RIP Hold Times: Pypestream Bringing Customer Service Into The Digital Age

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Richard Smullen

If Pypestream has its way, the days of languishing on hold with a call center will be as quaint as eight-tracks or Betamax players.

The New York-based start-up, which formed less than a year ago and is currently in beta, was born out a personal need, CEO Richard Smullen told TWICE in an interview just after CES. Forced to change his flight while sitting at a dinner table, and becoming increasingly frustrated attempting to do so using the airline’s app, Smullen instead involved his sister via the WhatsApp messaging app. She was able to successfully change his flight using the details he messaged to her, a process that proved to be seamless, efficient and, Smullen thought, worth expanding as a business model.

And so the Pypestream app was born.

Pypestream is designed to let consumers message with their favorite brands, creating individual message “pypes” for each brand. This service has the ability to strengthen customer service relationships, Pypestream believes, by giving customers the ability to create streams for easy chatting with multiple brands, all one in spot.

Businesses, meanwhile, have the ability to securely chat with customers, as well as transfer files, take in-message payment transactions, and deliver customized content to targeted audiences. Attachments are stored in the Cloud, and access can be as locked-down as having three-factor security.

Businesses also have the benefit of saving on the cost of call centers, the company noted, and they’re able to receive analytics to monitor performance and ROI. According to Pypestream, 15 customer inquiries can be managed in the time of one average call.

Smullen expects the app to be particularly attractive to millennial consumers, many of whom simply don’t want to talk on the phone, he said.

Consumers are being increasingly more discerning, and the transition to a new business or new supply is really just a click, he noted. “Consumers need to be delighted and made to feel special,” Smullen said. Organizations that do what they can to provide that experience are the ones that are going to create loyalty and develop a relationship with consumers. Millennials are loyal. They’ll stick around to provide support for their business, but they have to feel it’s a mutual situation.”

He added: “We’re being overwhelmed with more and more services every day. More people are adopting products and technologies, and all of those are going to break or need some kind of help around them. That’s the [customer service] option for us [right now]: Pick up the phone and speak to a robotic voice until we can’t tolerate that, and then be forwarded on to a human. We should be able to do it much quicker and much more easily and more effectively.”

According to Pypestream, it has signed more than 500 businesses, with such notable names as MetroPCS, Billboard and Washington Gas. The company said it has approximately 6,000 businesses in 40 countries on its waitlist.

Brands that don’t expand their customer-service strategies into the digital age, and instead continue to rely simply on call centers, may do so at their own peril. “[Messaging] is a massive advantage to the consumer,” Smullen warned, and he expects consumers to seek out businesses, retailers and brands that afford them the ability to interact with in such ways.

When asked whether he views such free, previously existing services as Twitter’s direct messaging as competition — already employed by many major firms as an established customer-service method — Smullen said he didn’t believe so, citing Pypestream’s ability to complete secure transaction and added security measures.

“There’s certainly a role for social media and the open nature of responding, but Twitter is going to be hard-pressed to find an e-commerce solution inside that open social network, which is what I think our advantage is,” said Smullen. “While [Pypestream is] an open messaging platform, everything happens in a private pipe between the retailer and the consumer.”  

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