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Engaging with customers is one of the most difficult challenges for most companies. With the growing number of ways consumers interact with brands — from phone calls, to texting, to social media messaging —  it’s becoming increasingly hard for companies to aggregate interactions into useful information.

Even today, customer service products focus on individual communication channels and treat customers as case numbers or tickets. The founders of Gladly think this standard needs to change. They are reimagining the business/consumer relationship by centralizing all communications and making the atomic unit of their product what it should be: the customer.

Greylock investment partner and Gladly CEO Joseph Ansanelli and Gladly VP of engineering Michael Wolfe have a deep history of successful ventures together. The two first worked with each other at Kana, an early customer service software company that helped managed email and web-based communications.

The pair later founded Vontu, a data loss prevention software that was later acquired by Symantec. In 2015, they got the band back together and incubated Gladly at Greylock Partners with a mission to change how large enterprises interact with their many customers.

(Disclosure: Greylock is an investor in Gladly.)

Below are a few key takeaways from the discussion.

  • Being channel agnostic: Michael explains the difference between focusing on the customer versus focusing on the communication channel. Legacy customer service platforms silo conversations inside of individual channels. Gladly’s philosophy is that all past interactions with a customer across any channel should be easily accessible.
  • Your customer defines your business: For startups, the key to success is identifying your first set of customers. Gladly looked for industries where communication and the customer relationship are a competitive advantage, such as travel, commerce, and retail.
  • Attacking the big mountain: Joseph’s experience at Greylock has taught him that the most seminal enterprise companies end up becoming a core platform and system of record. This takes a different go to market strategy, requiring large customers in big markets and a high amount of capital.
  • The future of customer service: Joseph foresees customer service as being a natural, empathetic conversation between companies and customers. He hopes companies achieve a level of complete understanding of a customer’s past experience and proactively assist their customers.

Elisa Schreiber is the marketing partner at Greylock Partners.

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