by Y Combinator11/30/2016
We sat down with Liz Tsai and Phil Salesses, founders of HiOperator, to talk about their product.
YC : What are you making?
HiOperator provides customer support as a service using US-based operators.
You train us once, and you can use our service as much as you need it. You pay per unit of customer service, i.e. per ticket, chat or call minute.
YC : What problem does it solve? Why is it better than other customer service solutions?
We solve three intertwined customer service problems companies typically have — seasonal volumes, employee churn and the constant need to train new staff. All are hugely disruptive and expensive for growing companies.
First, most companies have customer service needs that aren’t constant throughout the day, month or even year. Some companies are only busy in the mornings or during lunch. If you’re retail or e-commerce, your high season is the holidays. If you’re a gym or a financial institution, your busy season is in January. We let you scale your customer service team up and down from ½ an agent up to 50 operators a month worth of volume. You pay per request, so you’re not paying for any downtime.
Second, most small to medium-sized businesses don’t keep customer service employees for very long. Industry-wide, call centers have a 40% churn rate, and the average customer service person only stays at a company for 9 months. That means companies are constantly training new customer service hires. With HiOperator, you onboard us once, and you never have to worry about churn or training again.
YC : How does it work?
We’ve built software and processes to create superpowered support reps. We integrate with several major helpdesk and e-commerce platforms. A lot of work goes into ticket routing and tracking among our operators to ensure visibility and quality.
Our operators’ average customer service satisfaction score (or CSAT score as it’s usually called) is 98% and our clients have seen an average CSAT score improvement of 5% after two months of working with us.
We don’t mean to replace an entire customer service team. You still need people in house who are skilled and can take care of edge cases or other important problems. We can handle 80% of requests – the time consuming, routine stuff that comes in. We act as the first point of contact for customer service. We solve all the problems we can and escalate the bigger issues to a company’s in-house team.
YC : What type of businesses should be using you?
We’ve been working with a lot small to medium sized e-commerce and retail businesses so far. But really, any type of small-to-medium sized company should consider us.
Huge companies outsource their customer service and they get reasonable rates because of scale, but they get locked into multiyear contracts. When smaller companies offshore their customer service, they have to pay hourly, per head. We’re the only customer service operation we know of that has properly aligned incentives and can successfully charge by the ticket.
YC : Why are you going to be the team that wins in this space?
Instead of building a bot and turning it loose to frustrate customers, we build tools for our operators that let them handle a workload that would break normal humans.
At least 3 million Americans (1% of the USA) work in a call center, but most call centers are in specific geographic regions, like Texas or Arizona. We want to build a great system that will be easy to use for anyone, anywhere in the country — and we’re hoping we can provide jobs for people who aren’t located in those specific regions.
YC : How are you going to scale?
Beyond deeper integrations, we are rapidly building towards self-serve company onboarding and operator training.
Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon