Honest

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A letter from Carlos, our CEO

Y Combinator, the largest startup accelerator programme in the US, opens their Application Questionnaire with one, dead simple question:

“Describe what your company does in 50 characters or less”.

At Honest, we have spent some time trying to find the right answer:

“Honest augments conversations between humans with technology”. Mmmm… nope.

“Honest augments Customer Service agents’ abilities when talking to customers”. Not there, yet.

“Contextual, real-time assistance for customer support agents”. Maybe?

After several iterations, we realized it was easier to copy-paste Zappos’ first core value as a good way to start: “Deliver WOW through service”

What is Zappos? ‘A customer service company that just happens to sell shoes’, as the late Tony Hsieh, CEO and cofounder, liked to define it. A 1.2-billion-dollar vision that Jeff Bezos agreed to buy merrily in 2009.

12 years later, many companies still seem to struggle when fulfilling the “Service Contract” they agreed with their own customers. We, as consumers, have all gone through painful interactive-voice response scripts or lame chatbot questionnaires until, having bounced back and forth aimlessly, you end up in the hand of a tightly scripted, poorly paid, outsourced support agent who asks you the very first question you asked the “matrix” 1 hour ago:

“Hello sir, how can I help you?”

On top of that, Covid-19 has hurled and reshaped every buying experience into a shopping cart experience, with high-touch sales suffering the most. Today, the number of touchpoints with customers continues to expand (social media, chatbots, phone calls, emails, FAQs), adding complexity and leading to fragmented experiences.

As Luis Melo, Solutions Architect EMEA at Zendesk brilliantly described on a recent post, Customer service teams need one, simple and easy-to-use application / user interface that provides:

  • unified conversation-focused workspace
  • channel-agnostic workflow
  • quick and easy channel-switch
  • contextual knowledge at the fingertips
  • interface to surface data from back-end systems

A one solution that can connect any company’s Swiss-knife of tools, workflows and databases to the agent working on a specific context vs the current supercharged, eye-popping, heavily scripted dashboard.

Several off-the-shelf platforms can offer all these features in one (like Zendesk). Yet, soaring complexity is inherent to any medium-large size company, baffling the most organized manager, discouraging the most driven agent, hindering the most intricate tool. Helpdesks can grow, but only just so. The more nodes emerging across time, the higher the risk for a Customer Support team to shut off. Hence, the need for interconnectedness: workflows + databases + tech stack + human language = conversational care.

Imagine a digital product that could help the agent find anything, achieve anything, know everything on the spot while talking to customers. A contextual assistant that could seamlessly, proactively help the agent only with the right amount of information needed. Whenever the task is boring enough to automate, yet complex enough to require powerful tools (NLP, multiple api connections, granular, dynamic workflows) to sort out the data maze, Honest would jump in.

Software supporting humans supporting other humans

Krulak’s Law states that the experience people have with your brand is in the hands of the person you pay the least. Companies must act accordingly. This involves training, trust, responsibility, leadership, dignity, authority and investment. It means seeing the front-line people in your organization as priceless assets, not cheap cogs.

Billions in companies’ market capitalization have been created just by following these simple, counterintuitive business principles (inversely, billions have been obliterated just by doing the opposite). And few companies captivate the customers imagination as Zappos does.

We hope to honor Tony's vision and legacy with our 4-point recipe to extraordinary conversational Customer Experience:

  1. A real time, contextual assistant to spoil the Customer Service agent with
  2. Better integrations beget less opened tabs beget less repetitive tasks
  3. Make the agent feel smarter, more connected to her purpose
  4. Respecting the customer’s time by giving the right answer

Customers do not care about Customer Service software. Agents should not care either. Customers and agents should only care about achieving the goals they share for the duration of their interaction. If Honest achieves to augment both sides of the customer-company conversation, then the YC question may answer itself:

“Describe what your company does in 50 characters or less”.

Building a Zappos-as-a-service platform for CS agents.


Carlos Avendaño, CEO