Girish Mathrubootham of Freshworks: Automate What’s Automatable, But Not at the Expense of the Customer Experience
Now that Labor Day is in the rear view mirror, the Fall conference season has already swung into full speed. For example, this week was Freshwork’s Refresh Conference… in Las Vegas.
While checking out the conference, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Freshworks’ CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham. He discusses why he sees himself more as a support guy who became a CEO. And less as a CEO who does email support. He also explained why automation should never compromise customer experience. And why he’s willing to give employees the time and opportunity to “find themselves” and their role in the company. He also talks about hosting a fireside chat with Shaquille O’Neal during the conference. To me was the highlight of Refresh.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview watch the video, or click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.
A Closer Look at Freshworks
Brent Leary: How does your recent acquisition of customer success platform Natero help fill out your customer engagement platform?
Girish Mathrubootham: I think companies are struggling with this, and they are trying to integrate everything. And now that costs a lot of manual effort, time and money. And finally you manage to integrate everything, what happens? One of these vendors releases a new upgrade. And then the integration breaks. And then you have to call in the consultants again and then you do more professional services.
So this is the reality today. And that is what we are questioning as the big opportunity for a new player. We fully understand that large enterprises who have already sunk millions of dollars into all these different systems may not be able to throw away. So they have to still live with this stitching everything together. But what about customers who want to start fresh? No pun intended.
How to Communicate with your Customers
Brent Leary: I was going to say, that was perfect.
Girish Mathrubootham: Say you and I are starting a company tomorrow. Do we really have to buy a CRM and six different tools and stitch everything together? Or can we start off with the assumption that we are going to talk to our customers across the entire lifecycle. So we market to new customers, new prospects. Some of them will become leads. And then we will talk to them via email, phone. And some of them will become customers and they will talk to us via phone, email, social media. And then we will market more to our customers and then we will get them to buy more.
So this is a cycle. Can we design a new experience where all this technology already exists? Can we make it a seamless experience? That is what we spoke about and what I spoke about in today’s keynote in terms of the future of customer engagement being contextual, being predictive, being anywhere engagement because customers are anywhere today. And collaborative. How can we get everybody in the company to come in and do this?
Enter Freshworks 360
That completes the puzzle because when we announced Freshworks 360 last year, we were trying to integrate sales, marketing and support and present a single unified view of the customer. Then we realized, it’s not about only sales, marketing and support. It’s also, after they become a customer, how can we leverage more data signals that these customers are sending us by usage of product, by visiting our website, by the conversations that they’re having?
Can we understand our customers better? Can we differentiate our premium customer from our regular customers? Can we offer superior service to our premium customers? Can we extract, offer better service and extract more lifetime value from these customers?
Every business is doing it. They want to do it. You hear talking about an ad line with a frequent flyer program or a bank with a relationship manager. So, we are all doing it. But can this be automatic? So that’s the villain we are fighting. It’s not the software, it’s about the way software is supposed to be built, the way software is supposed to be delivered, implemented and consumed.
About Automation and Customer Experience
Brent Leary: One of the things you said during the keynote is, you don’t want to automate everything at the expense of the customer experience. Maybe you can illustrate exactly what that means.
Girish Mathrubootham: Today we are seeing this pattern where every company is struggling with the need to automate. The fundamental nature of, say, IT or customer support is that it is viewed as a cost center. And sometimes it is not linearly scalable. If you are a small company and you get, say, a thousand calls in a month and let’s say you have 10 people. Now if your business scales to 10,000 calls, should you hire 100 people? And what if it becomes 50,000 calls?
The business is growing but you cannot linearly scale the number of support reps just to handle the increased volume because sometimes what happens is the volume may drop, it could be unpredictable, the cost escalates more than the cost of the support ticket. The cost of a person is much more.
Automation is a Basic Necessity
So what I’m saying is fundamentally every business understands this. There is a business driver to automate the repetitive aspects of customer support or service, so that we can get customers what they want in a consistent, fast manner, but still be able to do more with these same people where you don’t have to actually keep hiring more and more people.
And that is where companies want to use technology. Now, we also have on the other hand, innovative new startups which are coming up with chat bots or AI/ML, they are going to large banks, they are going to large e-commerce companies and they are saying, “We can automate customer experience. You can turn on the bots and then go home.”
Looking at the Limits of Bots to Do the Job
The problem is, there’s only so much that the bots can do. Customers want to talk to real people. So the key differentiation or what the point to think about is, where do you draw the line? When will a customer prefer talking to a bot versus when will a customer want to talk to a human being?
Obviously if the customer can always talk to a human being, that maybe perfect, but it’s not ideal for the business. And