Increasingly, Americans prefer to communicate by text message — much to the dismay of everyone’s grandmothers, who just can’t understand why it is such a big deal to pick up the phone every now and again.
But, as study after study rolls in, the message is pretty clear and increasingly digitally delivered: The phone is dead; long live the text.
But where the texting is going to happen remains up in the air. There is the “classic” SMS, the social platforms, like Snapchat, FB Messenger or Twitter. There are many micro-messaging platforms floating around the ether, more than it makes sense to try to name. And while consumers have marked the texted message as their clearly preferred mode of contact amongst each other, when it comes time to talk to a brand, texting can still spell trouble.
SMS options have been out there for years on offer from a variety of merchants, but they never quite found a killer use case that ignited big popularity. And while millions have been invested in the customer support systems on various social channels, like Twitter and Facebook, they have a somewhat mixed result. For all the good the social commerce experience can offer, there is always the risk of having a person with a customer service complaint already sitting on a channel where they can fully and completely air their grievance for everyone they have ever known.
And this is where the wicket gets a little sticky. Customers, particularly those under the age of 34 (now the largest demographic in the United States), don’t want to call the firms they transact with, because, no matter how good an experience a business has on offer, they will always have to overcome the simple fact that these consumers don’t want to call anyone. People who have to be talked into calling their grandmother aren’t going to want to dial into the entity they ordered their shoes from.
This is where Teckst — a service that allows two-way text messaging between brands and customers — is hoping to ease a friction point and build a business by so doing. Its core service revolves around SMS messaging, but it’s designed to integrate across all the major messaging platforms.
Teckst is very young. It has just raised its first funding — a $2.5 million seed round. “Chatbots” are recently quite hot, especially since Facebook gave AI-assisted commerce a big boost on its messaging platform. And Teckst, though it leverages AI, utilizes a human-interaction-boosted-by-a-bot model, according to Founder and CEO Matt Tumbleson.
“We’ve had [our bot] for a year and a half,” he said. “We call it Teckstbot. It’s just like Slackbot, where it interacts with customer service agents directly in the CRM. An agent can be responding to a ticket, and in real time, we update the ticket with recommendations, read time, expected response time and other metrics.”
And that, he notes, is important, because bots, though exciting, aren’t really the same as what the media has portrayed.
“Everyone’s wrong. Bots are a thing that’s going to be a part of email, text, Facebook, everything. A bot isn’t a channel. A bot is a mechanism for input and response. You’ll have a bot on your refrigerator, if you don’t already.”
And, he notes, because bots are a mechanism, not a channel unto themselves, they have limited applicability to some situations. A customer might find it enjoyable to get a bot recommendation when they are ordering through a meal delivery app. However, the same customer will find the experience far less delightful if they find they are only able to talk to a bot when their food is 20 minutes late.
And this is where Teckst’s use is clearest. Bots, for Teckst’s purposes, aren’t quite ready for prime time when it comes to customer interaction — the AI isn’t there yet. What bots can do well is make the life of live customer service agents much easier.
“Our customer is the customer service team. We’re working on creating an experience for the customer service agent — not necessarily the end customer of a particular brand. If we make things easier for a customer service agent, it will make wait times go down. Rather than try and make a bot for customer and sell that to a brand, we’re making bots for the agent.”
According to a release, Teckst currently integrates CMS systems, like Desk.com, Help Scout, Oracle, Salesforce Service Cloud, and SugarCRM. BarkBox, JackThreads, Luxe and Memebox all use the service.
Composite Capital, Gaingels, Kernel Capital, and Zelkova Ventures, along with angels Walter Burr, Adam Press, Dan Porter and Kevin Mahaffey, were all investors in the firm’s seed round.
Investments for the week ended May 13
With a bit of resurgence for investments for the week that ended May 13 — a Friday the 13th no less — our Investment Tracker logged more than $277 million in investment activity.
The key carrier was and is — and it feels forevermore — FinTech, with 94 percent of the fund flows in the week. The best way to think about this seemingly long-term trend is to think that this is where the innovation may be the loudest, where the VC and private equity mavens may focus the hardest.
And if we drill down a bit into the details, we see that, within FinTech, the biggest weightings came in the payments space and also the security/fraud arena. The data analytics sector followed closely on those heels, with some activity as well, and across all of these subsets, deal activity stretched out at more than $50 million each.
Looking at individual deals, the biggest by dollar was orderbird AG, which closed a Series C financing for its iPad POS solution, entrenched now in German markets. The round was led by Digital+ Partners, with contribution from strategic investor Metro Group.
Dyn, which got $50 million in Series B equity funding, said last week that it is boosting its efforts with new platforms for cloud infrastructure. The firm said that the $50 million came from Pamplona Capital Management.
Bridge2 Solutions also grabbed $35 million for growth initiatives, and with a focus on Software-as-a-Solution, the funding from Updata Partners means expanded efforts in loyalty and rewards.