TeleTech, Humanify Hope to Bring Customer Service into Mobile Age

Think back to the last time you tried to fix something around the house that broke unexpectedly. What did you do?

Maybe you searched Google and YouTube and found some articles or videos. One or two might have been helpful. You might have searched a manufacturer’s website for a product manual or FAQ, and if things got really desperate, you might have called customer service or tried an online chat.

Or maybe you just went to a store to talk with someone face to face.

However you did it, it might have cost you a good deal of time and aggravation. Believe it or not, companies are aware of your pain and would like to prevent it. They know it leads to customer dissatisfaction, negative online reviews, and lost business.

They just haven’t found a good solution, according to Mike Betzer, CEO of Humanify, a Denver-based company that makes customer service and engagement software.

“The consumer revolution is here, and brands now realize it,” Betzer said. “They recognize it’s a problem, and they’re desperately trying to solve it.”

Humanify exited stealth mode today, and Betzer is hoping that soon, those brands will be turning to his company for solutions. It’s not a far-fetched hope, as Humanify has an important ally in TeleTech, a billion-dollar company that quietly has become a key player in helping global companies engage and assist their customers. But more on that later.

Betzer said the objective of Humanify’s software is to direct consumers with customer service problems or questions to the right online content or the right person. That could be a video or article, or it could be the right person in a call center or even a sales clerk in a nearby store. Ultimately, that could improve customer satisfaction, lead to repeat business, and give Humanify’s clients a lot of valuable information about their customers.

Betzer described someone doing a home repair project. Say you discover an important piece of equipment like a drill isn’t working properly, and you need to fix it quickly before finishing the project.

One solution Betzer envisions is for you to load a mobile app for the hardware store where you bought the tool. If Humanify developed the app, you’d start by creating a profile. Along with information you entered, Humanify would add additional data from public sources to form a detailed picture of you.

In its simplest case, the app would find the best YouTube video. The retailer or an amateur might have made it, in which case the retailer would have approved it. Either way, Betzer said the goal is to find the best piece of content to try to fix the problem without leaving home.

But some problems are more complicated. In that case, the app could direct you to a real person. That could be someone at a call center who has been trained to deal with the type of problem the customer is experiencing. In that case, the app would be a much faster way to connect the customer with the right person, sparing you the hassle of navigating a customer service hotline.

Humanify has bigger ambitions, too. Betzer wants the app to be able to call the mobile phone of a customer service rep in the right department of the nearest store. They could help you resolve the problem with a phone call, or you could come in for a face-to-face chat.

If Humanify’s approach works, Betzer said, customers could have a much better experience that might improve their opinion of the store and possibly lead to a purchase. In addition to a satisfied customer and a potential sale, the retailer also would have collected a lot of information about the customer.

While Betzer’s example focused on a retail chain, a consumer electronics or auto manufacturer could use the same features, he said.

Why might Humanify succeed? One reason is that it starts out with a big advantage. Humanify is a wholly owned subsidiary of TeleTech Holdings, which is a billion-dollar company based in Englewood, CO.

TeleTech (NASDAQ: TTEC) is one of Colorado’s most successful companies and has made its founder and CEO Ken Tuchman a billionaire since he founded it in 1982. The company operates customer-service call centers around the world.

That might not sound too high-tech, but TeleTech has developed its own IP-based software that manages everything from receiving and routing calls to providing clients with performance reports. It also has expanded to offer consulting services and over the past few years has been developing new digital customer engagement tools for clients.

From that standpoint, it’s not too hard to see why TeleTech is interested in developing a product like Humanify. Betzer said TeleTech has spent about three years developing ideas and laying the groundwork for the company, with Tuchman highly involved in the project.

While Humanify can’t claim to be a true startup, it will try to act like one. Betzer said the firm, which currently has about 40 employees in Denver, Austin, and Boston, will have autonomy within TeleTech. For example, he’ll be making strategic decisions, and Humanify will have a small, independent sales team. Humanify already has five paying customers, with whom it is working to test and improve its software, Betzer said.

He added that Humanify’s relationship with TeleTech was analogous to the one between a startup and its most important investor. Only in this case, TeleTech will provide access to its client base, which includes more than 250 companies in industries including automotive, financial services, healthcare, and retail. TeleTech’s biggest clients are global companies, and the company generated $1.19 billion in revenue in 2013 and reported a net income of $67.4 million. It employs 41,000 people in 24 countries.

That’s a powerful and promising customer base for Humanify to tap in to. Down the road, that base could even lead to exponential growth, Betzer said. For now, it will help Humanify get started and get an edge on the competition, which faces the obstacle of having to establish relationships with potential customers.

Those competitors generally come in two forms, in Betzer’s eyes. The first are companies trying to develop products that do part of what Humanify does, like online brand engagement. Humanify’s edge, he said, is an all-in-one approach with the infrastructure to manage all those customer interactions and provide its customers with relevant analytics.

Large companies also are trying to develop tools like Humanify’s on their own with custom-built software and apps. That’s “incredibly expensive, incredibly slow, and more theoretical than reality,” Betzer said.

In either case, they don’t have the experience and resources available to Humanify through its connection with TeleTech. If Humanify can leverage those assets while retaining the agility of a successful startup, it could make customer service a lot less painful.

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