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Reinventing customer service: the modern contact center

Frustration. Impatience. Disappointment. Anger. These are feelings associated with a negative customer experience...and the old adage that an unhappy customer complains to 10 others?  No longer true. Thanks to social media that now sits at 1,000 or more! Furthermore, the cost of acquiring new customers is 5 to 25 times that of retaining existing ones, so the effects of poor experience can be absolutely devastating. Poor  experience can result from a number of factors such as being passed between multiple agents, misunderstanding of the problem, minimal information available from representatives, lack of personalized solutions, and wasted time (over the course of a lifetime, Americans spend an average of 43 days on hold!) — it’s no wonder the most recent ACSI Index revealed slumping customer satisfaction across much of the U.S. Economy.

This dire reality comes as no surprise to brands, who already consider customer service an extremely important priority (a recent survey by Forrester Research places Customer Service second only to Sales in terms of strategic investment). But what should B2C businesses do in order to ensure a positive customer experience? Focus on the customers employees. It’s the engagement from employee to customer that has the power to influence satisfaction, brand loyalty, and sales. The majority of customers contact a company when they have a problem, and if employees are not armed with the proper training and tools for resolution, they often bear the brunt of the resulting anger and frustration. Imagine juggling multiple irritated customers at once for 8 to 10 hours a day without the proper tools to appease them? It’s easy to see why contact centers are notorious for high turnover rates and low employee satisfaction. Unfortunately, even companies that have adopted infrastructure to aid with successful engagements are still forcing their contact center employees to piece together fragmented solutions including:

  • Analog telephony & routing software/service
  • Workforce management tools
  • Contact center software
  • CRM software

The issue is compounded when one considers the unique workflow of a large consumer brand, which needs to support extremely high volume of inbound queries, complicated processing rules, varied demands from the consumer, and collaboration across multiple departments. Thus, in order to supplement today’s offerings to get to a more complete solution, a brand today is forced to buy or build in-house a set of third-party tools like chat functionality, knowledge management, social plugins, and analytics and then spend significant IT resources stitching the whole kit and caboodle together. The resulting solutions are still plagued by:

  • Legacy, on-premise software with brittle integration between tools
  • Siloed communications by channel (email, voice, chat, etc)
  • Little business insight or understanding of the customer
  • Support agents having to manage 10+ application windows and 3-4 support tickets per interaction

The Opportunity

From a venture capital standpoint, the intersection of pain points from multiple sources (in this case, brands and consumers) can lead to valuable opportunities, and this is especially true here when you consider that the customer engagement center market size is $12bn and growing, with $7bn attributed specifically to the contact center market.

Timing within the larger innovation ecosystem is also key, as the demand for a modern contact center solution is influenced by the prevalence of:

  • Cloud/SaaS adoption.  45% of new deployments in this market were SaaS-based while <5% of existing complex contact centers are SaaS
  • Mobile.  30-40% of customer interactions are now taking place on mobile, while only 5-8% of  customer service & support interactions are through mobile channels. There will be a significant push to close this gap
  • Social. Social media engagements for customer service have become critical for companies to deliver a superior customer engagement

Just as they are accustomed to in their daily life, consumers expect to be able to interact with their brands through a variety of digital applications – and the brands have taken note: 84% of retailers say that consistent communications across channels is important. This has led to a growing realization that the contact center needs to transform from a “back-office” trouble ticket mentality, to one that, if done correctly with modern software, can enhance revenue, reduce churn, and increase loyalty among the customer base for brands.

The Solution

Today, we are excited to announce our investment in Gladly, a next generation software provider for the contact center market serving B2C brands.  We believe that in the evolution of business application software towards the cloud, the contact center is one of the last remaining markets ripe for innovation and disruption.

Gladly was built to help rethink how the world’s top brands communicate with their customers. The platform arms contact center representatives with information, organization and efficiency—enabling them to be brand heroes. At the heart of this is the focus on transforming existing customer service from a “trouble ticket/case” mentality, to a “conversation” mentality.  A successful conversation should include the following:

  • A single, unified communication channel that spans across voice, email, chat, web, SMS, & social networks with the customer and the agent able to switch between communication streams seamlessly and from any device
  • A 360 degree customer view for the agent, including buying history, lifetime value, location, demographics, and other information needed to create a more personalized, engaged experience 
  • A focus on agent efficiency (often overlooked) in terms of notifications, reusable content, collaboration, and fewer complex workflows
  • A robust suite for analytics and reporting such that managers can accurately and reliably gain visibility into the contact center to assess productivity, gauge key business metrics and measure ROI 

Over the course of NEA’s 40 year history, entrepreneurs and teams have been the lifeblood of our success.  Our enthusiasm for Gladly begins and ends with the team: Co-founder and CEO, Joseph Ansanelli, is a successful entrepreneur (he founded several companies including Vontu, which was acquired by Symantec) and a repeat NEA entrepreneur (Joseph was the CEO & co-founder of Connectify, an NEA company acquired by Kana Software).  We also take great care to ensure that beyond the management teams, we invest in companies where the investor syndicates share our value system.  In that regard, we’re thrilled to continue our long and prosperous relationship with our friends at Greylock (Joseph is also a partner at Greylock), with whom our co-investing track record includes significant homeruns such as Data Domain and Workday.

Gladly embodies the perfect combination of technological innovation, market opportunity, talented team, and investor syndicate quality. We look forward to partnering with them to reinvent the standard and capabilities of the contact center.

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