Helpshift Blog

A blog about making customers happy, creating beautiful mobile apps, and what we're up to at Helpshift.

Beat Churn, Join Communities: The Data Behind Users Who Don’t Churn

May 26, 2016

Remember Kony 2012? Rebecca Black? Jimmy McMillan? Ello?

These people/businesses/movements all have one thing in common: they were brief sensations that swept the nation, and were subsequently completely forgotten. We’re a fickle culture, and while grabbing our attention may be easy, maintaining it, gaining “staying power” is much more difficult.

This is similarly reflected in app usage: a study done by Quettra found that the average Android app loses about 80% of its daily users within the first three days, and about 90% by the first month. Getting 5 seconds of fame clearly isn’t the problem for apps; it’s keeping it.

A study done by Amplitude examined the myriad factors that contribute to churn, and found that higher retention is directly correlated with joining a community. Of users who joined communities, only 28% churned by day three (compared to the depressing 80% who churn otherwise).

This finding is absolutely crucial for product managers and marketers alike to consider. It means that once you have a user, if you can successfully get them to interact with other people using your app, then you are almost twice as likely to retain the customer. In fact, of users who don’t join communities, the churn rate is 87% by day three– that’s scarily close to a 100% loss of users.

Getting Users More Involved In Communities

1.First, we need to recognize that users love generating content. NPR and CNN have both done a great job at encouraging users to upload their own stories, photos, and footage, and both outlets will often use this user content. This both validates the user, and gives the news sources on-the-ground looks at what is going on.

A key part of offering a venue for user generated content, though, is ensuring that it is easy and intuitive for the customer to upload their content. With mobile apps, this means utilizing the camera, location services, or any other mobile-specific features that make uploading easier.

2. Second, introduce moderators to interact with the community. This is particularly important for help communities, because you can respond to users’ problems in a friendly, colloquial zone. As we’ve previously written, Apple does a phenomenal job with help communities (part of their overall superior customer care package). Moderators should encourage new users, respond to queries, and help spark conversation and interaction. Don’t become a big brother; become a friend.

3. Welcome new users. Communities can feel insular and difficult to break into. But as we know, getting users into a community as quickly as possible is paramount to reducing churn. Angela Connor, WRAL’s managing editor/user-generated content and author of 18 Rules of Community Engagement, encourages her community users to create their own welcome packages: “I am working hard to be supportive of newcomers. I even have a group called the Welcome Wagon that reaches out to newbies. They’ve created [a] tutorial for newcomers that I had nothing to do with, and they are awesome.”

It’s hardly surprising that users who are part of a community are likely to stay part of that community, and therefore part of your app. Users want to engage, and they want their engagements to be recognized. Just look at the various apps that are wholly focused on user-generated content, like Storify. And especially with election season upon us, user generated content is more powerful than ever. Fox News, for example, created an election map highlighting tweets and Instagram photos.

It’s time to utilize this knowledge so that your app becomes more than just a passing fad.

Hours Scales Their Customer Base 10x Without Increasing Their Support Costs

May 19, 2016

Hours Users Love Its Mobile-Centric Time Management

Hours is a popular time tracking app for iOS and Apple Watch, created by Apple Design Award winner, Tapity in 2014. It is enjoyed by contract workers, exercise enthusiasts, and people simply hoping to stay on time.

By the Numbers

Support Staff Size: 3
Users: 100,000
Languages Supported: 10
iOS Store Rating: 4 out of 5

Helpshift Impact:

Added 90,000 new users and scaled support without hiring new agents
Improved app store rating to 4.5 stars
Maintained low contact rate with in-app FAQs… Only 10% of users seeking help filed a support ticket

Hours Decides It’s About Time For A Scalable Mobile Solution

Hours was using Zendesk as their primary support platform, but were disappointed with its dated mobile capabilities. After reaching 10,000 happy users for the premium app the company decided to expand the customer base 10x by releasing a free version of their product, and they were not confident that Zendesk could scale with their exploding user base.  

“I was skeptical that Zendesk would work for us at scale on mobile,” said CEO Todd Olsen. “Nice company, but they aren’t really focused on apps. The interface was clunky. We needed a mobile-centric solution that also supported email and web. Not the other way around.”

Todd also wanted to keep his support team small as the user base expanded. Adding extra support agents would require hundreds of thousands in annual revenue, not to mention hours and hours of time spent hiring and onboarding. He was confident that there was a cheaper, better solution out there.

It Only Took Seconds For Hours To Choose Helpshift

Todd contacted Helpshift and integrated the SDK the same week of Hours’ free plan launch.


Reduced contact rate
Faster resolutions times
Higher customer satisfaction

“Our developers loved how much easier Helpshift was to implement. The support people also liked Helpshift’s interface more than Zendesk. We started using it even for in-house testing,” said Todd.

Helpshift’s in-app knowledge base has allowed 90% of new users to self-serve. The support team enjoys the ability to modify FAQs in all 10 supported languages in real time without re-submitting the app, thus saving time. Furthermore, the in-app searchable knowledge base has greatly decreased the amount of incoming issues for the small team.

When a user reaches out to Hours, the support team now makes use of the readily available device and customer information to improve their quickly respond to issues. Agents can request screenshots from users who previously had to describe their issue in large email chains. Hours Support easily sends information to their developers for more accurate product iterations based on user feedback.

“I’ve seen frustrated users be at ease once they saw our knowledge base and how fast our support team can be. I would say that so far our average reviews went up by at least half a star.

Hours Saves Time and Money With Helpshift

“We are able to handle supporting 10x the number of users than before with the same sized support staff.”

Helpshift enabled Hours to onboard 90,000 additional users–or 33,000 per support agent total–without a sweat. The support team managed to deflect 90% of potential tickets with their native searchable knowledge base. Incredibly, app store reviews for Hours actually improved during their exponential growth, which Todd attributes to the efficiency provided by Helpshift.


Giving People Back Their Most Valuable Commodity: Their Time

May 18, 2016

Over the course of the last half century, we’ve seen an increased emphasis placed on leisure time. From books like “The 4-Hour Workweek,” to an actual decrease in daily work hours, our culture has decided that the sunrise till sunset model of the nineteenth century is no longer viable. Instead, a plethora of products have cropped up with the aim of reducing the amount of time we spend on “tasks”. These essential, yet time consuming activities include laundry, grocery shopping, dog walking, cleaning, mailing, moving, home repair, and basically any other errand or chore imaginable. From TaskRabbit, to Washio, to Uber, apps that give consumers back their time are becoming more and more popular.

Aside from saving users time, what all of these services have in common is that they live on mobile. Smartphones are the new convenience platform. In fact, based on where The Internet of Things is projected to go, they could become the command center for our entire lives.

Time Lives On Mobile

What this means is a changing consumer expectation about mobile services. As Ted Schadler, author of the Mobile Mind Shift said, “If you are a company you owe it to yourself and to your customers to put them at the center of the mobile experience.” Why? Because most of the population has already undergone the mobile mind shift: they expect tasks and information, in context, immediately. In other words, they expect convenience.

If convenience is paramount, how do you ensure that your product fulfills this promise? Users want their time returned to them when they use mobile: they want fast, easy, simple, service. And in the world of customer care, this means ensuring that your customer doesn’t actually have to interact with a person.

Customer Care Should Be Seamless

In other words, it’s the complete opposite of what it was in-store. Take Nordstrom, for example: they are known for their fantastic, personal customer service. Each customer is greeted upon entering, asked if they need help, is given a changing room the minute they take an item off the rack, and is assisted with sizes and styles as they try items on. The customer service representative enables the customer to successfully buy the product. On mobile, though, if you are talking to a person, that means that you have interrupted your app experience (to get on a call, send an email, etc), and are therefore losing time. The new “Nordstrom Experience” is all about self service.

Take the best concierge or customer service representative, and put them in your app. Shyp, for instance, a mobile app that allows users to ship packages without ever having to visit a post office, is all about returning their customers’ time, for an extremely small fee of $5. In this scenario, you save time by not having to drive or Uber to the post office, not waiting in line, not having to talk to the post office person, not having to pay, and finally not having to Uber back to the home or office. To deliver the best possible customer experience all you need is a good onboarding experience and an excellent product that delivers on its value proposition.

Customer service is no longer about making sure that someone is there to speak to you, to answer your questions– because that is still time consuming. You have to get on the phone, be placed on hold, etc, and that is not convenient. What is convenient is offering service through your app that allows you the best possible way to quickly find the answer to your question. This includes an intuitive product, in-app FAQs, and super solid onboarding. The first time a customer enters your app they should quickly be able to understand how to use it, and if/when they get confused or need help, there should be an easy way for customers to self-serve without leaving the app.

Smartphones Are The New Convenience Platform

This  is simply the next step in our cultural shift towards an ever-increasing reliance on the mobile device to save us time. The medium promises speed, context, information, and service, and it’s important that brands follow through with these promises on mobile customer service.

With convenience as a service we can minimize our time spent on mundane tasks, and maximize time spent on our passions.





A Startup’s Guide To Scaling Customer Support In-House

May 16, 2016


Watch any movie about organized crime, and you’ll see the same arc: poor boy on the streets of a ghetto gets involved with fatherly-yet-brutally-violent mafia boss, works his way up the ranks of organized crime ladder, eventually becomes the boss, buys beautiful wife and possibly mother a sprawling mansion, and lives an outrageously lavish lifestyle until one day he makes a mistake with his wealth (like wearing the fur coat to the boxing match), and is caught, imprisoned, and once again, poor. Whether it’s Goodfellas, American Gangster, or even The Wolf of Wall Street, the rise and fall is the same. And the message is that with increased wealth and power comes an inevitable fall from grace.

This same giddiness before the fall often occurs in growing companies. A flurry of hiring, increased salaries, and better office space can easily precede the total demise of the business if you don’t scale properly. And one of the hardest areas to scale in is customer service, a department that is crucial for medium and large companies, but often overlooked in the startup stage.

Scaling customer service in-house has numerous components, which we’ve outlined here:

1. Utilize technology.

Much customer service can be handled digitally. For instance, Nordstrom has a digital 3-D foot scanner that can tell you what shoes will best fit your feet. They also allow customers to pay from anywhere with their mobile devices, so that they don’t have to wait in line. Services such as these both save your company money (in terms of hiring customer service reps), and save the customer time.

2. Staff intelligently

Gather analytics on rush times (both in-store, via call centers, etc), and staff accordingly. For 24-hour customer service, take a page out of Airbnb’s book and create incentives for off-shifts (like 2 a.m.) with higher pay and perks. Airbnb also used a sophisticated scheduling tool, through which employees can manage their schedules and request PTO. Initiatives such as these enabled them to scale to 24/7 support in a single month.

3. Implement a standardized onboarding system.

This is actually one of the hardest aspects of scaling, partially because so many companies get it wrong: 32% of executives say that the onboarding they received was poor, and it shows in high turnover rates, with half of all senior outside hires failing within 18 months. There are several problems with the way onboarding is currently done. For one, there’s little-to-no continued training in most companies, and new employees are supposed to retain and apply information that they learned in a single training session. Furthermore, many onboarding playbooks consist of non-searchable PDFs, and are therefore difficult to reference. Onboarding should include continued training (much of which can be done via technology, like quizlets), an interactive, easily navigable playbook, and frequent check-in points to evaluate progress so that new hires don’t become a drain on your company.

4. Set clear in-house career progression.

Startups in particular are prone to hiring people for nebulous positions, simply based on intelligence and general aptitude. When hiring customer support agents, think about what other positions they have the skills (if not the background) to fill, because it’s much easier and more cost-effective to promote in-house than it is to get a new hire. Ask, for instance, does your new support agent have the writing skills to one day support top-tier loyalty customers/ VIP players?

5. Establish a process to identify knowledge and productivity gaps.

As Sahra Santosha, Client Happiness at Earnest said of scaling her team from 3 to over 30, “The things we noticed that started falling apart the most quickly after everyone was in the door, trained, and responding to tickets, was knowledge gaps and productivity gaps. When you’re a small team and bringing people in the door very quickly, you have to train them with minimal resources and still help them to become useful as quickly as possible to hack away at the backlog. Once the dust has cleared, you start to see you trained these people with everything you could possibly think of, but you’re not necessarily covering all the bases. So making sure in the end that you have a really good process in place to uncover these unknown knowledge gaps as quickly as possible to make sure 1) that they’re addressed, and 2) that they’re well documented so that when you do get to point where you are outsourcing or opening up a second location you already have that process in place.”


Scaling customer service properly from the outset of your company’s growth can save you millions later on– as evidenced by Comcast’s recent $300 Million customer service reparations. Building the tools and customs to have a consistent and effective customer care team early on will exacerbate your growth burst, and offset the usual supply-demand wall that most companies hit. So next time you’re flipping through movies on HBO, ask yourself if you’d rather be Henry Hill or Anthony Soprano. Not all great leaders fall, and not all companies have to be unprepared for customer service growth.




How Flipboard Supports 80 Million Users With A Team of Three

May 12, 2016

Flipboard, the popular news app, has 80 million users across 20 different languages, and a support team of three. Not exactly the best odds.

Noah Seeks An Arc

Flipboard was inundated with a large user base, and no mobile-first way to support them

Flipboard is a highly immersive social news app whose users “flip” between articles and sites tailored to their interests. The personalized magazine has a userbase of 80 million mobile-first customers who consume their daily media inside the Flipboard app. Due to the immersive nature of the product, these users expected mobile-centric customer service that would be as rapid and personalized as Flipboard itself. But take a ratio of 80 million to 3, and it’s no wonder that Flipboard couldn’t monitor or respond to complaints and requests via Social and Email. Furthermore, the support agents found that much of their time was spent simply gathering information about the user rather than solving the problem, which left both parties stressed and dissatisfied.

David Takes on Goliath

Flipboard uses Helpshift in-app FAQs and messaging to cut agent interactions in half

To reduce their agents’ workload, improve response time, and garner more positive feedback, Flipboard began using Helpshift. Immediately, they reduced their volume of tickets through Helpshift’s robust in-app knowledge base. “As soon as we switched to Helpshift we cut our interactions down by HALF,” said Todd Gullion, Community Support for Flipboard. “We could help users quickly and not make them feel like we were digging into their business [thanks to the custom device data that agents have access to].”

When customers have an issue that is not solved via onboarding and FAQs, they can now contact Flipboard in the app through an intuitive in-app messaging system, which simultaneously gives agents data about their customers. “It’s fast, it’s easy to type in, we can point people to FAQs, we can quickly retrieve macros, or we can type personalized responses on the fly,” said Jason Pearson, Community Support for Flipboard. This versatility within the app has dramatically reduced the volume of tickets they receive, as well as the time agents spend on each ticket. The result? Happier customers, happier Flipboard employees.

Two Years Later: David & Goliath, Sittin’ in a Tree

Since 2013, Flipboard has been using Helpshift to maintain a 5-star App Store rating, and happier customer support employees

Flipboard has been using Helpshift for two years, and has effectively automated and simplified their customer service interactions. “Helpshift was definitely the product for us,” said Guillon. “It’s made our jobs a lot easier. It’s exciting working with a product that is so cutting edge, seeing how we can push this support space further to just help people have a better experience.”

ROI achieved:

    • Cut contact rate by 50%
    • Scaled to support 80 Million users with a team of three.

Products Utilized:

      • In-App FAQs
      • In-App Messaging
      • User Segmentation for priority support

Want to learn more? Watch Helpshift’s interview with Flipboard’s community support team:

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