Tushar Makhija of Helpshift: Using Proactive Support to Provide Great Mobile Customer Service

As we discovered last month, marketers are building mobile marketing platforms out of smartphones to tap into how much time we spend looking at them. That is why mobile devices also make a great mobile customer service platform, providing opportunities to answer questions right where customers  are looking — without making them jump around.

Tushar Makhija, Vice President of Business Development for customer support/engagement platform provider Helpshift shares with us how offering customer support assistance right from within your mobile app can craft the kind of experiences that create loyal customers. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)

TusharSmall Business Trends: Tell me a little bit about yourself before we jump into this conversation.

Tushar Makhija: My background is engineering and product. I started my career working at VMware as a software engineer. And then from engineering, I moved to product, dabbled in a few failed startups, learned a lot, and then I finally met with the team working on Helpshift.

Small Business Trends: I want to ask you to talk a little bit about what Helpshift does. But also let me congratulate Helpshift for winning the 2014 CRM Idol Contest, which is a contest that’s been going on for a couple of years now looking for (CRM focused) companies that are not as well known but doing some really interesting, potentially big things.

Tushar Makhija: Thank you. Helpshift is a customer support and customer engagement platform where app developers, app providers, get to have a direct in-app communication channel with their customers. This can be used for support. This can be used to generate feedback, to get positive ratings on the app store — essentially, your in-app communication platform.

Small Business Trends: A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a gentleman by the name of Mark Tack. He’s the VP of marketing for a company called Vibes and they are involved in making the mobile device a marketing platform, and transforming mobile payments into the broader concept of the mobile wallet and how that increases the opportunity for engagement with customers. But that’s driven on the idea or from the perspective of marketing, and that side of the house.

From the customer service side of the house, how important is it to drive customer service experiences through the mobile device?

Tushar Makhija: It really opens up what I call reactive support to proactive support. Today, a customer is literally raising their hand and sending you an email or initiating a chat and saying, ‘Hey, I have a problem. Come help me.’ And then the customer support agent will ask you for your information, what your problem is, and then end up solving the problem. So this could be a two to three minute engagement.

Now come into the beautiful world of mobile, and you have an app. The app has Helpshift already integrated, so Helpshift is already listening to what you are doing inside the app. And for example, the app crashes. So you logged back in again. An automatic message can be sent to the user saying, ‘We know you experienced a crash. Do you want to tell us more information about it?’ The customer is still opting in to send you the first message, but they did not have to go into a support section inside an app or on your website to start that conversation. You proactively gave them the opportunity to engage with you. This can lead to more sophisticated ways of reaching out to customers.

We have customers today in mobile gaming — say it’s a battle conquest game. If you win five battles in a row, automatically the prompt is ‘Hey, please share your experience about playing the game.’ We have seen up to 30 percent more engagement if you prompt a message at the right time in the app. So I think moving forward, customer support teams will now be also responsible to drive more engagement.

For example, if you talk to me at that right point in time when I was ready to abandon a cart, or faced an app crash, I can come and give you a reasonable answer; listen to the customer. Have a relationship with the customer. You will see a consistent increase in LTV (lifetime value) for a user, and you will see lower churn. And in mobile I think it would be done more proactively.

Small Business Trends: Do they have to be kind of high-tech related in order to benefit the most?

Tushar Makhija: I think irrespective of the type of business, if your audience is adopting to utilize your service from the mobile device, then you have to cater and deliver marketing, support, and engagement the mobile-first way.

The latest app that went live is a tax app where the tax professional is saying now you can talk to him and ask your questions through the app. eCommerce has seen a lot of adoption. Gaming has seen a lot of adoption. Productivity tools, again, right? Where phone calls may not be the best way to talk to someone, and email is delayed and out of channel, in-app just becomes the right point of contact.

Most recently one of the customers inspects houses. Now, if the field agent has a problem about the order, they were literally standing there making a phone call. So what this company did was create an app, and when this field agent is out there working on the site, they pull up the app and have all their work orders lined up. They have all the information about the customer, all the notes, all available right there. And the next thing they are doing, if they have a problem, they hit the button which says contact. Now this becomes a more real-time conversation, but it’s cheaper because it’s not over the phone. One agent can do three live chats versus only one phone call.

So this is how they are using it. Building an app is not very difficult. You build an app, you load it onto the Android or iOS devices for your people. Now these field agents just use the Helpshift in-app functionality to get more information about the field order if they have a question. It just adds more efficiency.

Small Business Trends: Where could we learn more?

Tushar Makhija: Helpshift.com

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

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