More people than ever use mobile devices to shop and look up information, which can only mean a big increase in people using their phones and tablets to gripe. Yet many businesses still prioritize relatively old-fashioned systems for fielding customer and employee complaints like telephone contact centers, web site databases, or email.
Mobile support startup Helpshift, which Tuesday disclosed a $23 million Series B funding round, is pitching an alternative approach. Its software lets companies survey users within their mobile apps or “chat” with them about basic questions. Helpshift’s technology is included in mobile apps from Flipboard, Microsoft (msft), Virgin Media, WesternUnion, WordPress, and Zynga (znga). Because most people expect answers quickly, the Helpshift platform uses a database of searchable “frequently asked questions” to generate automated responses to common questions, as appropriate, but it also allows customer support teams to jump in with answers.
“What we’re learning is that mobile is going to be the primary channel through which people are going to interact with businesses,” said Abinash Tripathy, co-founder and CEO of Helpshift, which employs about 90 people in San Francisco, London, and India.
The round includes two high-profile new investors, Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, along with all of Helpshift’s previous backers. That list includes Intel Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, True Ventures, and Visionnaire Ventures. With the latest funding, Helpshift has raised a total of $36.2 million. The company did not disclose its valuation in the latest round.
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Tripathy wouldn’t disclose exactly how many customers it has signed up for its technology, but the company claims it has “thousands” of industry-leading brands startups, and developers.
For example, Tripathy said one prominent retailer, whose name he was not authorized to disclose, uses the Helpshift software to communicate with customers while they’re using its mobile app—allowing them to claim refunds or arrange for product returns.
Tripathy, a software engineer, previously worked at Oracle (orcl) as well as two collaboration and messaging pioneers, Zimbra (now part of Yahoo) and Openwave Systems (which split up into several different companies in May 2012).