An Interview with the CEO
Who are you and what’s your story?
I’m CEO and Founder at HelloDone, a post purchase technology company which helps ecommerce retailers turn the ‘last mile’ into the first thought. One way or another, I’ve spent my whole career in technology, specialising in creating and bringing digital and mobile app channels to market.
In 2010, I built and led the team that delivered the first set of mobile apps for supermarket giant Tesco, including the Tesco Grocery app which drove £100m in revenue in the first six months. I went on to develop similar capabilities for leading banks RBS, Lloyds and Vanquis Bank, before growing the European presence of cyber security company InAuth, which successfully sold to AMEX in 2016.
A year later, I became CEO of Lola Tech and we created Dazzle, a voice-activated personal assistant for the travel industry. But we quickly identified a gap in the market for this kind of technology in the ecommerce space. So, we pivoted the artificial intelligence and turned it into a conversational engagement engine to help retailers transform their post purchase customer support.
So far, we’ve raised a total of £3m in funding to help us scale and grow our proprietary technology, as online shopping continues to boom during the pandemic.
Who does HelloDone help and what are you striving to achieve?
HelloDone is a customer engagement platform powered by conversational AI. We help logistics companies automate conversations - personalised to the individual needs of their customers - across digital channels including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Alexa and Google Assistant.
This enables brands to successfully answer common customer queries such as WISMOs (Where is My Order?), reducing the overall volume of requests and freeing up their customer service teams to focus on the most complex and time-sensitive tickets.
Many brands have built an amazing customer experience online – only to abandon shoppers after they hit the buy button. This isn’t just conjecture. Our latest research shows that more than half of one-star retail reviews on Trustpilot are attributed to issues with delivery or returns.
Our mission is to help ecommerce retailers make it easier for customers to ‘get stuff done’ via the apps they use and love the most. We believe AI is the key to delivering a better customer experience and turning post purchase from a longstanding pain point into a source of competitive advantage.
What makes your technology different?
Our custom-built natural language processing platform (Cicero) is what sets us apart. There are now many conversational AI powered services, but most rely on generic, off-the-shelf solutions from providers like Amazon and Google.
In the markets we serve – which require highly contextual responses – our bespoke approach means that we can truly emulate human interactions. So customer conversations have a natural feel, but with all the benefits of automation.
That’s a real testament to the technical knowledge and capabilities we have in our team. Products developed by our CTO Owen have been installed on over 100m handsets, while our Head of AI Andrew’s CV includes delivering AI for the Mars landings.
What’s been the most exciting part of founding your business to date?
What really excites me is that the companies we work with are among the most forward-thinking in the industry. They are embracing technology to create new ways to engage with their customers and make their lives easier, especially during the pandemic.
For example, we recently partnered with fashion retailer Quiz to transform their post purchase customer experience. Quiz customers can now ask questions about their orders using Facebook Messenger and get instant, tailored answers about their delivery status.
I’m confident that more firms will follow their lead, as consumers do more of their shopping online than ever before.
What are the future implications of HelloDone’s technology? What are the challenges and opportunities?
In the near term, we believe we’re reaching the point of ‘peak app’. We’re going to see streamlining of the vast array of technology available to us so that existing apps do more. Eventually, as has happened with WeChat in China, a smaller number of ‘universal apps’ will meet a host of different needs through software integration and additional functions.
For users, the rise of the universal app promises an easier way to get things done and the gift of more time in our busy lives. For brands, it provides not just a new marketing channel, but a completely different customer experience.
The main challenge is shared by the entire technology industry – to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind as more services shift to digital. However, from an accessibility standpoint, conversational AI can help more companies deliver customer care via voice technology, using the likes of Alexa or Google Assistant.
Is HelloDone UK focused or do you plan to expand into other global markets?
Although we’re based in the UK, the problems we are solving are global. So, yes, conquering the world is our ambition.
Our initial focus is on Europe. We believe that Brexit has made conversational engagement even more important for ecommerce companies, due to the additional red tape around cross-border delivery and returns. Foreign language support is a big priority for us too.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?
Start with the problem you’re trying to solve and work backwards from there. There are all sorts of technology solutions flooding the market that claim to have the best, easiest or most sophisticated software. But the customer experience should lead the tech – not the other way around.
For ecommerce, the dreaded ‘last mile’ has long been a major source of frustration for customers. So we knew our technology had to bring the post purchase experience into the 21st century.