In July I interviewed an entrepreneur in California for this podcast. Their business sells custom dental guards and importantly, provides 24/7 customer support. I asked, can a small business offer 24/7 support?
“We use a third-party live-chat service called Helpflow,” the entrepreneur told me.
It turns out that yet another entrepreneur has founded Helpflow. His name is John Tucker. I ran her down, tried to understand He Business.
My interview with Tucker follows. The audio of our full conversation is embedded below. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Helpflow.
John Tucker: We run live chat and customer service teams for ecommerce brands. We have been doing this since 2015.
We knew the value of any brand of good service right from the start. Providing a 24/7 experience with fast response times is tough. All owners think their business is complicated, and they are right up to a certain point. We have built an in-depth onboarding process with a wealth of business information. This is an in-depth wizard.
We will know what you sell. As an example we learn specific customer questions about shipping times and returns. We have a way to get answers that apply to any store. Then we have a process for getting information about products – we pull in all your product pages, descriptions and reviews. We have too much data to answer product-specific questions, including questions and answers from competing sites and Amazon.
The result is a solid knowledge base from the first few days of onboarding. We then work with the client to find additional questions. If we’re still not sure how to answer something, we’ll discuss ways to respond with the customer.
It is a very data-heavy process to understand the business. We update that data over time as people chat and clients provide us with feedback.
Bandolz: What is your revenue model?
Tucker: We do an initial contract of three months, and then month-to-month. A new client is committed for 90 days, so there is some financial buy-in. By then we have already estimated our costs and potential benefits.
On the chat side, we charge a flat rate for 24/7 coverage, depending on the volume of the chat. We don’t charge a per-chat fee, avoid unfairly treating our customers with incentives.
We are hardwired to track sales generated from chats, knowing the breakeven point of clients and generating much above that, even erroneously because some of the people in the chat would have bought anyway. We keep pricing simple but make reporting super granular for customers to understand profitability.
Bandolz: Are you only doing live chat? What about email and web-based tickets?
Tucker: We started with live chat only until the middle of 2020. We then launched customer service teams to drive the entire helpdesk process – from ticket, social, etc.
We did this for a few customers, and it worked well. So now we have two parts to our business. There is a chat, which is focused on conversions. The second is customer service operations. We can run a complete customer service team.
We also offer staffing for customers with a built-out process but need good agents.
Bandolz: Your agents are in the Philippines.
Tucker: Yes, we have made a team in the Philippines from day one. The cultural differences between that country and the US and Western economies are minor. In other regions, such as the Middle East, the differences are more pronounced. However, the Middle East is highly process-driven with unprecedented engineering. There’s a reason they excel at software development.
In addition, English is native to the Philippines. This is a very Western culture, and the customer service industry is established.
Bandolz: What’s Your Technology Stack, Your Software?
Tucker: Whether we’re answering customer queries or hiring an agent, it’s all done on the client’s own system with the team there. Customers have access to every chat and provide feedback. If we’re doing full customer-service operations, we’ll have more access to the client’s systems.
We are super nerdy at forecasting. We project how many tickets will arrive, how much manpower we will need, and when to start staffing. Our entire business revolves around forecasting and tracking capability.
Bandolz: What is your vision for Helpflow?
Tucker: The journey so far has been exciting. We were well positioned for COVID when ecommerce exploded. We grew a ton during that time. We are now focusing on scaling and expanding into other industries beyond e-commerce.
There are a lot of opportunities in healthcare, however complicated it is. All types of businesses need to provide 24/7 support.
Bandolz: Where can people connect with you or buy your services?