By Raghu Madabushi, Director of Pathfinding & Incubation at National Grid Partners
At National Grid Partners, we invest in Decarbonization, Decentralization and Digitization of the broader energy infrastructure. We back founder-centric, tech-differentiated startups that have the potential to be category creators.
A fundamental ingredient for startup success is a team that takes customer feedback seriously and translates it into improvements in the core features at the pre-product-market-fit stage. How companies listen, respond and engage with customers sets the stage for startup success or startup death.
When Ryan Thompson and John Vrionis at Unusual Ventures introduced me to Aakrit Prasad and Anthony Kilman, I was eager not only to see their product vision, but also to see how they went about building their MVP to realize that vision. It was obvious from the first meeting that Aakrit and Anthony (and the broader team) had done this before at AppDynamics and had recreated the same magic at AptEdge, as well.
What’s broken about Customer Experience? Why is Customer Experience important? Why Now?
Customer experience is critical to every enterprise. The broad trends have accelerated this reality:
(1) Outside-in vs. Inside-out Approach: The pervasiveness of social media channels, like Facebook and Yelp, offer customers greater access to platforms that can impact a company’s reputation. The customer’s journey drives increased enterprise value in the feedback economy (one where influence is created by user communities at various touchpoints of a product’s lifecycle). Further, the emergence of ‘Customer Success Officers’ signals the de-siloing of product, marketing, sales and customer support organizations.
(2) CI/CD vs. Customer Experience: Continuous functionality and feature changes to complement an agile product development methodology (driven by Continuous-Integration / Continuous-Deployment type modern product development environments) can result in customer disconnect. Put another way, users can get frustrated when features change constantly – especially when automated workflows, which ensure customer-driven product changes also update other aspects of the product, are nonexistent. In such an environment, a culture change needs to be established to understand and leverage front-line customer support teams — those who are closest to customers — and provide feedback to the product, sales, marketing and other teams. Done right, this can create an analytics-driven product innovation culture that drives customer retention.
The statistics are stark around customer success and customer service:
- Studies show that 47 percent of customers stopped doing business due to poor customer service; and a 5 percent increase in customer retention resulted in a 25 percent increase in revenues.
- According to Forrester, companies in the post-COVID reality are estimated to spend $8 billion more on customer service representatives compared to the previous year.
- Companies that offer real-time customer insights and needs-based automation will be well-positioned to seize market share.
As such, global businesses are searching for digital platforms that will enable sales leads and customer success managers to leverage advanced analytics, real-time data, Machine Learning (AI/ML) optimization and cloud-based solutions to drive growth and customer retention.
AptEdge: The Platform for Transforming Customer Support
AptEdge enables customer support teams to drive top-line growth by surfacing product insights, while also lowering time-to-issue-resolution and reducing customer churn.
AptEdge uses AI/ML to identify the correct remedial action for customer-critical issues, enabling a faster response time and reducing false escalations (i.e., problems that don’t actually need to be escalated to agents because automated responses already exist). This is an intelligent, real-time, customer insights platform.
AptEdge develops predictive insights from customer tickets and issues, then integrates those insights with existing CRM and ticketing solutions to drive superior customer experience and agile product iteration. Companies that use AptEdge can target multiple user personas like customer support, product, sales and IT teams. Since AptEdge is an end-to-end, insights-to-action platform, users can create automated resolution workflows in a no-code methodology.
AptEdge for Customer Success
We expect AptEdge to become a platform of choice for customer-centric enterprises, especially as usage-based pricing is becoming the norm in SaaS. In such an environment, customer retention / stickiness is predicated on usage, which is in turn predicated on minimizing service interruptions, making superior customer support a key differentiator. This is even more pronounced in critical infrastructure industries like utilities, customer-experience differentiated finance, fast-paced product feature lifecycle technology or other end-markets with similar characteristics.
My investment thesis around Digitization revolves around data infrastructure and operational performance. The next generation of enterprise critical infrastructure will need to build on cloud, data analytics and cybersecurity on the one hand (“within-the-enterprise infrastructure”); and AI/ML, IoT, and new emerging DLT (Distributed Ledger) technologies on the other hand (“outside-of-the-enterprise infrastructure”).
We’re very excited about AptEdge and the magic of customer excellence that the team can unlock for their users.
Raghu Madabushi is a Director at National Grid Partners investing in early-stage companies in the broad enterprise software vertical. He has 20+ years of experience with technology, capital markets, and IP/innovation. He previously invested in deep tech and industrial infrastructure at SRI Ventures and GE Ventures; managed a large portfolio of open-source technology projects at the Linux Foundation; and headed early-stage startup investing at Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Development Fund. Raghu also has held buy-side and sell-side roles at Wall Street firms and brings extensive experience in hardware and software design (Texas Instruments, Intel, Cadence Design Systems). He received an MBA in Finance and Investments from Southern Methodist University and an MS in Computer Engineering from Iowa State University, and he currently serves as a Kauffman Fellow.