France's Cloud Startups (series): Why Videodesk will positively transform the customer service experience

Feb 25, 2013
Vote on Hacker News

Perhaps the biggest frustration of any consumer these days is the poor and often inhumane customer service experience.  While ecommerce, whose growth seems to be unstoppable, has made life a lot more convenient for many of us, it also has removed most human contact from our shopping experience. When you order something online and what you order shows up when it’s supposed to without any problems, everything is a-ok.  However when it doesn’t, the big headache ensues. Trying to sort out a problem with, or even just get some basic information from, an often nameless and always faceless person can often seem like an uphill battle.  In services sectors such as retail banking whose customer service has been turned on its head by the rise of offshoring, it is usually an even tougher challenge to get decent service.  This is not to say that fixed retail outlets delivered great service, but at least fixed outlets allow you to put face to bad service.

Enter Videodesk.  Chairman and well-known entrepreneur Igor Schlumberger (i.e. Leguide.com and Prestashop) and CEO and high-tech veteran Olivier Coste (founder of Alcatel-Lucent Mobile Broadcast) realized that what was a real pain point for consumers and companies alike, could offer an interesting opportunity to profoundly change customer service for the better.  Out of this idea, Videodesk was born.

A winning value proposition

Videodesk’s solution does several important things, but perhaps the most important is that it literally “brings a face to customer service”.  These days many vendors use chat as a means to communicate with consumers. While this can sometimes be effective, consumers tend to be highly skeptical of this approach, mainly because the person on the other end of the chat is often not actually a person, but a machine.  At the heart of Videodesk’s solution is an extremely lightweight cloud-based SaaS, whereby the ecommercant, using one line of code, can install a widget on their site that:

a) gives the customer the ability to engage real-time with a customer service agent via video, voice, chat or email
b) shows the customer real-time which agents are online and available
c) for agents that aren’t available at a particular point in time, alerts the customer when the agent(s) comes back on-line and/or gives the customer the option to send an email in the agent’s absence

Their solution is also a big value-add for vendors as it’s ‘multishop’ (so for agents that handle customer service request across various sites), permits the agent to adjust his or her ‘status’ as needed, and enables the vendor to develop a CRM knowledge base that is updated real-time. Last but not least, they offer a cost-effective, freemium pricing model that aligns what vendors pay with their size and growth. Every vendor gets up to 10 hrs free customer calls each month and then? beyond that, pays $10/month/agent beyond that.  Given this there’s very low risk and upfront cost to the vendor, which has been a big help to them thus far in driving adoption.

Although their solution in its current form is quite successful having already been integrated into 50+ websites since launching less than a year ago, Coste, Schlumberger and their team are not resting on their laurels in terms of innovation. They’ll soon be adding a new facial recognition feature whereby the agent’s availability can be adjusted automatically if they step away from their computer and/or other device.

Having been on the vendor side myself in the consumer world, I saw immediately how their solution could fundamentally improve the customer experience.  Companies are always rolling out new processes, controls, and complex system solutions to try to make their customer service operations more efficient and effective.  The beauty of Videodesk is not only that it is rooted in a clear and simple concept, putting a face back on the service experience, but also ²that it is so simple to integrate into the service operation. Companies of all types often fail to improve their offer and/or service for fairly mundane reasons such as the inability to fully implement and embed the solution within the organization.  Having designed something that is so easy to integrate will help substantially in driving adoption. Other than perhaps a reluctance to reveal the identity of their customer service professionals (which is dubious anyway), there’s no real compelling reason not to give their solution a try.

What’s next?

Coste and Schlumberger have big plans for Videodesk and are already launching it internationally.  They’ve actively been building their business in the States and are looking to expand across Europe and beyond in the very near future. Up till now, they’ve been drawing on love money, angel funding, and initial revenues to fund their growth. However, given their sound strategy, aggressive expansion plans, and, incredible potential, one can expect they’ll have a good shot at raising venture funding in the very near future.