Kustomer Executive Interview
Brad Birnbaum, CEO & Founder, Kustomer
As an innovator and pioneer who has spent more than 20 years developing disruptive enterprise technologies and building solutions for customer service and support, Brad Birnbaum’s aim hasn’t been to simply keep pace with the changes driving the industry, but always stay several steps ahead. He is a serial entrepreneur, building companies that provide platforms to solve real-world problems.
While still a college sophomore in 1994, Brad got his career off to an auspicious start by founding eShare Technologies. As Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Product Development at eShare, he took an active role in revolutionizing community chat and enabling the use of large-scale chatrooms, message boards and forums.
“Back in the 90’s, it was all about keeping eyeballs on websites,” he recalls. “We were serving six of the top 10 top traffic websites: Lycos, GeoCities, StarMedia--the big brands of the day. Our base was in Long Island, NY (Brad is a born and bred New Yorker), which was not a high-tech hot spot at that time, so all these types of businesses knew each other. Another Long Island company, 800 Flowers, was one of the first companies doing online Ecommerce, evolving from their origins of taking orders on toll free phone lines. They said to me ‘Hey, it seems like you’re the king of online chatrooms; if we’re going to do business online, we need to provide service online. How can we use your chat software to provide customer support?’ We sent a team to their headquarters and spent a week learning how contact centers work observing the queuing and routing and the types of reports needed. We then morphed our product, eShare Expressions, into a prototype for customer service. They not only used it but found it valuable. The light bulb went off in my head; I saw that ultimately everyone is going to be doing business online and everyone will need to serve customers online. Let’s build a product around that, so we created eShare NetAgent which did extremely well. It kept morphing and morphing at companies I have been involved with and is still around to this day as a Moxie solution.”
Having found his niche in the customer service space, it was full speed ahead for Birnbaum. His company went on to provide the support for large scale enterprise companies such as AOL, Sprint, Dell and Microsoft. In 1999, eShare was sold to Melita International. “ We were the ‘cool’ young internet company and they were the established predictive dialer supplier. They wanted to take on some of our cool factor so they bought us.” He continued his role as CTO for the larger entity which rebranded as eShare Communications. Brad held executive roles at Divine Interventures, eAssist and Talisma, continuously focusing on improving customer support for enterprise companies.
Birnbaum co-founded Assistly in 2009 which was acquired by Salesforce in 2011 and rebranded as Desk.com, making it the Salesforce SaaS support solution for SMBs. He stayed with that product at Salesforce for three more years before setting out, along with Jeremy Suriel, to develop something he firmly believed was urgently needed – a modern, customer-centric platform for building applications while modernizing the customer support tool landscape.
“Twenty years ago, it was all about efficiency and average handle time. Then, with the Zappos era, suddenly it was all about customers first. Many brands, even traditional ones, are transitioning over to that approach. They now focus on creating the optimal experience for their customers, realizing that the end result of better service will be establishing lifelong customers who will spend more and become active promoters of the company. No one is trying to rush people off the phone any more or just dash off a few emails. I’m seeing that companies we are doing business with want to provide support and service that is nothing short of amazing… and do it any way they can.”
Kustomer caters to this growing demand by offering what it calls a “next-generation customer management platform for the people-first enterprise.” Their primary goal is to help businesses build “customer friendships” by moving beyond outdated technologies and the tedious queue of tickets that often weigh down companies, frustrating agents and customers alike. The platform is built for the way agents and customers have conversations, providing messages that are real communications from real people, with no ticket numbers or mention of “do not reply.”
The solution unifies customer data from literally any internal or third party source, presenting it in one single timeline view. The Customer Timeline provides a complete, fully actionable view of each customer’s experience. It’s an intuitive, fully customizable and easy-to-use workspace where agents will spend most of their time when interacting with customers. It enables businesses to segment customers and initiate proactive engagement across phone, IVR, chat, email, social media, and any other channel of choice. This empowers communication that is seamless, personal and efficient, allowing agents to respond quickly when customers reach out and even proactively initiate service interactions before they even come to the contact center.
“While it’s not our core focus, one of the byproducts of the Kustomer platform is improved agent efficiency and productivity,” said Birnbaum. “Because we know everything about the customer—understanding their buying propensity or the recent orders they may have placed, we can help them action things in ways that were never available in the past, allowing for proper omnichannel support across all channels simultaneously. This makes agents much more efficient. They enjoy their jobs much more when mundane repetitive tasks are automated and taken off their plate.” Birnbaum alluded to recent case studies with fascinating results, such as shirt maker Untuckit which saw 25% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform. Another client reported that they had almost doubled sales since adapting the solution.
“We work with brands all all sizes - anything from under 50 seats to thousands of agents. Brands using our platform today include Glossier, Rent the Runway, Sweetgreen, Away, Anomalie, Slice, UnTUCKit, and many others.” Kustomer is gaining traction with what Birnbaum called “modern D-to-C (direct to consumer) companies” which are very cognizant of the need to provide a consistently superior experience, as well as traditional brands and Fortune 50s on the CPG (consumer packaged goods) side of the house. “Companies are modernizing their traditional platforms. Initially, it was mostly Zendesk conversions, but now we’re starting to see Salesforce and Oracle Service Cloud conversions. We’re following the David and Goliath storyline and are now beginning to disrupt larger companies.”