Helpshift has raised $10 million in venture capital funding to finance its expansion as the help desk for mobile app publishers. The company helps mobile game publishers like Supercell deal with millions of customer-service queries by intercepting more than 90 percent of those queries before they ever reach a real person.
San Francisco-based Helpshift, which was the winner of last year’s Innovation Showdown at our MobileBeat 2013 conference, has created a platform for customer service on mobile devices. It can be used to create frequently asked question (FAQ) documents that are easily searchable, even when the user it tapping away with thumbs on a mobile device. The search is context-sensitive and it delivers a suggested solution to the customer even as they finish typing a query for help.
Abinash Tripathy, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company wants to use its customer service platform as the foundation for “customer relationship management” (CRM) for mobile apps. Hundreds of apps are using Helpshift to do just that, and it is installed on more than 150 million devices. He said the company is helping to reduce the churn of users, or those who stop using an app, by 40 percent.
“To date, CRM has been used as a business-to-business solution for sales,” Tripathy. “We are using it as a tool for customer service, in B2C. We are like a messaging service built around customer service.”
Intel Capital led the round, with participation from Visionnaire Ventures, a new venture capital fund whose partners include Taizo Son, brother of Japan’s Masayoshi Son, head of SoftBank. Other participants include existing investors True Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners.
Supercell, the maker of popular games like Clash of Clans, uses the platform to deal with tens of millions of customers. When a customer needs help, they often contact the company for help, filing a customer service ticket that can be very expensive to answer. But Helpshift intercepts those tickets before they become really expensive and cause the startup to hire a bunch of customer service representatives.
The insight that Helpshift had was to create an effective communications layer between the customer and the company, and building that layer inside the app itself. You can use a touchscreen to maneuver through the platform and find answers more easily. When you do have to contact a person, you can do so through two-way text communications. And developers can simply find common answers to problems and paste the answer into a reply text.
Tripathy said that the reason that customer support has been expensive is that companies aren’t properly communicating with users. Their FAQs are unhelpful and the search mechanisms often don’t work. People have no choice but to contact a human.
By making the Help section helpful, Helpshift can reduce the volume of complaint tickets by 90 percent, Tripathy said. Customers include Supercell, Glu Mobile, and Flipboard. Supercell uses Helpshift in 17 languages. Supercell’s Boom Beach game could generate 40 milllion sessions a day. Of those, perhaps 40,000 will open the Help section of the game. And of those, maybe 200 would file a ticket. Supercell can see the volume of tickets on a daily basis, and Helpshift has already cut that volume by 50 percent.
Rivals include Zendesk and Salesforce on customer service, while Playnomics tries to target game companies with a CRM service. But Helpshift tries to go the extra mile by creating custom alerts and allowing service representatives to view a customer’s anonymized mobile account information, debug logs, and transaction history, as necessary. Helpshift never collects personally identifiable information on users.
The result is a reduction in customer service staff, driving down overhead costs, as well as a decrease in bad reviews and an improvement in customer retention. The company was cofounded by Tripathy, who started the India division of Zimbra Inc. (which was acquired by Yahoo ) along with cofounder and chief technology officer Baishampayan Ghose, in 2011. Helpshift launched its product in June 2013 and it has been gaining customers ever since.
The company previously raised $3.25 million from True Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners. Helpshift has 42 employees. Susan Choe, managing partner at Visionnaire Ventures will be joining the Helpshift board.
“Mobile gaming is the most significant app economy today, and as a result, most customer centric innovation in mobile happens here. As a media executive and investor, Helpshift’s machine learning based CRM technology allows leading gaming and m-commerce companies to focus their interactions with users in near tailored approach. Smart. So it’s not surprising Helpshift is rapidly being adopted by the who’s-who of the gaming industry. And we, at Visionnaire Ventures, are backing Helpshift to continue growing their global footprint, while delivering great customer experiences,” said Taizo Son, cofounder of GungHo Online Entertainment and a limited partner at Visionnaire Ventures.
“We’ve seen incredible global adoption of our platform among all parts of the app ecosystem, from games to m-commerce, to lifestyle apps,” said Tripathy. “We’ve realized we have something that most mobile companies could benefit from and the only challenge for us has been the ability to scale to meet the explosive demand. This round of funding will enable us to attack each of these major mobile verticals and bring the benefits of Helpshift to thousands of app publishers,” he said.