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The Customer Service Evolution: Cisco’s Investment in Kustomer


This post by Shiv Sharma originally appeared on the Cisco Investments blog.

Do you dread your interactions with Customer Service? Are you tired of identifying yourself, your problem and all your interactions with the product or services to multiple agents? Do you wish call centers were more respectful of your time? Well, you are not alone.

As both an enterprise technology investor and a leading provider of Customer Care technology, we realize that this market is at an inflection point. An organization that was historically focused on cost efficiency and customer call deflection is now going through a dramatic shift. Enterprises are realizing that Customer Support can serve as a competitive differentiator and increase customer loyalty, thus driving higher customer lifetime value. Moreover, as leading brands have created exceptional user experiences in their interactions with customers other brands are feeling the pressure to up-level the experience they deliver to their customers as well, including Customer Support. Finally, companies are realizing that increasing customer intimacy is a top priority in a world where trends and distribution channels are rapidly shifting.

With that said, we at Cisco Investments are thrilled to announce our investment in Kustomer, a fast-growing SaaS startup which is fundamentally changing how companies manage Customer Support.

What is the opportunity?

At Cisco, we are witnessing firsthand a change in purchasing behavior. Enterprises are asking for more customer-centric, “customer journey” solutions and are also beginning to adapt their own offerings to customer preferences. It began with enterprises introducing support for multiple channels (e.g., SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter) and should accelerate as enterprises allocate greater resources to digitizing legacy contact centers. Successful B2C brands sit at the forefront of this trend and are early adopters. These companies use Customer Support as a lever to provide an exceptional, differentiated customer experience. Our thesis is that this trend will continue to accelerate within these newer customer-centric brands, and more traditional enterprises will soon follow suit.

Why do we like Kustomer?

Let’s take a look at how Kustomer enables organizations to drive an improved customer experience through customer support:

A customer-centric view of ticketing

Unlike most ticketing systems today, Kustomer ties inbound support issues directly with the customer and not a multi-digit case number. This method provides agents with context on who that customer actually is. For example, agents can view purchase history, customer sentiment (using a proprietary AI), promotional offers received, and historical interactions. This is a fundamentally new approach to customer service that enables a more human and personalized service that is lacking in the industry.

System of record for Customer Support

Traditionally, CRM and Customer Support operated as silos in an organization. However, enabling support teams to proactively utilize customer data offers a powerful dimension to deepen the understanding of one’s customer base. For example, if a B2C company is sold out of a particular pair of jeans, support agents could proactively reach out to customers and propose a potential alternative based on original purchase intent. Also, brands can offer preferred treatment to loyal customers by routing to the most skilled agents with the shortest hold times.

A truly omnichannel solution–both customer and agent-friendly

Kustomer differentiates on its ability to natively support customer communication with the most popular chat, messaging, and social media channels. Also, for the agents’ benefit, Kustomer unifies these conversations into a single-pane of glass whereas historically these have existed in separate windows on the agent desktop (i.e. voice, chat, dedicated social agents). This improves agent efficiency and productivity.

Integrates customer service with complex workflows

Kustomer is a highly configurable solution that enables companies to integrate custom workflows with various enterprise applications. We believe this functionality will be critical to Kustomer’s ability to scale, differentiate in competitive enterprise RFPs, and deliver on the promise of improved productivity for the customer service function.

Management team’s track record of success

Last but definitely not least, we are absolutely thrilled to begin working closely with Kustomer’s management team. The Kustomer team is the most experienced collection of innovators in the customer service domain. Before founding Kustomer in 2015, CEO Brad Birnbaum and CTO Jeremy Suriel founded Assistly, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2011 (re-branded Desk.com at Salesforce). As we got to know Brad and the team, it was apparent that Brad leveraged his experiences to architect a solution that truly fills a gap in the market landscape.

The future outlook of Kustomer

Our mission is to support the modernization of the enterprise, and we are thrilled that our investment in Kustomer strengthens that commitment. The rapid adoption seen by Kustomer in the short time since their product launch confirms that forward-looking, customer-centric companies recognize and value Kustomer’s product offering. Going forward, we are excited to work with Kustomer to help accelerate the reach of their platform to organizations that are seeking to leverage Customer Support as a competitive differentiator.

About the author: Shiv Sharma joined Cisco Investments in 2017 and focuses on investment and acquisition opportunities in the Collaboration market. Before joining Cisco, Shiv interned at Fidelity International in London analyzing global internet equities and worked in Private Equity at Palisade Capital Management where he focused on various growth-oriented investments. Previously, Shiv was an Investment Banking Analyst in the Technology Group at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

Press Release: Kustomer Secures $26 Million in Series B Funding to Modernize Customer Experience

Read the announcement from Kustomer’s CEO Brad Birnbaum here.

Kustomer, the modern CRM platform for customer experience, service, and support, announced today it has raised $26 million in a Series B financing round, bringing its total funding to $38.5 million. Redpoint Ventures led the round with participation from Series A investors Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures, and Social Leverage. Cisco Investments also joined as a new strategic investor. Additionally, Tomasz Tunguz, Partner at Redpoint Ventures, will join Kustomer’s Board of Directors to further propel the company’s goal of transforming the customer service industry.

“We have all experienced bad customer service. We saw there was a real need for a modern CRM platform that focuses on the customer, rather than a support ticket, in order to eliminate these negative experiences.” – Brad Birnbaum, Co-Founder and CEO, Kustomer

As the digital age continues to bring customer behavior changes, the business processes that handle customer data need to adapt accordingly in order to exceed customer expectations. The only way companies and brands can differentiate in the direct-to-consumer age is with a full view of the customer, enabled by a platform approach to CX and service rather than siloed applications and traditional, outdated support ticketing systems.

“We have all experienced bad customer service. We saw there was a real need for a modern CRM platform that focuses on the customer, rather than a support ticket, in order to eliminate these negative experiences,” says Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Kustomer’s single customer timeline and intelligent workflow engine enable companies to personalize and automate complex use cases that take time and resources, allowing service teams to be more effective and productive. For example, if you order a dress for a friend’s wedding that is supposed to be delivered during a snowstorm, you may be a little worried it might not show up in time. To add to the stress, you have to call support, wait on the line, and provide all the personal information the company should already have in order to find out. With Kustomer, support agents already have your information and are able to proactively reach out to you on email or SMS to let you know about the delay, will provide an option to choose an alternate dress at no extra cost, and can update the shipping address as needed. Kustomer is providing modern service for the modern consumer.”

“Kustomer aligns with our approach of providing exceptional customer experiences by leveraging their platform to better empower our teams, and in turn, our customers.” – Jamie Siminoff, Founder and CEO, Ring

Kustomer’s CRM platform for customer experience enables service organizations to know everything about every customer. Kustomer empowers agents with real-time omnichannel capabilities and delivers personalized, memorable experiences at scale by integrating all business data and automating intelligent workflows, resulting in higher lifetime value.

“It is time for disruption in the customer support industry, and Kustomer is leading the way.” – Tomasz Tunguz, Partner, Redpoint Ventures

Kustomer has experienced rapid growth since it was founded in 2015, including clients with thousands of service agents, some of which are industry disruptors themselves. Jamie Siminoff, Founder and CEO of Ring explains, “By switching to Kustomer, we were able to lower our overall service and customer experience costs, while also increasing our team members productivity. Kustomer aligns with our approach of providing exceptional customer experiences by leveraging their platform to better empower our teams, and in turn, our customers.”

“It is time for disruption in the customer support industry, and Kustomer is leading the way,” said Tomasz Tunguz, partner at Redpoint Ventures. “Kustomer has had impressive traction to date, and we are confident the world’s best B2C and B2B companies will be able to utilize the platform in order to develop meaningful relationships, experiences, and lifetime value for their customers. This is an exciting and forward-thinking platform for companies as well as their customers.”

Kustomer will use this round of funding to expand its platform and focus on intelligence, integrations and enterprise capabilities as it continues to take on larger opportunities. Leveraging its rich customer data in the platform, Kustomer will broaden its capabilities starting with engagement. The company anticipates doubling its team within the next twelve months by expanding both domestically and internationally. Kustomer aims to enable all companies to provide memorable experiences by becoming customer-centric.

About Kustomer:
Kustomer is the modern platform for customer experience, service, and support that focuses on customers, not tickets, enabling companies to know everything about every customer to drive informed actions. Used by industry leaders such as Ring, Glossier, and Rent the Runway, Kustomer provides businesses with a full view of every customer by unifying all relevant data, interaction history, apps, and systems. Kustomer was founded in 2015 with headquarters in New York City.

We Just Raised $26M. Here’s Why That’s Great News for Your Customers

Kustomer has raised a $26M Series B round led by Redpoint Ventures and has added Cisco Investments as a new strategic investor to continue to disrupt the customer experience industry.

Brad Birnbaum, Co-Founder and CEO, Kustomer

At Kustomer, we’ve set out to make customer experiences better. We know what it’s like to call customer service, wait on hold, read off our order number, explain the issue, and wait some more—only to be told we should have been speaking with someone else the entire time. It’s bad for customers, and bad for business.

That is why we’re working tirelessly to revolutionize customer experience.

We built Kustomer to be the modern CRM platform for customer support and experience. It’s always been an alternative to outdated and disconnected ticketing systems. Our clients have access to a full timeline of every customer, giving every agent and customer-facing rep the ability to pull in all the relevant data from their customers and across the business to serve them with speed and efficiency. As companies and brands become more customer-centric, we believe all of them will need to transform their businesses into a modern service and support engine to meet rising expectations.

We have made great progress since launching, welcoming clients and fellow industry disruptors such as Ring, Glossier, and Rent the Runway. With this latest round of funding, we’re excited to invest even more in making customer experiences better for our clients, and the world at large.

Making our platform work smarter and harder:

We love our platform, and so do our customers. Now, we want them to love it even more. That’s why we’re investing in improving and expanding our integrations, as well as making our platform even more intelligent and intuitive.

By broadening the depth and breadth of our integrations, we will enable every company to provide a full view of every customer, whether they’re small or large, B2B or B2C, and anywhere in between. By integrating with more e-commerce platforms, data sources, workforce management solutions, third-party voice providers, and industry-specific solutions, we will continue to enable customer-centric companies to have every last piece of customer data in their Kustomer timeline. We know that the ways customers reach your business are always evolving, which is why we’ll continue to add new channels to our platform so they’ll always be engaged.

Our workflows are incredibly powerful, and many of our clients are already using them to do some amazing things. That’s why we’re going to make them simpler and easier to use—so that everyone has the power to deliver incredible automated experiences, no complex technical knowledge required.

We will also continue to make our platform even more intelligent. By continuing our investment in Machine Learning, Sentiment Analysis, Natural Language Processing, and other new advancements, we will continue to ensure that our clients can understand their customers even better so that they can deliver experiences that are truly cutting-edge.

Equipping enterprises for incredible experiences:

Large contact centers shouldn’t deliver experiences that feel like they’re from huge, disconnected enterprises—they should be as personal and meaningful as the most hands-on boutique. That’s why we’re going to offer Enterprise-level routing and queuing, ensuring that clients of all sizes can deliver experiences that feel immediate and valuable.

Keeping customer information safe is crucial—which is why internal security is our top concern and a core part of our ethos from when we were founded. We’re building out advanced new security features throughout our platform accordingly. We’ll never take a chance with your customer’s safety, and will keep working to find new ways to make them safer.

The best part? All of these advancements will give our clients of all sizes access to Enterprise-level functionality. No matter how many customers you have, we’re going to make sure you’re giving them an unparalleled experience.

Realizing our vision for the Kustomer platform:

Not to brag, but we know the customer service and experience space inside and out. Jeremy and I have over 20 years of experience in the industry, and we always planned to create an amazing platform for service and support. However, our ambitions don’t stop there. We built the Kustomer platform to be versatile, and already our customers have been using it for more than just service—they’ve been using it for engagement, marketing, and more. Now we’re going to be investing heavily in this functionality. We always knew our platform could do so much more for you and your customers, which is why we’re making it more powerful than ever. We recognize the power behind the rich customer datasets that are stored within Kustomer. Rest assured, we intend to help you leverage them to the fullest so that more teams within your organization can deliver experiences that will wow your customers.

Growing to serve you better:

In order to maintain the incredibly high level of customer focus we demand from ourselves, we will be tripling our Customer Experience team in the next 6 months to make sure we are always there for you; whatever you need. Also, to continue working towards our vision of the richest customer-centric platform available we will be more than doubling our engineering and product teams in the next 12 months to continue to be the most innovative product in the market. We will also continue to expand beyond our New York City headquarters by placing customer-centric roles across the US and eventually Europe.

And finally, thanks:

Kustomer customers, we see you, and we want to thank you for all of your support up to now. It’s been an incredible journey, not without a few bumps, and we have so much further to go. So thanks—we’ve got a lot to show you, and we hope you’re as excited for what’s to come as we are.

Learn more in our Press Release.

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