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View from Initialized

Meet Cohere: The Future of Customer Service & Onboarding Customers

There’s nothing like picking up the phone and helping a user all the way one-on-one — that’s what helped mega startup Superhuman. Cohere can help teams do that kind of onboarding by helping users directly but in an even more awesome way. It all happens right there in the web browser so you don’t have to set it up by phone or Zoom.

It’s the kind of thing every startup with High Lifetime Value (HLV) absolutely needs — a way to push retention and conversion. If you nail retention and conversion, you can have a billion-dollar startup. There are startups today that couldn’t happen before but can now because Cohere exists.

What is Cohere?

Garry: Yunyu, Rahul, thank you so much for coming on the YouTube channel. You’re working on something that’s really going to change the way people build products and that helps them work for their customers. I wanted to start off with, what is Cohere?

Rahul: Thank you, Garry. Cohere is the easiest way to onboard and support your users. When you log into your Cohere dashboard you can see every single user live on your website. If you see anyone in need of help you can just jump in and take control in one click, no set-up required on either side.

Yunyu: We’ve tried to make Cohere feel like you’re standing right beside your users in the same room. Everything is super fast and instantaneous and there’s no setup required on either end. If you’ve ever had to support a user, maybe your mom, over the phone, you’re likely going around back and forth on screen sharing asking them, “What page are you on? Can you click this button over here?” We prevent that back and forth from happening entirely because you can see what they’re doing in real-time and interact with what is on their screen. You no longer have to verbally describe how to navigate your user interface or try to fish out what they’re seeing in their app.

Garry: Previously, what you had to do is pick up the phone and try to guess what someone is doing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and at times you’re lucky to even get someone on the phone.

Rahul: Exactly, and having no screen share over the phone makes it even worse because then companies are forced to get on Zoom or Google Meet, which makes it even harder to get on calls with people when they need help.

Cohere in action

Demo starts at 2:38 minute mark

Garry: I remember running my own startup and sometimes there were flows that were somewhat complicated. To help users get through a complicated process I found myself trying to type out instructions in an email hoping that the user might actually do it or in very extreme cases if the user was really famous or really important for us, I would actually pick up the phone and walk them through setting up their custom domain. I wish I had this back when I was running Posterous because then I wouldn’t have had to do any of this. Who is Cohere best for?

Yunyu: There are two groups of people that Cohere works really well for. The first group is founders who are finding their first users; if you’d like to give an outstanding customer experience and truly understand their workflows and fix issues as they happen, then Cohere is for you. ****Several people have told us they use Cohere as a command center for their application. For example, they leave the dashboard up on their TV to get a live feed of what’s going on with their app, what users are doing, and what they’re struggling through etc. Secondly, a bunch of our customers have told us that they’ve saved a lot of deals and recovered lost revenue because the information on the Cohere dashboards is always live, instantaneous, and actionable.

Rahul: The second group of people that Cohere really resonates well with is people who spend a lot of time in their day supporting or onboarding customers. For example, some users have told us that they’ve saved 15 minutes every single call because they were able to completely get rid of their screen share. It meant they didn’t have to schedule a longer zoom meeting and ask to screen share, or delay due to apps that aren’t even installed, or maybe the issue is happening on their mobile phone and you can’t screen share. If you’re helping someone with an issue, a lot of the time it is just getting context. Questions, like “What screen are you on? What problem are you looking at? What error are you seeing?,” all go away when you have Cohere because you can instantly see what they’re looking at versus wasting time asking several questions. For example, “click that button here” and “no, not that one” or “the green one on the top right.” Cohere really helps you prevent these back and forth conversations and just lets you take control of their screen and walk them through the platform or issue, just like you’re sitting right next to them.

Lessons from Superhuman

Garry: Silicon Valley is quite obsessed, for instance, with the extreme onboard of Superhuman. With Cohere, what you get to do is another level of even better experience for onboarding or for customer support than what you might get in that extreme Superhuman onboard.

Rahul: That’s right. I was lucky enough to be part of the Superhuman team a couple of years ago as an intern, back when they were just a team of 15 people. I got to sit next to the onboarding specialists, going through these 30-minute calls and I would see people iterating on these calls, trying to make these experiences better. But it always came down to one point: you verbally tell the customer what to do. You’re always telling them now do X, and now do Y. Instead, Cohere lets you show and not just tell.

Garry: There have been platforms that are meant for customer success or that allow you to see what your users are doing. What do you do that other people who have attempted this don’t do?

Rahul: Firstly, Cohere is live and actionable. There are a lot of analytics and session replay platforms out there. The problem is whenever you go on those dashboards the data is always almost too late — your user has probably left the site, the error and churn has already happened and maybe you’ve lost some revenue. You can always fix those issues and prevent them from happening again. But with Cohere, because the data is live, you can just jump in and fix it before the user churns or leaves the website. Secondly, Cohere allows you to keep your stack. A lot of companies use a lot of tooling around customer success and support and you don’t have to rip out your entire stack just to be able to use Cohere. Cohere plays along really well with phone calls, Zoom, Zendesk, Intercom, Salesforce and Slack — we’ve built those integrations into all these tools. No matter what channel the users come in through, you can always jump on Cohere and start helping them out.

Yunyu: Another thing is oftentimes we work with customers in slightly more sensitive industries. Users expect their support agents to help them with sensitive business information that they might not necessarily want many people to access. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about security. One of the ways that Cohere works is, it lets you block out items selectively.

For example, say you’re helping someone on payroll and you want the support agent to be able to see what screen the users are on, but not necessarily be able to view individual security numbers. We allow the agent to do that. You, as the application developer, can let people see only what they need to see. There are also flexible permissions to request and control what you can click on and what you are able to interact with on the customer side.

We’ve taken security seriously as an early startup. Several of our customers, especially the larger folks, have all sorts of compliance requirements that can’t be satisfied with the full-screen share. We went ahead and got the SOC 2 Type 1 Certification relatively early to ensure and communicate our dedication to security and privacy.

Garry: It’s basically secure by default because the way Cohere does this is at the DOM Level instead of at the Pixel-level. Everyone else sort of does it at the Pixel-level. And then if you do that, are you really going to do OCR on the pixels to make sure that there’s no PII (personally identifiable information)? That would also mean that the third party has to actually have access to the PII.

That’s actually one of the most technically challenging and difficult things to do right, the thing that you figured out — DOM Level sync and control also enables the number one thing that enterprises actually care about and that is preventing personally identifiable information from leaking all over the place. Everyone’s always wanted to do exactly what you do but without the DOM Level control you wouldn’t be able to do it securely and privately.

Rahul: We also support a lot of user-level fraud features to protect our users end-users. Obviously, a tool like Cohere puts a lot of power into our users’ hands. So we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the security and privacy of our end-users. Firstly, we have flexible permissions. We let our end-users control when their screens are being shared and what level of access they grant our customers. Only if the end-user grants permission to control the screen will our users be able to take control. We also have flexible permissions such as not being able to click or scroll but just be able to guide users for certain workflows and industries where compliance may be a challenge.

Garry: We’ve talked about some things that were technically challenging and hard. Why is now the time for Cohere?

Yunyu: The move to the cloud has been accelerating. You have these legacy business workflows that are moving to software. As a result software is getting hyper-verticalized, it’s getting more and more complicated because they need to support a lot more things that map from the old way to the new way. In order for people to get familiar with the software and make sure that they can get the most value out of it, they need to know how to use it effectively. You need to onboard, train and understand the workflows. The tools for doing that are not very good right now.

Garry: We see that in the marketplace. Everything that people do that used to be paper and pencil now needs to come over to software but these are some of the largest and most complex industries that exist. It’s no surprise that the need for onboarding suddenly went up 10-100x and that you’re hitting the market at the right time. You have a bunch of customers that are already seeing huge value right now. What are some of the ones you’re most proud of?

Customer use cases

Yunyu: One of our customers is Canix. They do a software point of sales and warehousing infrastructure for cannabis companies. The onboarding is exceptionally complicated because they are basically replacing the entire back office of the business. What they’ve told us is that they have a lot of customers who are not technically savvy. Getting them to screen share on a Zoom setup is super complicated compared to just giving them a phone call. The response from their customers when using Cohere has been insane. Their agents, when they’re supporting someone, they just say, “Yeah, I can already see what you’re doing. I’ll just go ahead and click that.”

One of our other customers, VS24 makes virtual staging software for real estate agents. Their customer base is usually less savvy and oftentimes they need to get support for the product over the phone. Before, the customer would call them up or contact them in the live chat and they’d go back and forth a ton of times, “How do I do this? What does this mean?” etc. Oftentimes they would just get frustrated and churn. Now, the workflow for them is way simple. They just get the customer on the phone, click a button to get their permission to see the screen and instantly guide them through the issue. This has helped them turn a lot of frustrated leads, who might not have gotten through the workflow, into lifelong customers. Before it would take over 30 minutes to get the customer through signing up, onboarding and setting up the project. Now it’s like 30 seconds.

Garry: That’s amazing. It sounds like a Swiss Army Knife for customer success but it’s not just customer success, right? Product managers probably love this as well because, short of actually sitting next to a user, you often don’t know what people are doing and what they’re getting stuck on. There’s nothing quite like seeing a super visceral, “Are they going to get it done?” And if they get it done, you’re just going to feel so good. On the flip side, if they churn, you start to get that pattern match to understand, “Do I have the right mental model for the user? Do I have the right call to actions? Maybe they’re getting lost.” I mean, it’s just a very, very fat pipe of visceral experience from your user that product managers also get in addition to the customer success case.

Yunyu: Yeah, definitely. One of our customers Osmind does instantaneous guided tours with Cohere from leads coming in from the webpage where the customer gets to play around on their own accounts that they set up for them. Before, the product managers wouldn’t be on these customer calls because you’d have to go through scheduling. Now they’re just able to instantly guide the customer through the platform. We mentioned this before but some of our customers tend to leave Cohere up on a second monitor just to watch people poking around their app or through usage issues to really understand the user journeys through the product. What they’ve told us is that focusing on the stuff that’s live lets them proactively reach out and identify things that would have otherwise taken a lot to figure out.

The silver bullet for customer service, product management and sales

Garry: Cohere seems like this silver bullet not just for customer success but also product managers, and you could argue even sales. If you can touch that many parts of the business, it does feel like in the future we’ll wonder how we created web services or products without Cohere. The other thing that’s a really big milestone for Cohere is that not only is it great for small startups that are just starting out but it’s also ready for billion-dollar companies. You have some customers that you can’t talk about yet but they are already using you — you’re enterprise-ready. One of the other things we have failed to mention is that you only just got started last year.

Rahul: Yeah. We were in the YC batch last year and we did demo day last August. That’s when we got a chance to meet Initialized.

Yunyu: Turns out that some of the people who have the biggest need for a solution like this are larger tech unicorns who have a lot of dedicated customer support.

Rahul: We’re also excited to report that we closed our first large SaaS unicorn earlier this year. Part of their operation now runs on Cohere and they report that they’re able to get through calls faster, help their users better and get more power users on their platform.

Garry: That’s exciting. So, what’s the best way to get started with Cohere?

Yunyu: All you have to do is go to our landing page (https://cohere.so/), sign up for an account and add the script to your app. It takes about five minutes total setup time and we’d be happy to help you out. You’ll be instantly able to see what users are doing on your application and guide them through stuff the moment you stick the script in the app.

Garry: There isn’t a beta or gates? If anything, when you sign up it sounds like you guys might be the ones who drop and do a Cohere session and help with any of the sharp edges in the experience.

Yunyu: Yeah, we definitely use our own product. We’ve identified a whole bunch of issues with the onboarding flow that we’ve since been resolved. It’s super simple. It takes about five minutes and you’ll be able to see what it does for your app instantly.

Garry: Everyone needs to use it, whether you’re a tiny startup or a giant company that has millions of users already. You’re ready for any scale and it’s so helpful for so many different parts of the business. Thank you so much for coming on the YouTube channel. I’m always excited to be able to share some of our best investments, especially when they help other founders get to the success that we all want them to have.

For more conversations like the above, along other leadership and startup topics, be sure to check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. To stay up-to-date with all the latest Cohere news, follow them on Twitter.