(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
My company sells five CRM applications and we use one of them internally. In addition to the ones we sell, I’ve seen demonstrations of countless other well-known and similar systems, many of them excellent. All of these CRM systems have unique features. But they also have one very similar flaw. What is that, you ask?
It’s this: there’s no one place to see and respond to all of your customer interactions. Sure, there are “activity” tabs or views where people log in calls. There are email centers. There are special areas for social media engagements. Some can integrate with text messaging services. But you’re going here and going there. You’re clicking other screens or needing to open up additional windows. You’re creating tickets and incidents and then having to move around different places within the system to get all the information needed to resolve the issue.
A startup aims to fix this problem. The company is called Kustomer and it has cumulatively raised $173 million since 2015, including $60 million from a group of well-known venture capital firms last week. Based on this last funding round, the company is now estimated to be worth – according to its CEO – more than half a billion dollars. The money is needed. Over the past few years Kustomer has been growing rapidly due the unique way it’s approaching CRM.
“We are the only company doing proper omnichannel, where you have a single threaded conversation that allows you to converse with customers in any channel you support,” CEO Brad Birnbaum told TechCrunch. “To do that in a single threaded conversation sounds obvious, but I would challenge you to find others doing it the same way we do.”
Kustomer, which is based in New York, benefits from its newness to the scene. Most of the most popular, mainstream CRMs today have been around for at least ten years or so and have been trying to play catchup with recent communication methods such as Facebook messaging, SMS, social media, website chat in addition to traditional ways like email and phone calling. Kustomer built its CRM from the ground-up to take into account all these ways of communicating so that it could incorporate everything into one view.
Like any good CRM application, Kustomer – which starts at $99 per month per user – may not be for everyone. It’s more service, rather than sales, oriented and is challenging other service platforms such as Zendesk and Salesforce. The company’s focus has been focused on B2C and retail, although management says it has customers in other industries that sell B2B and plans to increase investment in those areas. It also has resisted generating tickets like a traditional customer service system and instead relies on a single view stream of interactions from all channels where agents can combine automation with their own insights to pick up service issues and resolve them.
I like Kustomer for a few reasons. It’s already built a strong community of third party integrations with well-known brands such as Amazon, Shopify, Magento, Slack and many others. It’s currently being used by larger brands such as Rent the Runway, Sweetgreen and UNTUCKit. The company has managed to raise significant funding and management is investing heavily in R&D to expand the product.
But what I like most is its simple approach to CRM: all interactions in one place, regardless of the channel. I’m hoping that the CRM vendors that I represent are looking closely at Kustomer’s model and are planning similar changes to their applications in the near future. I know my customers will want this.