat, right? Whether it be web chat, mobile chat, whether it be Facebook messenger, chat, texting, et cetera, et cetera. We’re just seeing that being super–
Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
That is, I mean, you saw back in the 90s, but chat has kind of reemerged. Is it due to the mobile? [inaudible]
Brad Birnbaum: (04:21)
I do think so. I do think so.
Gabe Larsen: (04:22)
It’s old but new.
Brad Birnbaum: (04:22)
I think so. Think about how we communicate nowadays. I communicate probably more through various forms of texting, anything from Slack, to texting, to even LinkedIn messenger. It’s all, it’s all text-based, right? The amount of time I spend on actual phone calls is far less than it was 10, 20 years ago.
Gabe Larsen: (04:40)
Brad Birnbaum: (04:40)
You would probably say the same. That has been driving it for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (04:44)
So that was a big difference back then. But chat was coming online and that’s where you jumped in.
Brad Birnbaum: (04:49)
That is, that is.
Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
To see if you could provide a third channel for customer service back then.
Brad Birnbaum: (04:54)
For sure. Back then companies were just starting to understand what e-commerce looked like and they were realizing that the benefits of it and they were saying, well, if we’re going to start selling online and driving people online, we have to support online. And how do we do that? And chat was the predominant channel.
Gabe Larsen: (05:13)
Got it, got it. And then you also touched on, so chat was a big one. The new channel.
Brad Birnbaum: (05:16)
Gabe Larsen: (05:16)
This ticket concept or kind of the structuring of the way we looked at it.
Brad Birnbaum: (05:21)
Gabe Larsen: (05:21)
Zendesk, some of these created 15, 20 years ago. What does that mean when we say ticket? What does that? How else? What is the structure of that.
Brad Birnbaum: (05:28)
Sure, for pretty much all of eternity in various forms of customer support, it was, a very transactional nature. You were always bound by a ticket or sometimes people would call them cases. People use those words synonymously, right? And that was just a single incident, had a finite resolution. Um, but it was a very small piece of understanding the customer, right? Like businesses were always thinking of customers in terms of that ticket or case they weren’t thinking of customers as the actual person that they are. Right? Like you and I as we have gotten and grown to know each other, we form a relationship and we learn more and more about each other and it’s not that single transaction that defines us. It’s the entire relationship with the business that’s important. And we’ve seen this over the years as a barrier to amazing and incredible support experiences and knew that in transforming the way that people at the companies receive support can truly adopt that shift of the way the world’s going. So, here at Kustomer, we took a pretty different approach. We are support agents, people who use our product don’t think in terms of tickets or cases. They think in terms of customers and you’re always working on a customer. We call that our customer timeline. And the customer timeline is, everything about the customer, right? You might see what we call conversations. Some people might think of that as a modern lightweight case or ticket, but it’s more than that. And then inside of that timeline might be, if you’re a retailer, orders and shipping information, everything about that customer and how they interface with the business. And that has really transformed. The information architecture around it has transformed how support agents can–
Gabe Larsen: (07:09)
Can actually interact with their customers.
Brad Birnbaum: (07:11)
And customers really appreciate it and it is the modern way of engaging with customers, right? The world has gone from thinking of call centers as call centers and they’re now starting to really think of it as profit centers, right? They are investing heavily in amazing support experiences. They’re no longer trying to save 5 cents off a phone call. That’s not how the game is played, right? But it used to be that way.
Gabe Larsen: (07:32)
No, no. Absolutely. That at all costs $1 and 8 cents. How do we make it $1?
Brad Birnbaum: (07:37)
They’re no longer focused on that. Right? What they’re focused on is these amazing experiences–
Gabe Larsen: (07:40)
I love that.
Brad Birnbaum: (07:40)
–that you are investing in, right? As the world is going more direct to consumer, as the world is going online–
Gabe Larsen: (07:46)
Brad Birnbaum: (07:48)
–The stores in the malls are closing. The stores on Fifth Avenue are closing and companies are investing in a very different way. They’re investing in amazing experiences through tooling and through support.
Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Got it, got it.
Brad Birnbaum: (08:00)
It’s producing repeat buyers, producing customers for life. And some of us, we’ve all seen the Zappos stories, right? Where our people stay on the phone for–
Gabe Larsen: (08:08)
Brad Birnbaum: (08:08)
–extreme amounts of time to provide those rich supporters. That’s extreme and exaggerated, but companies are embracing that philosophy because they realize once you get those customers, you get them for life and they become advocates and that’s what they want.
Gabe Larsen: (08:21)
I love that. I love that. Okay, so one big thing was certainly the ticket. Now focusing kind of on the customer. You talked a little bit about the channels, and I want to dive into… let’s go there next because back then it was kind of chat, phone and email. It’s like 30 now.
Brad Birnbaum: (08:38)
Look, there is more and more. If you look at your phone and all the different ways you communicate with your friends and family–
Gabe Larsen: (08:42)
And how important is that?
Brad Birnbaum: (08:44)
It’s very important because everybody has a preferred communication mechanism, right? Within our business, we use a lot of Slack inside the business, right? There’s different tools that people use. And some of my friends I will text with some of my friends, I might Facebook messenger with some, I might actually hit up on Twitter, right? We all communicate with people with a multitude of channels and escalate them accordingly, right? So, it’s important that you can converse with your customers in any way. The other thing you’ll, you know, that that has happened is there’s the immediacy of channels. You know, if customers, they may try a slightly more asynchronous channel and if they don’t get a response fast enough, they would gravitate towards moving towards a more synchronous channel–
Gabe Larsen: (09:25)
Brad Birnbaum: (09:25)
–or real time channel. And ultimately each of those channels tend to be more expensive to support as well. Ultimately landing on telephony, on voice, which tends to be the most real time in nature. And, we’ve approached that in a really solid way, right? We’ve, we’ve changed, we’ve transformed it in that the way we think about omni-channels is very different than most companies do, as we’ve reimagined customer service. So, our definition of omni-channel is actually quite simple. It is a single thread of conversation around a topic where we could converse with your customers on any channels and provide support on.
Gabe Larsen: (9:58)
Brad Birnbaum: (9:59)
And while that sounds obvious and you’re like, of course Brad and I would tell you nobody does that, right?
Gabe Larsen: (10:03)
It certainly wasn’t that way.
Brad Birnbaum: (10:05)
None of our competitors do that, right? They, the way our competitors see the world is, is they, they do support you across different channels. But each of those channels would be a separate ticket or case, right? So if I have a problem with company X as a customer, initially I might email in and, I’m an impatient guy, so after 15 minutes–
Gabe Larsen: (10:22)
I jump to the channel.
Brad Birnbaum: (10:22)
–If I don’t get a response, I’m like, all right, I’m going to jump to another channel. Maybe I’ll text and I don’t get a response ultimately, maybe I’ll end up on voice. A lot of the solutions out there, really all the other solutions out there today, those will be three separate tickets for cases–
Gabe Larsen: (10:38)
The channel and searching, [inaudible].
Brad Birnbaum: (10:38)
Because in those traditional systems, a ticket or a case can be a one channel type, a singular channel type. What that does though is creates a really miserable experience for customers because in the end you’re going to get agent collision. So eventually agents will probably get to all three of those.
Gabe Larsen: (10:54)
Yeah, and you’ll get different answers.
Brad Birnbaum: (10:55)
Again, getting three responses. Hopefully you’re not getting three different answers; hopefully, or at least getting the same answer three different times and from three different people. But you’re wasting a lot of your business time because three of your agents are ultimately supporting them. Hopefully you’re not given three different answers because then your business really doesn’t– [inaudible]
Gabe Larsen: (11:11)
Actually, that’s a little bit, I’m nervous about that because one of my favorite things to do is call Delta, and if I get an answer that I don’t like, I like to call another agent.
Gabe Larsen: (11:20)
So what you’re doing is you’re eliminating kind of my channel.
Brad Birnbaum: (11:22)
Sure, yeah, yeah. But for us, those all funnel into a single conversation, which is a really interesting and amazing paradoxical shift. And not only is it helpful for when customers contact you multiple times, through different channels, but even when you’re on the same channel, let’s say we’re on a phone call, and I’m like, Hey, you know, check out this link. I’m going to text it to you, and I can text it to you from the same conversation, and you’re getting it through touch while you’re on the phone call. You could click on it, see it if you want to. Like there’s, there’s a lot of value in being able to context switch.
Gabe Larsen: (11:50)
Cool. Makes tons of sense.
Brad Birnbaum: (11:50)
Through the proper omnichannel. And we’d probably do ourselves a disservice here by calling it omnichannel because it’s a word that’s so used, it’s so used by everybody else. But I just think they got it all wrong. Their definitions are just wrong.
Gabe Larsen: (12:02)
On this multichannel versus omnichannel can, I think sometimes be a little confused.
Brad Birnbaum: (12:05)
It’s very confusing, yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (12:07)
Okay. So, we got one is kind of the different view of the ticket and customer. Two is this channel thing.
Brad Birnbaum: (12:11)
Gabe Larsen: (12:12)
Data. Talk to me about data. I can only imagine when you were back in the day talking through different chatbots etc. The availability of data then versus now has got to be completely different. What does that mean for customers?
Brad Birnbaum: (12:23)
I know we saw over my entire career. We would always see companies trying to use the various point solutions that I had in market. Right? Starting from my first company eShare or to my most recent one, Assistlydesk.com where people were trying to stick data into cases or tickets. They were trying to know more about the customer, know more about the transaction and trying to stay–
Gabe Larsen: (12:46)
–But it wasn’t making–
Brad Birnbaum: (12:47)
–and it just didn’t fit. It was a round peg and a square hole. Right? It’s like, well, we need more custom fields on the case object, and we went from 10 to 25 to 50 to a hundred to ultimately 200– [inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (12:55)
Why do you need all these customers?
Brad Birnbaum: (12:56)
Because you’re trying to fit data and because you want to have those richer support experiences; you want it to be more CRM-like in nature. But most of the solutions out there are not, they’re not CRM-like in nature. They are point solutions for ticketing. So, when we started Kustomer, we knew that we needed to think about the world differently. We knew that we needed to be a CRM system.
Gabe Larsen: (13:14)
Brad Birnbaum: (13:14)
Because the only way you can deliver amazing support experiences if you truly understand the customer that you’re engaging with, right? Otherwise you have such a myopic view of them you’re not going to provide that optimal experience. And if not, you’re then going to be context switching between a multitude of other applications to try to get that information out.
Gabe Larsen: (13:30)
Brad Birnbaum: (13:30)
Whereas in the Kustomer world, we’re able to actually aggregate it together, present it, leverage it for those richer support experiences. And then we’re able to take advantage of Kustomer IQ, which we’re rolling out, which will be able to automate a lot of routine and mundane tasks around that like something like processing a return or processing an exchange if a retailer could often be…
Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
That’s why, but the whole AI stuff comes in.
Brad Birnbaum: (13:52)
And it’s also our business process, our RPA business process automations where it could often take five different steps of going to one system, generate an RMA number; another system to process the return and another system to see if you have that same item and let’s say a larger size, let’s say if it was a shirt–
Gabe Larsen: (14:07)
Brad Birnbaum: (14:07)
If not, go to a suggestion engine, finding it in–
Gabe Larsen: (14:09)
Brad Birnbaum: (14:09)
–Another one, ultimately placing the order. We can automate that down where it might take a person many minutes to do across these different systems with a whole bunch of copying and pasting.
Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
Brad Birnbaum: (14:18)
When it’s in our system and when our system, our platform, what it means is it takes milliseconds to actually do actions.
Gabe Larsen: (14:24)
I love it. I love it.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:24)
What we’re seeing is we’re seeing it across our customer base, right? Significantly. Significant improvements in agent productivity and efficiency.
Gabe Larsen: (14:35)
Of course you eliminate–
Brad Birnbaum: (14:35)
We publish case studies where we’ve seen customers go anywhere from 10% to 25% improvement in engine productivity, which is just– which is massive. That’s not your five seconds off of a five-minute phone.
Gabe and Brad: (14:48)
That’s an agent. That’s measurable, right? That’s a day.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:49)
So you’re really able to … your customers are getting service faster so they’re happier and agents are not spending time doing those routine and mundane tasks. So, they’re happier because they’re spending their time actually doing what’s important and supporting the customer.
Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Brad Birnbaum: (15:01)
And then your business is more efficient. So arguably you might need fewer agents. Right?
Gabe Larsen: (15:04)
No, I love it.
Brad Birnbaum: (15:05)
Which is arguably a very large cost for most customers and [inaudible] agents.
Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
And I still think people are always looking for ways to make that more efficient. Right?
Brad Birnbaum: (15:12)
Of course, of course.
Gabe Larsen: (15:12)
Got it. All right. Well, love the three trends, kind of big differences that you’ve seen in the past and now in present day. Because you think about the audience and maybe this is just kind of your final summary statement. You’re a new customer service leader trying to make a change in your organization. What’s kind of the baby step or the one takeaway you’d say, guys, my quick advice for you would be start here or do this or do that. Anything you’d kind of leave for the audience?
Brad Birnbaum: (15:37)
Well, I mean, I would say make sure you’re supporting your customers in the way that they want to be supported. Right? They– the bar is going up and up every single day, right? People are, when you have a bad experience, you’re taking it to Twitter, you’re telling all your friends about it, right? So over index on those amazing support experiences and the ways to do that would be through higher caliber of agents here that are very well trained and then a tool that’s going to enable those agents to be successful. And certainly, our product can help you do that. But I would focus on that. I think that’s one of those amazing support experiences that will drive customer loyalty and retention.
Gabe Larsen: (16:15)
Yeah. I like, you’re right. The bar is being raised and if you don’t do something quick, you’ll be falling behind. So, Brad, thanks for joining.
Brad Birnbaum: (16:24)
Gabe Larsen: (16:24)
Appreciate your time and for the audience, hope you have a fantastic day.
Brad Birnbaum: (16:28)
Thank you much.
Exit Voice: (16:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
Yesterday, we announced our $60M Series E funding round led by Coatue. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about reimagining customer service and the future of Kustomer.
I’ve always been passionate about great customer experiences. I live it everyday in my personal life when buying from companies that make it easy to do business with them and I’ve founded three companies dedicated to changing the way businesses serve their customers.
Most importantly, I’ve seen that a maniacal focus on customer service wins every time.
Over the years, I have talked with hundreds of customer service leaders and although they have wanted to deliver exceptional customer experiences, their legacy ticket-centric technology solutions could not effectively enable these leaders to meet the expectations of today’s consumers – forget about exceeding those expectations.
So in 2015, my co-founder, Jeremy, and I started Kustomer to transform the customer service experience by making it more personal as well as less stressful and time consuming.
The Power of a Customer-Centric Platform
We believed that putting the customer at the heart of an intelligent, truly omnichannel solution would provide businesses the competitive edge they needed to succeed in an on-demand, experience-based world.
The Kustomer platform uses intelligence to automate repetitive, manual tasks and provide service agents unprecedented insight into a customer’s history. By unifying customer activity and interaction history from all of a company’s systems on the Kustomer timeline, agents have data-driven, actionable conversations without changing screens.
As a true omnichannel platform customers and agents can switch between different channels as needed during a conversation, while maintaining the context to progress conversations forward without customers repeating information. Kustomer supports seamless communication through email, chat, SMS, voice, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter.
Continued Investment in our Product, Customers, and Global Expansion
We are on a mission to enable every business to deliver exceptional customer service. With our $60 million Series E funding round, we will dramatically accelerate our already aggressive plans to build on our unprecedented growth. This includes significant expansion of our global footprint, the launch of additional data centers around the world, and heavy investment in our product and engineering teams to drive even greater platform innovation.
Our R&D investment will speed up our rapid pace of platform innovation to help our clients increase customer satisfaction, build loyalty, and deliver standout service more efficiently than ever.
In particular, we will take the capabilities of recently announced KustomerIQ to the next level by infusing Machine Learning into all aspects of customer service, so clients can provide smart, personalized, and automated customer experiences. Additionally, by the end of the year, we will roll out next generation CRM functionality that will further establish Kustomer as the system of record for managing customer experiences and expand our clients’ ability to seamlessly work together across departments to service customers.
These innovations will further extend our technical advantage over outdated, legacy solutions and more importantly help our clients and their agents succeed.
World Class Clients
It’s my firm belief that Kustomer wins only if our clients win and we’re committed to investing in ensuring our clients have world-class support from us. I want to thank all of our clients who have joined us on this journey to reimagine customer service and look forward to continuing these partnerships in the years ahead.
Strong Support from the Best Investors
This round of funding was led by new investor, Coatue with participation from existing investors Tiger Global Management and Battery Ventures and brings our total funding to $173 million. I am honored to work with all of our investors. They are an elite group whose thoughtful insights and strong support has been critical to our rapid growth. And I am excited to now partner with Coatue who true believers in our mission and our ability to achieve it.
A Great Krew
Finally, I want to thank our employees. Without the commitment, tenacity, and intelligence of the Krew in support of our clients and the development of best-in-class technology none of this would be possible.
Even with our rapid growth and success to date we have much to do, but I am excited by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to make personalized, efficient, and effortless customer service a reality for businesses and consumers around the world.
Series E funding round is led by Coatue with participation from existing investors Tiger Global Management and Battery Ventures
NEW YORK, NY — December 4, 2019 — Kustomer, the SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service, announced today it raised $60 million in Series E funding. This latest round of financing was led by Coatue with participation from current investors Tiger Global Management and Battery Ventures. Over the last 18 months, Kustomer has raised $161 million of funding across four rounds, bringing the company’s total funding to $173.5 million.
“Kustomer is transforming customer service as we know it. At a time when consumers want intelligent, personalized attention, the most forward-looking companies are turning to Kustomer to help them exceed expectations,” said CEO and Co-Founder Brad Birnbaum. “We are seeing rapid adoption over legacy brands like Salesforce and Zendesk and are in a position of strength across all key business metrics as we raise our Series E. With this latest fundraise, we plan to continue our global expansion and heavily invest to help our clients deliver exceptional customer service.”
“Kustomer’s differentiated, omnichannel approach is fundamentally reshaping the industry standard as trends in customer service continue to shift and consumers seek increasingly personalized interactions with brands,” said Coatue Co-Founder Thomas Laffont. “We look forward to working with Brad and his team as they continue to execute their strategic growth plan.”
Founded in 2015, Kustomer empowers businesses to succeed in today’s customer-first world. Kustomer’s comprehensive solution uses CRM and provides a single view of the customer journey, seamless omnichannel communications, and the ability to automate business processes and knowledge management. The company is powering satisfaction and loyalty for some of today’s most iconic, people-first brands, including Glossier, Ring, ThirdLove, Rent the Runway, Sweetgreen, Glovo, Away, and UNTUCKit.
“’Putting Customers First’ is the most important core value we have internally at ThirdLove and our objective is to listen to, respect and delight our customers, always,” said David Spector, Co-Founder at ThirdLove. “Since we switched to Kustomer, ThirdLove’s Fit Stylists and team managers finally have the ability to meet the personalized needs of our customers, however they want to communicate with us and across every channel. Our teams are more efficient and better trained, and our customers are happier – nothing makes me more thankful as a founder!”
During 2019, Kustomer delivered significant platform enhancements and innovation. Most recently, the company announced KustomerIQ, which embeds Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning across the platform to enable companies to provide smarter, automated, and more personalized customer experiences. In September, Kustomer launched its first EU data center in Dublin to better serve its growing international client base. And by the end of this year, Kustomer plans to roll out next-generation CRM capabilities that will further establish the platform as the system of record for managing customer experiences.
Over the last quarter, Kustomer has also added three key executives. Gabe Larsen joined as VP, Marketing from Xant (formerly InsideSales.com). Mike Chapin, formerly of Knewton, will serve as VP, General Counsel, and Secretary. Tanya Livingstone also joins Kustomer from Knewton as VP, People. “As we look to the future and our next phase of growth, we are fortunate to have Gabe, Mike, and Tanya join us. These three leaders will play a big role in scaling our business for success as we plan to double our headcount in the next twelve months,” says Birnbaum. “I look forward to working with these talented executives and welcome them to the Krew.”
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences – not resolve tickets. A customer-centric solution, Kustomer helps brands increase satisfaction and loyalty by empowering agents to engage customers in personalized, efficient, and effortless conversations. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Glossier, Ring, ThirdLove, Rent the Runway, Sweetgreen, Glovo, Away, UNTUCKit. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised $173.5M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.
Recently, Kustomer was referenced in the New York Times. In almost all circumstances that would be a good thing for a fast growing startup. But in this case, it was not. The New York Times article was not about how Kustomer is revolutionizing customer service. It was not about our commitment and singular mission of helping businesses treat their customers better, and our fast growth since 2015. It was about consumer value scores and our use of data. We felt this issue is such an important one that it required clarification.
Kustomer does not develop, generate or provide consumer value scores based on client data. Kustomer. Does. Not. Do. Consumer. Scoring. We don’t sell any personal data we come in contact with, use it for our internal business purposes, nor aggregate or share it across our clients.
As an enterprise SaaS software solution that powers the customer experience of today’s best brands across the globe, we take seriously the value of the data that may be placed in our hands by our clients. It is true, that in the course of using the Kustomer platform, our clients will necessarily store data of their customers. Our only role when it comes to that data is to help our clients deliver a standout service experience while keeping that data private and secure.
We know our clients take the data privacy and security practices of their vendors seriously. Various data privacy laws require it and their reputations depend on it. We are vetted regularly around the strength of our privacy and security controls.
To provide independent validation of our security practices and controls for safeguarding client data and to ensure that our clients meet their regulatory and compliance requirements, we have sought and achieved compliance for GDPR, HIPAA, SOC2 Type 1, and EU-US and Swiss-US Data Privacy Shield.
We have built robust logging, auditing, monitoring, and data encryption capabilities into the platform. We have also adopted industry best practices for security controls and processes throughout the many layers of the application environment and software development lifecycle. This has included strict endpoint management, extensive employee security awareness training, and comprehensive vulnerability management with regular 3rd-party penetration testing and code reviews.
Using third-party service providers and data processors is an essential part of any business’s operations, and data privacy laws for years have contemplated this reality. It’s disappointing that individuals were led to believe that Kustomer compiles information and creates some type of consumer value score or uses their personal data without consent. Instead, we are helping our clients perform an essential business function, which is to help them deliver exceptional customer service.
We honor the trust that customers place in our clients’ hands, and are committed to keeping those relationships strong, meaningful — and private.
Zappos and other companies with a similar “do anything for the customer” mindset have changed what’s expected from customer service – forever. Now, whether a year old or fifty years old, companies across industries and around the world are trying to provide the rich customer experiences necessary to compete.
This is why my Co-Founder Jeremy and I started Kustomer. After years of building technology for contact centers, we made it Kustomer’s mission to reimagine how a software platform could make personalized, efficient, and effortless customer service a reality.
Our latest round of funding, a $40 million Series D announced yesterday, will further accelerate the development of the Kustomer platform and help our customers deliver an even better service experience to their customers. Led by Tiger Global Management, this round of funding is our third in the past twelve months following our Series C this past January and our Series B last June, and brings our total funding to $113.5 million.
We are humbled to have had each of these rounds led by three of the leading venture firms in Redpoint Ventures, Battery Ventures, and now Tiger Global Management. All of our investors offer us tremendous expertise, sound business insights, and support a CEO can only dream of receiving. The opportunity to now partner with Tiger Global Management is particularly exciting as they are true believers in the customer service and CRM spaces and share our vision for the future.
That future is a bright one because of the dedication of our Krew to building a next-generation platform and developing strong relationships with our customers. Through their efforts we have grown by 350% over the past year and extended our technical lead over legacy, outdated solutions in the space.
The Kustomer platform uses intelligence to automate repetitive, manual tasks and provide service agents unprecedented insight into a customer’s history. By unifying customer purchase and activity history from all of a company’s systems on the Kustomer timeline, agents have data-driven, actionable conversations without changing screens. As a true omnichannel platform customers and agents can switch between different channels as needed during a conversation, while maintaining the context to progress conversations forward without customers repeating information. Kustomer supports seamless communication through email, chat, SMS, voice, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter.
The additional funding dramatically increases our runway even as we ramp up our already aggressive plans to build on our unprecedented growth. This includes significant investments in our product and engineering teams to drive innovation. In particular, we will double down on artificial intelligence and machine learning to further enhance our business process automation capabilities. We will also continue our international expansion and will open our European data center later this summer. Most importantly, we will enlarge our customer experience team to ensure that our customers receive the same strong support from us that they provide to their customers.
Finally, I want to thank all of our customers who make this journey possible. Your passion and customer-first focus is an inspiration to us everyday. Thank you.
NEW YORK, NY — May 29, 2019 — Kustomer, the SaaS platform that is reimagining enterprise customer service, today announced its $40 million Series D funding round led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from current investor Battery Ventures. This marks the company’s third round of financing in less than twelve months and brings the company’s total funding to $113.5 million, following its recent $35 million Series C raise in January of this year.
Founded in 2015, Kustomer empowers businesses to provide the customized, data-driven support necessary to succeed in today’s customer-first world. Its platform uses intelligence to automate repetitive, manual tasks and provide service agents unprecedented insight into a customer’s history. Leveraging customer data and omnichannel communication capabilities enables companies to seamlessly connect with their customers in ways unavailable in other products. Kustomer is the only company to provide the technology and tools needed to meet the growing expectations of today’s consumer. The Kustomer platform is used by today’s leading service-oriented brands including Ring, Rent the Runway, Glovo, Glossier, Away and UNTUCKit.
“Today’s successful businesses are using Kustomer to deliver personalized, responsive, and high value service in less time and at less cost. As a result, we have seen our growth trajectory outpacing many successful enterprise SaaS vendors at a similar stage. Looking to the future, we will use these funds to further invest in automated intelligence and ensure the platform extends our lead in innovation over legacy systems such as Salesforce and Zendesk. We are excited to continue to accelerate our growth and bring increasingly intelligent and differentiated solutions to our customers,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-founder of Kustomer.
This funding round comes after a year of explosive growth for the company. In the past twelve months, Kustomer grew by 350% and expanded operations to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Kustomer will also continue to grow abroad by increasing its European presence and plans to double its overall staff size worldwide by the end of this year.
In addition, Wendi Sturgis, the CEO of Yext Europe and Chief Client Officer at Yext, has joined Kustomer’s Board of Directors as an independent board member. A seasoned technology executive, Sturgis has held leadership positions at world-class technology companies, including Oracle, Gartner, Right Media, and Yahoo!. “Kustomer is one of the fastest-growing startups in its space, and I am pleased to join them on their mission to redefine what it means to truly put the customer first, radically shift the approach to customer management and ultimately manifest this in state-of-the-art marketing automation,” said Sturgis. “Plus, when it comes to leadership teams, I am drawn most to disruptors — but only those with the highest integrity. I could not have chosen better, in coming to work with Brad Birnbaum and the incredible team he has assembled.”
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences – not resolve tickets. Built with intelligent automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business by unifying data from multiple sources and enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Rent the Runway, Glossier, Away, Glovo, Slice and UNTUCKit. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, raised over $113.5M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.
Brad Birnbaum reflects on the latest CS trends in his recent Forbes column
Kustomer CEO and Co-founder Brad Birnbaum is a Forbes Contributor covering trends in the customer service industry. His column this month is a call to action for enterprise customer service leaders: prioritize strategic thinking and challenge the status quo. It’s the only way to continue offering a truly modern, delightful customer experience.
As Brad writes, “If you’re a CS leader, I believe embracing this strategic mindset shift is the best thing for your professional career, your customers, and your brand value.”
I couldn’t be more proud, and like any proud CEO – I want to give you a brief taste of our Krew’s journey this past year, including a sneak peak of what’s to come.
2018 was a terrific year for everyone here at Kustomer. I can report our Krew keeps doing what we do best – building a cutting-edge product, growing a solid team and deepening friendships with our customers. We’ve grown revenue by 500% year-over-year. 500%! That puts us as one of the fastest growing startups against industry benchmarks!
The Kustomer platform is second to none. We provide a next-generation alternative to outdated technologies. We’re a solution to an endless queue of tickets that weighs companies down and frustrates their agents and customers. We designed our platform from scratch, focusing on a first-of-its-kind data model and incorporating a single view of customer interactions in our timeline. We are the disruptor brand – focused and fierce.
And we’re being noticed.
Brands at the top of their game, logos like Glossier, Away, UNTUCKit, Ring and others, are the companies who choose Kustomer. We’re also being noticed by our competition as we quickly take their market share, offering a better alternative to legacy and decades old products. Finally, we’re being noticed by the VCs. Kustomer is fortunate to have top VCs believing in our mission to disrupt the customer management space. Adding Battery Ventures continues to level up the prestige of our investment team. We’re disrupting one of the largest growing SaaS markets in the world.
I am especially excited to have Neeraj Agrawal join the Kustomer Board of Directors. You may already know Neeraj as the originator of the T2D3 (triple, triple, double, double, double) cadence for measuring hyper-growth in startups. He’s a seasoned investor and has been supporting the momentum of great products and companies. Check out the Midas list. He’s been a member of this exclusive group for 8 consecutive years!
With the additional capital, we’re investing in growth.
2019 will be epic. There’s so much on the horizon for Kustomer and many opportunities ahead of us this year. If you haven’t noticed our new branding, check out our new website. We’re maturing as a company and I am proud of our brand’s new look and feel. We will continue accelerating our go-to-market strategy and investing in our marketing and sales organizations to reach a wider base of companies, faster.
We’re also continuing our international expansion this year. With brands like Glovo and Paddle in the EU using Kustomer every day, we feel this market is ready for us. We’re targeting more up-market companies.
The Kustomer platform will continue to add capabilities and innovations as it evolves. Our product roadmap is extensive and includes significant investment in AI and efficiency capabilities. Keep an eye for our product releases and announcements throughout the year. Exciting stuff is coming your way.
We’re doing all this for our customers. The most passionate, people-first brands, because like you, our customers always come first. That will never change; no matter what we take on in the future. Without our customers, none of our achievements would be remotely possible.
Kustomer is the first company making real Customer Friendships possible.
Adds Neeraj Agrawal, General Partner at Battery Ventures, to Board of Directors.
Kustomer, the next-generation customer management platform for the people-first enterprise, announced today a $35 million Series C round led by Battery Ventures, bringing Kustomer’s total funding to $73.5 million. The investment comes just 6 months after its Series B round in June of 2018. Kustomer plans to use the capital to accelerate its go-to-market strategy, expand internationally, and invest in its platform, launching new products while cementing its position as the next-generation alternative to legacy solutions like Salesforce, Oracle and Zendesk.
Neeraj Agrawal, a general partner at Battery Ventures and a seasoned B2B software investor, joins Kustomer’s Board of Directors. Battery Ventures joins current investors Redpoint Ventures, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures, Social Leverage and Cisco Investments who also participated in the round.
“From early on, leading brands in the B2C and DTC segments were attracted to Kustomer because we provide a next-generation alternative to outdated technologies and a solution to an endless queue of tickets that’s weighing companies down and frustrating their agents and customers,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO of Kustomer. “Kustomer’s first-of-its-kind data model and one, single timeline view of customer interactions and events have differentiated us from legacy solutions and are the basis for our 500% year-over-year growth.”
Kustomer’s explosive growth has been driven by its ability to attract large companies with thousands of service agents, rising frustration from existing outdated solutions that fail to deliver on their customer experience promise, the need for business process automation to drive efficiencies, and an overall shift in approach to customer management.
“We’ve been closely following Kustomer’s impressive growth and see a large opportunity for the company to become one of the top players in this market—owing mainly to its powerful platform, experienced team and ability to execute on its vision,” said Battery’s Agrawal. “We’re excited to leverage Battery’s global network and company-scaling expertise to partner with Brad and the rest of the Kustomer team to help the company expand further into the enterprise market.”
NYC-based Kustomer is one of the fastest-growing startups in its space. The company’s growth momentum is demonstrated by the expanding list of disruptive and innovative brands – like Ring, Rent the Runway, Glovo, Glossier, Away, Slice, Sweetgreen and UNTUCKit – using Kustomer to deliver on their people-first promise everyday.
“Since switching to Kustomer from Desk.com, we’ve seen a 30-second decrease in handle time for voice interactions, a 25% overall improvement in efficiency and productivity from our team members, and a significant improvement in our FCR rate,” commented Mike Vroom, Customer Service Director at the click and brick retailer UNTUCKit. “I knew we were going to be more efficient with Kustomer, but I didn’t know HOW much more efficient. The ease of use has been really flawless, and everything our team members need is finally all in one place.”
“Kustomer has completely transformed our customer support operation here at Glovo.” Remarks Sergi Mendez, Global Head of Live Operations Support. “We are a three-sided marketplace, meaning our 2,000 agents provide support for our Glovers, merchants, and consumers. Through powerful workflows and simple integrations, our agents are able to handle over 1.8 million conversations per month across multiple channels without switching interfaces/platforms. Since switching to Kustomer, we have increased efficiency and are constantly improving live support to our users in over 20 countries across the globe.”
To keep up with growing demand, Kustomer has doubled the size of it’s workforce in 2018 and is planning on more than doubling it again in 2019. Today it is also announcing key senior leadership appointments, bolstering its leadership team capabilities as it takes on giant industry leaders and continues its growth momentum: Amir Oren as VP of Finance (Formerly of Talkdesk, Zendesk and Dropbox), Nelly Rinot as VP of Marketing (Formerly of NICE, RRD and Radware), Alex Gadd as VP of Customer Experience (Formerly of SugarCRM and Oracle), and the promotion of Vikas Bhambri to SVP, Global Sales and Customer Experience (Formerly of Oracle, LivePerson and 8×8).
“We are fortunate to have incredible depth and breadth of talent across Kustomer’s executive team,” said Birnbaum. “As we start executing on our strategy, I strongly believe the new appointments will help us tightly integrate all functions of the company and will help pave the way to our continued success in revolutionizing the customer management, service and support space in 2019 and beyond.”
Customer Friendships are created with Kustomer. Our customer management platform for the people-first enterprise is intelligent, powerful and flexible, and scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business. Agent-friendly as well as customer-friendly – Kustomer unifies data from multiple sources, enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading People-first brands like Ring, Rent the Runway, Glossier, Away, Glovo, Slice, Sweetgreen, Stella & Dot, and UNTUCKit. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, raised over $70M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures, Social Leverage and Cisco Investments.
Battery strives to invest in cutting-edge, category-defining businesses in markets including software and services, Web infrastructure, consumer Internet, mobile and industrial technologies. Founded in 1983, the firm backs companies at stages ranging from seed to private equity and invests globally from offices in Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, London, Israel and New York. Follow the firm on Twitter @BatteryVentures, visit our website at www.battery.com and find a full list of Battery’s portfolio companies here.