It is often said that startups should adopt an all-hands-on-deck approach to customer support. That is, while customer service is traditionally the domain of a dedicated team, startups are encouraged to get the entire staff involved, and that includes the founders.
The reason is simple: Startups at the discovery stage are still evaluating their hypotheses and figuring out their product. So, customer support doubles up as market research, which is why even product and marketing people, right up to the CEO, should be addressing customers’ problems themselves.
With this approach in mind, the team at SupportBee, an India and Vietnam based startup, have set out to build a help desk software that encourages everyone to get involved.
The web app does this with an innovative pricing structure. Unlike Zendesk and Freshdesk, which charge by agent, SupportBee charges by ticket volume instead. The fees are affordable, at USD 19 for 300 tickets a month after a 14-day free trial. This is aimed at encouraging whole teams to be engaged in problem solving.
The help desk software itself is designed to be simpler compared to its competitors, says Prateek Dayal, co-founder and CEO of Support Bee. There are no ticket states, no case IDs in customer replies, and so on. It is designed to work like email, meaning users can pick it up fairly quickly.
“The interface is super snappy and everything updates in real time to help users collaborate with their team members,” said Prateek.
Users can also browse customer history for context, initiate private discussion with team members, and integrate SupportBee with popular productivity apps like Campfire, Github, Pivotal, and Evernote. It even has an API to allow customers to customize their user experience.
In the near future, the team will improve the help desk software’s mobile experience and introduce an analytics feature.
As is often the case in the enterprise software world, continuity is an important consideration for adopting any software. People trust Google Apps because well, Google made it. Flush with cash and billions in revenue, it’s not a company that will disappear overnight.
SupportBee, on the other hand, needs to prove that it’ll be around for at least a few years. The company does have an upside: It has around 40 paying companies so far. Some of its customers include iProperty, one of the top property sites in Asia; Milaap, a microfinance platform; and Fashionandyou.com, a private fashion sales site in India.
The revenue generated from these customers will enable the startup to sustain itself while it raises seed funding from investors in India, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It currently only has a USD 40K equity-free grant from Startup Chile.
The SupportBee team consists of a mix of entrepreneurial and technical talent. Co-founders Prateek and Nithya Rajaram had together co-founded Muziboo, a free music upload and sharing tool. Prateek himself is a developer, and at SupportBee, he is joined by Avinasha Shastry and Anh Do, also developers. Nithya, however, isn’t working on the startup full-time.
Their technical chops were on display recently when over a weekend, they created AboutMyBrowser, a simple tool that enables even the most technologically illiterate user to find out detailed information about their web browser and send it to customer support teams. The web tool went viral on HackerNews, attracting some 508 upvotes.