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Freshworks unifies customer data to AI-enable a more joined-up experience

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright July 20, 2022
The new Freshworks summer release connects AI-enabled chat into a unified customer record, or CDP, across all its CRM applications.

Customer Data Platform (CDP) concept © ArtemisDiana - shutterstock
(© ArtemisDiana - shutterstock)

Freshworks updates its cloud CRM software today in a summer release that showcases AI-powered conversational messaging and a single Unified Customer Record (UCR) across support, sales and marketing. These two features are closely linked, because having a single customer dataset — what many CRM vendors call a Customer Data Platform (CDP) — makes it possible for the AI to process all of the data relevant to a customer and surface useful insights. Stacey Epstein, CMO at Freshworks, explains:

Instead of putting your chat solution on one data model, your customer support solution on another, your sales and marketing solution on another, all of our [applications] — attracting through Freshmarketer, winning through Freshsales, retaining through Freshchat and Freshdesk customer support — all of those being on one unified customer record, it really empowers our customers and those frontline employees to have all of the information they need in one place to improve their efficiency in those areas.

Freshworks believes its approach is different to the way other vendors have built their CDPs because of its emphasis on applying AI and Machine Learning (ML) to produce actionable insights from the data. Mukesh Mirchandani, VP Global Solution Engineering at Freshworks, elaborates:

There is a lot of work that a number of companies have been doing with CDPs, and that's all very commendable. That's the right direction to go in. But CDP projects tend to be science projects in a lot of companies. And we're making it practical with our UCR. Our UCR is going to be very usable for machine learning, for contextual engagement, for running journeys.

Putting CDP inside

This approach to customer data takes the CDP concept beyond a data management exercise and makes it much more powerful in its impact, the company argues. Epstein adds:

Most of the solutions, they're taking an AI and an ML and they're bolting it on, and they have to do that integration work and they have to pull the data. Then 'Okay, now I've got my customer support solution over here. I've got my marketing solution over here. Now I've got to integrate them, abstract that data and present that 360-degree view.'

Ours is built on one platform. So when you look at Freshmarketer or you look at Freshchat, you're looking at the continuum of that outcome-based solution, you're talking about AI. It's built together from the get-go. It's not a just an abstraction of data to create a CDP. It is inherently a CDP.

Having said that, Freshworks acknowledges that some customers will already have standardized on a different vendor's CDP and will integrate with that as needed. Mirchandani says:

If a customer of ours has a CDP, we will synchronize data, no problem, We're a very open and extensible platform, and everything is API-first, so we will synchronize that data.

But we think that when you put the CDP inside of your customer service solution inside of your customer engagement solution, that changes the game. That then allows you to do workflows and intelligence that you've never done before.

Personalized customer engagement

The Freshworks UCR is teamed with the AI-powered Freshchat chatbot, which provides messaging across WhatsApp, Instagram, Apple Business Chat, SMS, Line, and Freshdesk-native Textline messaging. The combination was launched for e-commerce customers in April and now extends across the full product range. This allows companies to personalize customer engagement across different functions and channels. Mirchandani gives an example:

If I'm interacting with my favourite brand about a certain size of a product — I'm trying to buy a pair of shoes. I want to know if it's available in 10 and a half. What is that? Is that a support question? Is that a sales question? The boundaries are very blurred. Oftentimes, it's the same customer support agent that is answering this question, and customer support agents are suddenly turning into revenue creators for the company.

So that's our vision. When we think about marrying customer convenience, give them the channels that they want. Customers want to interact someday on SMS, another day on WhatsApp, sometimes on Instagram. Give them the convenience. On the agent side, give them unification. That's our vision. so that they can, if they need to support, they support, if they need to sell, they sell. It turns into this virtuous cycle where the customers are getting what they want, and the companies that are taking this approach, the non-legacy approach, are creating more revenue.

Today's customers expect this more flexible response from businesses, Epstein adds:

I don't want to be treated like a ticket ... I want to just be able to quickly have a chat, and then get what I need. We've got to really make that easy and enable that, so that customers are getting the outcomes they want. And the more we do that, the more effective we make those people that are fueling those interactions and the more efficient we make the company that's investing in that strategy.

Here's the full set of features introduced in today's release:

  • Enhanced Unified Customer Record (UCR) across Freshmarketer, Freshsales and Freshchat for all customers.
  • Pre-built Freshchat playbooks to help agents get chatbots up and running on their target messaging channels.
  • Packaged Freshmarketer for Shopify solution.
  • CTI adapters for out-of-the-box connection to a wider range of call center telephony providers.
  • Customer support workforce management through integration with Injixo.
  • New messaging integrations for Instagram DMs and Twilio SMS.
  • Further Freshdesk extensibility with no-code custom objects.
  • Enhanced on-call management capabilities and alert management for IT service desks.

My take

Freshworks is right to enable multi-channel customer engagement that runs across sales, marketing and customer support, providing a joined-up experience that matches the expectations of today's digitally savvy customers.

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