I’m Andy Wilkins, Co-founder, and CEO of Futr — a tech start-up that provides superpowers to customer support teams across the UK. We’re a venture capital-backed company that uses AI chatbots and live chat solutions to bring digital transformation to a common pain point of many businesses.
We’re talking about customer service.
Solving the Quandary of Poor Customer Service
Let’s face it — nothing annoys customers more than poor customer service. It grinds our gears, makes us feel betrayed (in the case of brands you already love), and instantly damages our perception of brands you thought had a good thing going.
Much of this can be attributed to changes in customer behaviors over the years.
For example, did you know a HubSpot study found that a whopping 90% of customers expect an immediate response when they have a customer service question? According to the study, 62% of consumers in the sales stage of their buyer’s journey — or when they’re about to make a purchase — consider an “immediate response” to be 10 minutes or less.
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Organizations Can’t Keep up With Rising Customer Expectations
For many organizations, the tools they use to deliver customer service simply cannot keep up with rising customer expectations.
We all want fast and flexible interactions with brands, businesses, and organizations on the channels we use every day, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp. But many customer service teams are still reliant on delivering customer service through phone and email. This creates bottlenecks that result in call queues, long waiting times, and delays in responses.
The pandemic has only complicated things further. Customers being on hold for up to 11 hours and call center agents having to work from home were just a few of the stories that characterized COVID-19’s impact on customer relations.
Unsurprisingly, many customers were left feeling disgruntled. The January 2021 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), the UK’s barometer of customer satisfaction published twice a year by the Institute of Customer Service, gave the national customer satisfaction score of 76.8 (out of 100) — the lowest since 2015.
New Digital Tools for a New Digital Age of Customer Service
Back in 2017, my co-founder Lee Skyrme and I saw the massive opportunity to use Industry 4.0 technologies, such as advanced artificial intelligence, machine learning algorithms, and natural language processing, to transform the way organizations engage their customers.
We had a blank canvas and started to explore how AI-powered bots could democratize access to services. Our goal was to solve two problems:
- Too many people were locked out of accessing a service (such as speaking to a live agent) because they couldn’t call during business hours.
- Too many people were left out because they didn’t speak English as a first language or did not have the tech skills to navigate complex websites.
Ultimately, we realized that any customer service solution we came up with couldn’t be purely driven by technology. We also had to consider the user interface (UI) and the level of comfort people have when interacting with the technology.
And when it comes down to it, a simple conversation is the best UI.
And so, Futr was born.
The Futr Mission
At Futr, our team of tech optimists believes in delivering universal access to products and services — where tech-savviness, language, availability, and channel shift are no longer barriers to access.
We built a no-code SaaS platform that delivers “superpowers” to customer service teams, allowing them to do more with less. These superpowers include:
- Automated responses to customers’ frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- 24/7 availability on the web, social media channels, and messaging apps
- Self-service within the chat, allowing customers to pay for something, change something, report something, and more
- Making human agents instantly fluent in 120 languages.
In 2019, we secured £2.4 million in seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Praetura Ventures, allowing us to turbocharge our ambitious tech roadmap and expand our team to meet client demand for customer service superpowers.
If you’re wondering why I keep mentioning “superpowers,” it’s because our platform isn’t designed to replace the people in charge of assisting and engaging customers. Rather, our chatbots free customer service teams from tedious and repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on customers that need a more human touch.
Meanwhile, our live chat solution augments how live chat agents engage customers, giving them “powers” such as the ability to use 120 different languages and an omnichannel presence on their website, social media accounts, and messenger apps.
Deploying Solutions for Underserved Markets
One of the things that make Futr unique is that our SaaS platform has helped to transform the customer service capabilities of organizations in historically underserved markets.
When people think of customer service chatbots, the first thing that typically comes to mind is eCommerce — and for good reason. As many of our clients in the online retail sector know, businesses receive a deluge of queries about the same set of topics and concerns. This makes it perfect for automation.
But chatbots offer the same potential for efficiency and cost savings in sectors like social housing. We helped believe housing, one of the largest housing associations in North East England, respond to their residents’ most common questions and respond to them in the language they’re most comfortable with.
We’ve also helped nonprofits like CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a suicide prevention charity, enable self-serve so people can get instant help when they need it the most.
Since our founding, we’ve helped organizations across a wide range of sectors by:
- Automatically responding to 4.58 million customer queries
- Reducing their queue times by 73%
- Using chatbot automation to generate £8.8 million in savings.
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What Does the Future Hold for Futr?
We’ve seen phenomenal growth over the past year in terms of customers and also in our team and the engines and processes that make that team sing.
We will continue with our mission to deliver superpowers to customer service teams to deliver superior service to everyone. To support that, we are looking to double the size of the team next year and execute a super exciting tech roadmap for our SaaS platform.
We are eager to push the frontier of how AI-powered chatbots can transform how organizations engage their customers more efficiently without losing that all-important human connection.