Helpshift Aims to Make Customer Support Proactive and Autonomous

Helpshift's cofounder and CEO, Abinash Tripathy, maintains that omnichannel service is not the answer to customers' growing expectations. As customers increasingly expect faster, more efficient support, the need for more sophisticated self-service support and support through artificial intelligence will grow. With $23 million in funding, Helpshift plans to continue improving its in-app messaging customer service tool by making it more proactive.

"Omnichannel won't work in the world that we are heading towards," Tripathy says. "We are headed towards a world where technology and artificial intelligence will have to augment the human effort, and channels such as email and phone are going to be ineffective because you can't automate them as well as messaging," he adds. Rather than focus on omnichannel, Tripathy insists that brands should shift their attention to mobile. "Look at Starbucks. They're holding $1.2 billion in the mobile wallet."

But not all mobile messaging is created equal. While some brands are starting to use channels such as Facebook Messenger to offer customer support, the channel has its limitations. Not everyone is a Facebook Messenger user, for example, so requiring that a customer download an app or start using a service they're not familiar with isn't the most seamless way to provide support. Instead, Tripathy is urging customers to opt for in-app support. "In-app support ensure that the company is reaching 100 percent of its customer base. [Furthermore,] companies should avoid taking customers out of the app environment that they're already engaged in," he says.

With its latest wave of funding from Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and other investors, Helpshift will continue to innovate its existing products, taking advantage of the in-app support ecosystem that it has built. Until recently, customer service has largely been a reactive space—a customer has a problem with a product or service, reaches out to the company that provides that product or service, and the company in turn attempts to solve the problem. Now, the model is changing, and companies are working to become more proactive, identifying problems before customers point them out. "This is another reason why being in-app is so important. We can detect any issues before customers start noticing them, and reach out to them proactively," he says.

And once those proactive engagements are optimized, the eventual next step will be ensuring that customer service is autonomous. "We'll likely never replace the human element, but artificial intelligence is going to become an important component for customer service," Tripathy says. As chat bots become smarter, "we'll eventually transition from reactive to proactive and then autonomous interactions," he adds.

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