HelpFlow, a live chat service, is growing

In July, I interviewed an entrepreneur from California for this podcast. His company manufactured and sold custom mouth guards, offering 24/7 customer support. How, I asked, can a small business afford 24/7 support?

“We use a third-party live chat service called HelpFlow,” said the entrepreneur told me.

It turns out that another entrepreneur founded HelpFlow. His name is John Tucker. I ran to him, trying to understand what business.

My interview with Tucker follows. An audio recording of our entire conversation is embedded below. Transcript edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about HelpFlow.

John Tucker: We provide live chat and customer service for e-commerce brands. We have been doing this since 2015.

From the beginning, we knew the value of good service for any brand. It is difficult to provide 24/7 operation with a fast response time. All owners find their business difficult, and to some extent they are right. We created a deep onboarding process by taking in a ton of business information. This is an intense form master.

We will know what you are selling. As examples, we explore specific customer questions about shipping times and returns. We have a method of getting answers suitable for any store. Then we have a product information process – we collect all of yours product pages, descriptions and reviews. We have an insane amount of data to answer product questions, including questions and answers from competitor 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 requests. If we still don’t know how to respond to something, we will discuss with the customer ways to respond.

Understanding a business is a data-intensive process. We then update this data over time as people chat and customers give us feedback.

Bandholz: What is your revenue model?

Tucker: We conclude an initial contract for three months, and then monthly. A new customer commits for 90 days, so there is a small financial buy-in. Until then, we have projected our costs and potential profits.

For chat, we charge a flat rate based on chat volume for 24/7 coverage. We do not charge for chat, avoiding wrong incentives with our customers.

We rigorously track sales generated through chat, know the customer’s break-even point, and generate much higher leads, even with misattribution, because some people who chatted would have bought anyway. We keep our pricing simple, but make our reports very detailed so clients can understand profitability.

Bandholz: Are you live chat only? What about email and online tickets?

Tucker: By mid-2020, we started with a simple chat. Then we launched customer service teams to manage the entire support process, from tickets to social media and so on.

We have done this for several clients and it has worked well. So now there are two parts to our business. One of them is chat, which focuses on conversion. Another is customer service. We can manage an entire customer service team.

We also offer staffing for clients with a proven process but need good agents.

Bandholz: Your agents are in the Philippines.

Tucker: Yes, we built a team from day one in the Philippines. Cultural differences between this 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 very process oriented with phenomenal technology. There’s a reason why they excel at software development.

Also, English is native to the Philippines. It is a very western culture and the customer service industry is established.

Bandholz: What is your technology stack, your software?

Tucker: When we respond to customer inquiries or recruit an agent, it’s all done on the customer’s own systems, working alongside their team. Customers have access to every chat and provide feedback. We will have greater access to customer systems when we perform all customer service operations.

We are super nerds at forecasting. We forecast how many tickets will come in, how much manpower we will need and when to start recruiting. Our entire business revolves around power forecasting and tracking.

Bandholz: What is your vision for HelpFlow?

Tucker: The journey has been exciting so far. We were in a good position for Covid when e-commerce exploded. We’ve grown a ton during that time. We are now focused on scaling and expanding beyond e-commerce into other areas.

The opportunities in healthcare are many, albeit complex. All types of business should provide 24/7 support.

Bandholz: Where can people contact you or buy your services?

Tucker: Our website HelpFlow.com. I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn.

https://www.practicalecommerce.com/helpflow-a-live-chat-service-ramps-up HelpFlow, a live chat service, is growing

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