For many growing startups, keeping on top of customer service queries by email and live chat is a difficult task. While there are a plethora of great software tools offered by the likes of Zendesk, Ticksy and Salesforce, having people to answer queries in real time with the quality and empathy needed to make each customer feel at ease poses a real challenge, especially for growing startups that have small teams and limited resources.
This is what Michael De Wildt, co-founder and creator of Wordpress Plugin for Dropbox, realised while working on his venture. So he teamed up with Leni Mayo, veteran internet entrepreneur and founder of several startups to create Influx, a company dedicated to taking away the load of having to answer customer tickets for client businesses. Fast forward three years, and they have grown into a team of over 100 passionate and dedicated engineers, managers and helpdesk staff across four different locations and time zones in Melbourne, Indonesia, Kenya and Jamaica. They serve early stage and growing startups worldwide and have over 100 loyal clients on their books.
Alex Holmes, Chief Marketing Officer at Influx, shared his thoughts about his company on the latest edition of the Startup Melbourne podcast.
According to Alex, “We offer elastic customer service on demand for startups. So that allows us to do 24/7 support with email tickets and live chats and improve the support experience for our clients.”
Outsourcing of customer service to external parties and especially to business processing centres in places like India and the Philippines is a standard practice for many large Western corporations.
So what is Influx doing differently that others already haven’t?
Well, Influx is upending the classical outsourcing model through innovative people and technology-oriented solutions.
1. Employee Culture
Influx recruits highly motivated and dedicated engineers and customer service staff across their worldwide locations. Having teams in four different time zones means that at each site, staff work regular office hours and as a whole Influx can answer queries in real time, 24/7.
Influx has made significant investments towards people management, including developing an automated training tool, to empower staff with all the necessary skills and support to do their best at their jobs. Thus, they have a low turnover, which is often not the case for traditional outsourcing companies. In fact, many of their founding employees having moved up to manager positions within their teams.
2. Technology tools
The company has developed an Influx Assistant tool that integrates seamlessly with existing client CRM systems and helps to automatically pull tickets onto a dashboard, thus streamlining the workflow and enhancing staff productivity. Third party support tools such as Slack also assist them to remain in constant contact with teams in different locations and ensure smooth customer service delivery in real time.
3. Quality Assurance
Influx has established a dedicated team that looks into Quality Assurance (QA) across tickets on the four dimensions of comprehension, brand, depth and empathy. This enables teams to learn from the feedback and develop their responses with each iteration. As opposed to other outsourced providers that often focus on response time and volume, Influx takes a ‘quality first’ approach, ensuring clients are getting an exceptional value for their money.
From Alex’s experience from having worked in a number of startups in San Francisco and Melbourne, he estimates that about 5 - 10 percent of the workforce at any startup is directed towards customer support and so is 5 - 10 percent of total revenue. Further research indicates that 84% of companies are looking to outsource their customer service function to an external provider as it is too difficult to run in-house without a 24/7 team in place. This represents an enormous multi-billion dollar global opportunity for Influx.
Due to cost advantages in having teams in low-cost locations, Influx is also in an enviable position to provide attractive pricing options for startups.
Alex says, “We are different from other providers I know in that clients only pay per output with us. So that means that they only pay when we answer to a customer.”
Additionally, having a team of over 20 talented engineers on board on their support teams means that Influx can help their target market of SaaS and eCommerce companies painlessly deal with their more complex queries.
Thus Influx has a great business model in the niche that they are operating within. The startup scene globally has been on the upswing in recent years, and most companies looking to build a brand identity need to invest in customer happiness. However, for a resource limited early stage venture or a company that is exponentially growing, getting all the elements together to have an efficient and quality customer service protocol that meets the demand is a huge challenge. It is where Influx can come in with their existing infrastructure of talent and technology and help to create capacity and drive the success of these businesses.