MarTech Interview with Eric Vermillion, CEO at Helpshift

Eric Vermillion, CEO at Helpshift chats about the benefits of automation to customer service processes in today’s digitized marketplace in this quick catch-up:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Eric, take us through the key highlights of your B2B journey and tell us more about being CEO at Helpshift

I’ve spent my entire career working in software across every industry, from customer service to manufacturing to identity management to IT security. I’ve always enjoyed the concept of selling the value of what you do, and because you can’t touch or feel the product, that value is critically important in the world of software. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some really interesting projects, convincing people to use technology that made things people buy less expensive or more available, solved billions of consumer problems more effectively, or kept the world safer and more secure.

I’m really excited about what we’re doing at Helpshift. We are putting the customer support journey in the hands of consumers through mobile apps. As CEO, I get to lead an incredible team that truly believes there is an opportunity to rid the world of bad customer service, and I’m so thankful to work every day with people who are passionate about change.

In eCommerce today, what are some of the top customer service and customer care initiatives that brands should be strengthening?

Modern consumers, particularly those that grew up with smart devices, are very impatient. If they don’t get what they need quickly, they will find another brand. Sadly, many brands ignore this and continue to assume their customers will be happy to wait on hold or wait for an email. As the buying power of younger generations continues to grow, those brands will be in for a rude awakening. Brands need to meet these consumers where they are and they need to provide always-on support. “Business hours” don’t exist online. Splash screen warnings on websites or welcome messages on IVR’s that effectively say “we are overwhelmed… prepare to wait a long time or have a lousy support experience,” are an invitation to the modern consumer to go visit your competition.

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Automation is another topic that is increasingly relevant in customer service. Too often, automation is positioned as a way to eliminate humans from the experience. But I believe this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Too much of what humans do in the world of customer service is robotic and valueless.

Imagine if you could use automation more effectively to eliminate the robotic scripts and allow the humans to focus on upselling, tapping into empathy, and delivering delightful experiences for consumers. Customer service has perhaps the greatest opportunity to use automation for positive transformation. Automation is good for consumers, and it can make jobs in customer service more attractive. I could see a world just a few years from now where people get excited about reaching out to their concierge or personal shopper instead of calling customer service.

With mobile commerce picking up pace, what should ecommerce brands be doing to drive better customer retention and reduce cart abandonment while building a strong multichannel shopping/purchase journey?

Web Commerce was great. It gave all of us access to everything from the comfort of our homes. You could literally buy or visualize anything that was for sale anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, it depersonalized the experience. We went from one-on-one, in-person exchanges in a physical store or on the phone to an infinite number of options. It was all about the product though, and it had to be.

In today’s world, all that is changing. CRM and other engagement platforms know so much about consumers, and help brands deliver much more tailored and personal experiences. Consumers also expect this now. They expect you to know who they are, what they want to buy, how much they’d like to pay, and how to answer their questions with context.

Still, many brands continue to force these interactions into a cross-platform journey even though mobile apps are the single most captive place for consumer engagement. You have a secure identity, context, and you are literally on a ride-along with the consumer 24/7. But many brands let their app leak – they push people to the web, social media, phone, or other platforms. This is the opposite of what should be happening. Brands should be constantly pushing consumers into their mobile apps to take advantage of those secure, contextual, personalized experiences.

Can you share a few thoughts on some of the most impactful customer journeys and customer service experiences you’ve seen global ecommerce providers build out that have worked well for users?

It’s hard not to point to Amazon here. I can buy just about anything that I want at any time, I can have it delivered anywhere I want, and they proactively update me through the app all along the delivery timeline. They let me know the minute it arrives, and if there are any problems, they make resolution simple and intuitive.

On a smaller scale, I love the DFW Airport app. Everything I do, from reserving parking to security wait times to finding food, is entirely contained in the app. Except for the fact they still throw me out of the app for customer service, it’s a pretty good experience.

When it comes to creating and building mobile app journeys, how can marketers and product designers offer experiences that drive growth and repeat purchases?

Keep your consumers in the app! It sounds so simple but look at the apps you use most. They are probably also the place you spend the most currency, whether that currency is your time or your money. Brands need to have a relentless pursuit to drive people to the app and make it hard to leave.

We’d love to hear a few thoughts / views on the global ecommerce and mobile commerce industry and predictions for 2022!

NFTs and parallel digital commerce are real and accelerating very fast. Many people think of the Metaverse as a virtual reality game that you play wearing a pair of funny-looking goggles. But that’s only a very small part of it, and this concept of the Metaverse is still in its infancy. Consider how much we depend on today’s Internet in contrast to when we first started using it – Now think about what the Metaverse might look like 10 years from now – The reality is that we are rapidly moving towards a world where everything and everyone has a parallel digital copy. For brands to participate in the commerce of this new world, they have to get ready now or risk losing out. Companies like Unity, Roblox, and Meta are helping build the visualization of that parallel world, but the commerce aspect of it is being built by mobile app developers, blockchains, and NFT marketplaces. The companies that will own the future of digital commerce are all over this right now. The ones that ignore it are going to find their addressable market shrinking more rapidly than they expected.

Some last thoughts, takeaways,  before we wrap up!

We live in a world where the playbook from 10 years ago – or even 5 years ago – is becoming quickly obsolete. Technology is driving change at an exponential rate. Physical geography, time zones, and language are no longer a barrier to commerce, and the Roaring ’20s are just getting started.

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Helpshift is a mobile-first customer service platform. It delivers a great in-app help experience for many of the world’s top mobile apps and mobile games. Whenever users need help they can get it right in the app with an always-on help experience that delivers immediate, automated solutions to many issues.

Eric Vermillion is the CEO of Helpshift, a San Francisco-based company that develops mobile customer support software that helps companies provide better customer support in mobile apps. Before Helpshift, Eric was instrumental in advancing BlueCat to one of Canada’s most notable software exits and also helped grow revenue at NICE Systems to over $1B. He has also held sales and leadership roles at PTC, Tecnomatix and Triad Systems Corporation. Eric holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Purdue University.

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