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.