Austin’s Step One Aims to Put the Customer in Charge of Customer Care

Calling customer service—or navigating the maze of an online help desk—is among the most frustrating chores for consumers who are dealing with product problems. Turns out, it’s not that much fun for the companies either. One Austin startup says its software can make the experience better for all.

“There are typical things that people call in about; we use this to predict the help that is needed,” says Alex Mitchell, Step One’s CEO. “Within five seconds, we’ve indexed the company’s help content and we’ll return a list of the five most helpful video articles and troubleshooting tools to address the problem.”

It’s not that the cable company or the wireless provider has suddenly grown a heart for us long-frustrated customers. Mitchell says Step One’s software can reduce the $1 billion a year those companies spend dealing with issues like laggard WiFi connections. “If we can drive even single-digit percentages of better self-service, that’s hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” he says.

The company last week released its software, called Contextual Care, which Mitchell says uses artificial intelligence to learn what problems people like you or me might have—and the best ways to solve them. “This is similar to a recommendation engine that you’d see from a Netflix or Amazon,” he explains.

It works like this. Click the “Help” button on an app or website that’s using Step One, and it connects to the CRM database Step One has created for the company. That system gathers information on previous reasons for similar help calls from people like you and it assesses your real-time situation. For example, you might be a new customer, or there might be a power outage in your area.

Unsurprisingly, Step One’s first target customers are in the telecom industry. Among them are Telstra, the largest phone company in Australia, and a US telecom company Mitchell didn’t want to name. Mitchell says most people would rather be able to solve the problem, quickly and efficiently, on their own and that Step One’s software helps them do that.

Step One is the latest entrant into what can be called the “smart” customer support sector, something my colleague, Wade Roush, has written much about from his perch in San Francisco. In fact, the Bay Area is home to a few companies, including Get Satisfaction and Lithium Technologies, that are using online, crowdsourced intelligence to help fix service glitches.

Lithium, in particular, tries … Next Page »

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2

Trending on Xconomy