Michael Moritz: Why [24]7 is poised for big things

It’s a busy time for Campbell-based [24]7, which makes software to help big companies run their customer service operations.

Last week, the company named Bill Robbins – ousted in late October as head of worldwide sales for Symantec – to the newly created post of chief operating officer. And on Tuesday morning, it unveiled a new live chat feature and announced that PC maker Lenovo has signed on to use it.

“The problem is, customer service in general sucks,” said PV Kannan, who founded [24]7 way back in 2000 and serves as its CEO. “You don’t wake up excited that you have to call a bank or a cable company.”

Kannan isn’t the only one who thinks so; just ask Sequoia Capital’s Mike Moritz, an investor in [24]7. Michael Moritz

“Customer service is in a migration from an experience that largely revolves around long times on hold queues, then being insulted by somebody in a call center, to a sort of sleek, extremely friendly app,” he said in an interview. He noted that [24]7 lets people get help via multiple platforms, including smartphones and tablets, “and much of the arduous work that a customer used to have to do is automatically provided through very intelligent software.”

For instance, if you’ve spent time on Lenovo’s website comparing two different laptops, the software clues in the customer service agent before connecting the call, so you don’t have to explain what you’re looking for. Kannan says [24]7’s cloud-based software also can “learn” a customer’s preferences and use predictive analytics to make educated guesses about what he or she needs, speeding interactions with the help desk.

The fast-growing company employs 9,000 people and claims to manage more than 2.5 billion phone and online interactions each year for clients including Avis, United Airlines and Sirius XM.

Managing that growth, Kannan said, required adding a strong number two. And Robbins, he said, will help the company scale as its yearly revenues move north of $250 million. “You have to bring in someone who’s done it before.”Bill_Robbins

Sequoia brokered the introduction to Robbins last fall, around the time he was leaving Symantec. Although it was a lengthy flirtation, Robbins said that after more than a decade at the security software giant, “I wasn’t just gonna go jump to anything.” What wooed him to [24]7, he said, was a sense that the company was “on the cusp of doing something revolutionary.”

Moritz – who sits on [24]7’s board alongside George Shaheen, the former head of Siebel Systems, Webvan and Andersen Consulting – said Robbins will oversee many of [24]7’s internal operations while giving Kannan more time to develop new customers and products.

Products like the new chat solution, dubbed [24]7 Assist. Kannan said customer-service chat support usually requires “a lot of typing and takes about 20 minutes. That made no sense in today’s consumer world.”

By automatically collecting information about a user’s issue, remembering prior interactions with that user and predicting what the user might be seeking help with, he said, the software aims to make chats as fast and intuitive as the ones we have with our friends. OMG!


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