SendBird is a scalable and powerful chat API software that allows customers from over 150 countries around the world to serve a wide range of use cases across communities, marketplaces, on-demand services, games, and e-commerce. In this interview, CEO John Kim describes the story behind SendBird and shares his views on where the chat industry is heading.
Please describe the background to founding SendBird: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
We actually started the company as a community for mothers to share ideas and get support around shared topics of interest. As part of a strategy to build engagement, we decided to build a 1-on-1 chat between members. Previous to SendBird, my co-founders and I had founded a gaming company, so we already had a chat engine that we built from scratch. This time, we wanted to make the chat better, but there wasn’t anything on the market that was both easy, productive, and had the sophistication for what we were looking for, and that was how the idea of SendBird was born.
What are some typical use cases for SendBird, and who are your typical clients?
At SendBird, we power in-app or in-Website chat for a variety of industries. SendBird chat features are delivered via an API. This allows developers and product managers to embed the chat experience into their own app, with their own UI and brand, and within the context of the workflows of their app.
Most people can relate to the chat found in ride-sharing and delivery apps. If a rider has a problem finding their driver or vice versa, either party can initiate a chat and take actions like sharing location data within the chat to help quickly resolve the issue. We call this category “on-demand services” and it’s a popular use case for us. We power driver-to-rider chat for some of the largest ride-sharing companies in the world including Gojek, one of the largest super apps of Southeast Asia.
Other common use cases include:
Buyer-to-seller chat for online marketplaces
User-to-user chat for dating
Doctor (or care provider)-to-patient chat in healthcare
User-to-user chat in online communities
Gamer-to-gamer chat in gaming
Almost any industry can leverage user to user chat in some form to improve the experience for their customers.
Here’s a quick preview of SendBird’s capabilities for customer support representatives:
What are the most eminent challenges that online support teams are struggling with these days, and how does SendBird make it easier?
Support is a very popular use case for SendBird– support teams have been leveraging chat as a channel for some time now.
Some of the largest brands in the world use SendBird to power support experiences on their app, such as Virgin Mobile UAE.
Today, support organizations are trying to solve customer problems in the most seamless way possible. In real-time, when the customer needs it, and with minimum disruption to their work. Chat has become a popular way for customers to reach out as they can do it on the go, get an answer quickly, and not have to get on the phone or put on hold.
The difference between SendBird and some of the other vendors who specialize in support, is they provide chat as a standalone application, while we embed chat into the context of the interaction the user is already having. So if the customer is in the middle of a transaction and needs help completing it, he or she can chat right there and then without having to jump out to a different support application. This is the flexibility and power that comes with an API approach to chat.
What are some pros and cons for using automated chat as opposed to live human chat? How can the two be intertwined to maximize customer experience?
At SendBird we have an API to support chatbots and let brands integrate an automated chat experience into their user to user chat. Frankly, you need both – chatbots are great for highly repetitive questions such as “how do I track my order” or “what are your office hours?” But typically for more complex questions that are specific to a particular customer, user-to-user chat is needed. The combination allows support teams to deflect questions that shouldn’t require a human and free up the team to take on the more meaningful questions.
What do you do to secure user information on your platform?
We take security for our users’ data very seriously. We use TLS encryption to keep the message data secure at rest and in motion. We use AES256 file encryption to encrypt media and files while sharing them in messages. Our infrastructure adheres to some of the most stringent requirements laid out by leading compliance standards such as SOC2, ISO27001, GDPR, EU/US Privacy Shield, and HIPAA. We think private messaging will be a big use case in the future and are actively exploring investing in end-to-end encryption to power private messaging in use cases such as fintech, healthcare, and dating.
How do you see the future of chat in 5-10 years from now?
As we communicate with businesses, our interactions, support or other, will have some kind of digital footprint. Even if I walk into a store and look at a sweater, I might initiate a return online, or buy a second color online or share it with a friend via a social channel. The world is increasingly powered by the digital interactions we have with each other and with businesses every day. A digital interaction strategy then becomes a must-have for every business. That might be the form of chat or other channels like voice, video, or even someday AR/VR. As this happens, getting the digital customer interaction experience right, regardless of the channel, will be a must-have for any business.
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