The Pursuit of Appiness: Helpshift’s Secret Sauce

Secret Sauce — that special thing or special combination of things that makes everyone want some of it

At this point in our story, we’d made some big decisions. As a company, we were going to be the Salesforce of Mobile CRM. We also took our first step toward that goal by deciding to hyper-focus our efforts on the mobile first market. We knew mobile was where we would succeed, that it would be the container for our secret sauce.

But what does that mean? To be hyper-focused on mobile — what would that look like? Why would that be effective? What’s the formula for that?

Imagine, for a moment, an alternate reality in which there exists an alternate Tushar. Other Tushar. Other Tushar doesn’t work in silicon valley. He’s out getting his oil changed and while he waits, he’s browsing a retail app. Scrolling, scrolling, then — Boom! 50% off on a sweet pair of Cole Haan shoes! Like Real Tushar, Other Tushar loves Cole Haan. But there’s a problem. He keeps getting an error message at checkout and he’s about to throw his phone through the window because he really can’t live without those shoes now, and without the deal, he won’t be able to get them.

So he taps text on his screen asking, “Get Help.”

A web form pops up on his phone. He swipes up, scrolling through the fields. There are 12 of these fields. Jesus! he thinks. I really don’t want to do all this!

But he really wants those shoes.

So he sighs, rolls his eyes, and begins. First Name — Other. | Last Name — Tushar. | Phone Number…okay, 415…. | This is concerning… — I don’t know, man. Purchasing? | Subject …Subject? — RE: Your broke-ass app that keeps breaking. | Description, please enter the details of your request… — Your broke-ass app keeps breaking. Please fix it so I can cash in on this sweet-ass deal please. | Serial Number — Serial Number? Seriously? Okay, well where the hell do I find that? | Smartphone/Tablet Brand and Model Used? Smartphone/Tablet Operating System? App version? — For real? That’s it, I’m done.

And…app deleted.

Because ultimately the customer support of this app violated the quintessential rule of appiness (yes, appiness), which is convenience.

People fill this form out, these 12 freaking fields which give the customer service agent the info she needs to address the problem, then she sends the customer an email that the customer then has to find in his email box, which—how many people do you know that keep pristine email inboxes? Like many people, Other Tushar’s email inbox is a slush pile. So at this point in the process he has to sift through the slop to find the support ticket email and then do it again and again as he and the support staff member go back and forth at email pace. By now that deal on those Cole Haan shoes is long gone.

And this is how mobile customer service works today.

In what world is that convenient?

Everything else in the app was convenient. It was all one-click, in line with expected mobile behavior. But when it tried to provide customer service with an antiquated, web-style medium, it was breaking that one quintessential rule of appiness, that convenience factor. Other Tushar and everyone else using that app is saying Why do I have to fill out this form? Why do I have to tell you my name and phone number and operating system? Why? You already know who I am, it’s in the data in the app! This feels broken!

That’s what Helpshift set out to fix. We said, Let’s fix mobile behavior to match mobile convenience for customer service. We said that there is no longer a need for email in mobile app customer support. There is no need to fill out a form because if you’re in the app, then the app has all the pertinent information — all the device, serial number, OS, app version information, even your phone number — so all you should ever have to do is simply say what you’re problem is.

(And then, by the way, we’re making the life of the customer service agent easier too. With all of the information, she will save time and resolve tickets at a more rapid pace, solving more customers’ problems more quickly.)

So, in order to align with mobile behavior (which gravitates toward the promise of mobile convenience), we realized that we needed to kill forms in mobile apps. We had to kill email! That’s all support was up until this point — email. And we wanted to kill it, to go with a completely new approach.

We built a customer service platform that is native to mobile, designed around in-app messaging, where all you need to do is tell us is what your problem is and we will auto-magically collect all the other information necessary to streamline how the businesses you’re interacting with can assist you.

Smarter, Faster, Better — That’s mobile convenience. That’s being hyper-focused on mobile. That was, and continues to be, our secret sauce.


If you enjoyed reading this, kindly click the green heart below. Helpshift is well on its way to become the Salesforce of Mobile CRM. As its Head of Business, I’ll be telling the story of Helpshift, from idea to what it is today, in weekly installments. Connect with Helpshift here, or through me on Twitter,Facebook, or LinkedIn.