Freshworks continues to increase its presence in Southeast Asia as more organisations are now looking to benefit from its solutions. As digitalisation and improving the customer experience becomes a key factor for most companies, having the right tools to support this change is a necessity.
While some companies have struggled in keeping their customers satisfied, Freshworks’ clients have managed to do beyond that. With over 200 paying customers in the region, Freshworks has experienced a 200% growth in customers from 2019 to 2021.
The biggest sectors contributing towards this growth are the consulting, hospitality and retail industries. As such, Freshworks has a network that is now spread across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.
According to Vinod Chandramouli, Head of ASEAN Business some of their biggest and key customers in the region are Bridgestone, Supara and Zalora. As an intelligent customer engagement software company, he added that Freshworks aims to enable every business to win customers for life.
“In anything we do, we want to drive simplicity for our clients. That is the only way to tackle the competition against companies that have had a head start in the market. When you look at the business applications in organisations, you will find applications that need to be good to customers and can drive revenue. Organisations spend a lot of time in enabling consumers and agents to communicate better”.
For example, a retail company like Zalora must reinvent themselves in approaching customers wherever they are, from post-sale to pre-sale. Zalora uses Freshworks’ omnichannel solution for the entire customer journey. What this means is that for anyone landing on the website, the experience is seamless.
“Queries in pre-sales and post-sales which agents find monotonous, need to be responded to or customers will move to other brands. We emphasise a collaborative omnichannel view where a customer can get the same experience on the website, app or social media page. Our solution is not only able to respond immediately but also assist Zalora in knowing where to invest more time in”, added Vinod.
At the same time, there have been cases whereby the customer experience has not been so pleasant. Be it a small business or an enterprise, when the customer experience is not pleasant, the impact can be rather harsh on them. For this, Vinod believes it’s not just mistakes made in implementing the technology but also the evolution of technology that contributes to this.
“Digital transformation is hard, especially for sectors whereby the employee size is less than 250. It goes down to the economics. Does the company invest in tools or communicating with customers? The mistake is a lot of companies feel they have a product that works fine. At the same time, a lot of businesses question the need for an omnichannel solution when the customer only sends queries via email? The misinterpretation is they are making the customer only send the email. The customer would prefer a different method if you had it. The biggest mistake is assuming customers are happy and good enough”, explains Vinod.
Apart from that, Vinod pointed out that a lot of organisations also carry their bad habits from whatever tools they had onto the new one. In an SMB or SME world, they need to understand that is not Excel or Google Sheets. Customer support is simple to use if the mindset can be changed. The user experience from the past may no longer be the same experience desired today. Customers may have preferred email customer service replies in the past but today they would rather be able to have a chat, be it via a social media app or an AI-enabled chatbot.
“In Southeast Asia, both the culture and the brands are now laser-focused on customer experience. We are solving world-class use cases. Some of our super apps’ customers are reinventing the way they think about customer experience. So, when you think of a culture, it really depends on the vertical. Some legacy verticals like banking, shipping and logistics have held back because they believe their customers are not fully ready for chatbots but there are other organisations like Fintech, retail and eCommerce where they are enabling more of a bot than a chat in most places. Depending on the spectrum of verticals, the cultural nuances change but there needs to be a balance between both. And this is the evolution they are bringing in their digital transformation journey”, explained Vinod.
However, Vinod added there are digital-native organisations that do not experience this, as they are solving problems for customers who are also ready to adopt these technologies. The pandemic has been driving this with more industries now realising the potential it brings.
“The most ideal customer experience is when the customer does not need to speak to my brand. For example, you will never get to a customer support agent on Amazon. This is because you are fed with enough information that you don’t really need to speak to an agent. The biggest change any organisation can implement is self-service. It’s simple, easy to set up and does not require complexity. Organisations also need to collaborate both internally and externally on responding to queries and look at the customer journey as a holistic picture”, said Vinod.
In fact, Vinod believes that the pandemic has accelerated the demand for better customer experience and that there is no brand that is not looking to transform digitally. Even if there are concerns on security and compliance, there are products by Freshworks and other vendors that still cater to legacy systems. These base products also serve as a reminder to organisations that their competitors are moving forward.
“The wishful future is to not have employees do monotonous work again and get them upskilled for better tasks. The contact centre as an industry can get very monotonous in the support world. We strongly believe that adding a human and an AI element needs to be collaborative rather than replacing. I don’t see us replacing the human portion with AI. Even if it’s a hologram, that hologram would need the support of a human in the background. The human elements of sympathy and empathy are still key to any customer expectation”, explained Vinod.
The reality though is that businesses will want to have laser-focused enhancements on productivity and the value for money. Looking at the demand and supply in super apps like Grab and Gojek for example, the demand is exponential so they cannot be adding skilled workers to support and do most tasks. This is where AI will play an important role.
“We have a mobile customer in India whereby we were helping them solve 2% of their queries with about 1500 agents supporting the remaining 98% four years ago. Today, it’s about 60%. They have grown the capacity of the customer base but have also increased the capability of the bot to handle 60% of their customers. They were able to save CAPEX for about 200 agents per month, which they used on innovation”.
Vinod reiterated that AI will not shut down customer service centres but will only make them better. At Freshworks, their Freddy platform hybrid AI for example enables a human to do a better job and vice versa through the platform in a coworking ecosystem.
Going back to their expansion in Southeast Asia, Vinod believes the demand will only increase especially with countries like Malaysia now being able to compete with countries like Singapore in terms of brands that want to focus on perfecting the customer experience. Be it large enterprises or midmarket businesses, the ASEAN market is driving change and Vinod believes Freshworks is ready to support them all.