Ex-Groupon APAC executives, Ang Kok Seong, Eujean Lee and Wafiq Rodzuan learnt early on that providing a positive customer experience was one of the many keys to running a successful business.
In an earlier interview they said, “Being part of the early team of Groupon, we learnt pretty early on that customer experience matters. We could scale, as fast as we wanted to, but if we were not ready to deliver a solid customer experience, customers would eventually stop returning to our service.”
It was that very principle that they applied to their very own startup called Helpr.
Helpr is Malaysia’s text-based multi-channel personal assistant that you could beckon anytime (within business hours) to satisfy all of your whimsies, legally. Helpr doesn’t just help you run your errands, shop, order food, and purchase your tickets but they can also help you conduct research for free.
Since then, Helpr has broadened the way they cater to customers by adding multiple channels that you could use to reach out to them. If you need help, you could message them via WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Live Chat, Twitter and even email. In fact, they receive most of their requests from WhatsApp. Eujean Lee, the co-founder said, “This is because everybody in Malaysia uses WhatsApp. This is truly Malaysia’s favourite way of communicating.”
“We are where the customers are”
Although, this differentiates Helpr from other personal concierge services like Be Malas, I can only imagine the trouble they’d have to go through to maintain a system where requests are flowing in from numerous channels. For example, WhatsApp doesn’t offer an API (Application Program Interface) that allows you to programmatically track and view messages like other services. If you were interested in involving a platform like WhatsApp in your business process, then it would mean that you’d have to find a third-party solution that could help you reduce the hassle and optimise your efforts.
And that’s exactly what Helpr did.
They were lucky enough to find a third party backend solution that equips them to reply people via WhatsApp through a more operationally efficient manner. They even managed to consolidate the incoming requests from various channels into lesser channels, and their channel manager or ‘channel Helpr’ as they refer to it internally, will ensure that each request has an assigned owner to reply the customer with their solution or proposal.
If the customer is satisfied with it, they will move onto the next business process where they execute whatever is required of them.
They have a designated channel Helpr for each of the channels that they use to manage all the requests with ease. But the question still remains, is the hassle worthwhile?
“Of course it’s worthwhile. At the end of the day, we are all about optimising our customer experience and every customer has their preferred way of communicating,” she said.
Being a multi-channel personal assistant allows Helpr to cater to a more diverse group of customers. While most of the mass consumers may opt to send in their requests through say WhatsApp or SMS, corporate clients prefer to email them their requests. The reality is that they don’t have time to use their mobile phones and they’re on their emails most of the time, and it’s much easier to key in an elaborate request via email than SMS.
“We would be foolish to force the customer to send in their request via SMS as it would be merely inconveniencing the customer and that is not what we are about. We want the entire customer journey of making a request via Helpr to be seamless,” she said.
She also added, “We are where the customers are.”
Hiring The Right People
After spending two months in the beta stage, Helpr officially launched their service in August and their multi-channel service is definitely a hit among users. They have seen user requests grow on an average of 130% monthly. Helpr has also seen a strong conversion rate for paying users with 76% of customers willing to pay for their services.
Even though Helpr continues to see growth, the reality is that quite a huge portion of the public has no idea about the services they offer. In an effort to educate users about their services, they are continually developing and formulating their marketing strategies and goals. They are even looking for ways to reach out to users beyond the Klang Valley to users that are based in Penang, JB, among others.
Such an ambitious move has to be supported by expanding and building their team up as well. In order to do so, Helpr is currently investing resources to hiring the right people especially ones that are more technically inclined. While they don’t use any advanced technology, they are keen on finding newer ways through technology that could improve their processes internally and for their customers.
Eujean said, “Especially with being a young startup, we do not have the financial resources or benefits that one would find in an MNC. However, what we can offer is the growth through hands on experience as well as opportunity to spearhead many initiatives.”
“Being a startup, we do not have a hierarchy. This means an intern can have just as much as say the founders. In Helpr, the merits of the idea trumps the position of the person proposing it,” she explained.
500 Startups & The Undisclosed Amount
In order to fuel their effort to grow into a huger force, Helpr managed to successfully raise an “undisclosed” amount in seed funding from renowned Silicon Valley seed fund and accelerator, 500 Startups. The reason they’ve chosen to keep the amount undisclosed is to prevent people from being distracted by the “total figure” that was raised but to focus on the startup itself (there goes my headline).
“To us, the true story to be told is that 500 Startups has shown that they believe in us and will now play a big role in helping us grow the company,” she said.
Given that 500 Startups is an experienced player in both global and regional markets, they are more than capable of providing Helpr with the required assistance and advice in terms of scaling and also on how to avoid initial mistakes that their other portfolio companies have made. In fact, 500 Startups also backed up successful startups in Asia including GrabTaxi, iMoney and KFIT.
In regards to this milestone, Ang Kok Seong, the co-founder, said, “This round represents a strong first step for us not just because we raised our seed funding but because we have managed to bring onboard experienced investors who truly understands the Asian ecosystem.”
The reality of the matter is that “chat commerce” is becoming a vital avenue for people to express what they need and want done easily. Helpr is striving to become the chat-commerce norm that people look to in their daily lives. They want to become something like GrabTaxi—a couple of years ago, you’d have to wait on the side of the road under the hot sun in an attempt to hail a cab.
Today, things are much different, you can simply key in where you’d like to go on your smartphone and with a tap on the screen, a cab will meet you at your rendezvous point.
Eujean said, “This is what we envision Helpr becoming.” They want to be the source you turn to the next time you want to buy someone a gift but you don’t have the time to do so. You can simply outsource the task to them and they will get it done for you.
And with this round of seed funding, they are well on their way to achieving their goal.