Customer service (as a service) startup gets influx of cash

Melbourne startup to add staff in San Francisco

Influx.com founder Mikey De Wildt has been doing reconnaissance in San Francisco. Credit: The PR Group

Influx.com founder Mikey De Wildt has been doing reconnaissance in San Francisco. Credit: The PR Group

Melbourne startup Influx.com has announced plans to go international with its email customer support business after receiving $250,000 in funding.

The seed investment was led by 99designs founder Mark Harbottle, angel investor Leni Mayo and the SitePoint Group.

Influx.com sells what best can be described as customer service as a service, targeting startup companies and online businesses that aren't big enough to handle support themselves or to hire traditional customer support firms.

The company’s founder, Mikey De Wildt, was a former developer for 99designs and SitePoint. He also designed the WordPress plugin, “WordPress Backup to Dropbox.”

Influx already has customers outside of Australia, and De Wildt told Techworld Australia that the $250,000 investment will be used to add support staff in other time zones. The company will be hiring in San Francisco first, he said.

“In my reconnaissance in San Francisco, many of the guys there that would have been potential customers were only keen if I had support staff in the local time zone there.”

De Wildt came up with the idea for Influx.com after having trouble keeping up with support for his WordPress plugin.

“I asked a few customer support services for quotes, but if you don’t have the volume they’re looking for, they don’t want to know you — they’re not startup friendly,” he said.

Influx.com’s target customers are startups that are finding they are spending at least an hour of their day fielding customer support emails that are no longer valuable to product development, he said.

Having launched in December, it’s still early days for Influx.com. De Wildt said the company currently has five customers in Australia and 10 overseas.

At the moment, De Wildt and two others in Melbourne handle most of the support requests. However, the company is “actively hiring” in Melbourne and San Francisco, he said. In the future, when the company has more staff, De Wildt plans to specialise staff into “pods of expertise,” he said.

Influx.com takes a “learn by doing” approach to providing support, he said. “We basically get in there, start with the easy stuff, and then slowly take on more and more as the team gets more confident with the customer support emails.”

If a question is too complex for the Influx.com staff, they will escalate it to the customer’s team, he said. By keeping a record of that solution, Influx can handle the problem itself the next time it comes up, he said.

Influx.com does all its support through email but may soon add Web chat, he said. The company charges monthly with tiered pricing based on the volume of emails.

Influx.com only provides English-language support. However, the company is considering a partnership with a Mexico-based startup that could potentially lead to Spanish-language support as well, he said.

Adam Bender covers startup and business tech issues for Techworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

Tags 99designsSitePointfundingInflux.comstartupsMelbourneAustralia

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