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The 2016 CRM Service Rising Stars: Freshdesk Simplifies Customer Service for Growing Businesses
For the rest of the March 2016 issue of CRM magazine please click here

Freshdesk was founded in 2010 by Zoho alumni Shan Krishnasamy and Girish Mathrubootham, after Mathrubootham ordered a new TV only to have it delivered broken. Resolving the issue proved difficult, but Mathrubootham realized something: He could create a software solution himself. Out of that, Freshdesk was born.

In 2011, the young company won Microsoft's BizSpark award for best cloud-based start-up and gained its initial funding, thus enabling it to launch its flagship product. Five years and several rounds of funding later, Freshdesk has emerged as a viable company in the help desk space, distinguishing itself from competitors such as Zendesk and Desk.com by offering fun, easy-to-use tools to smaller outfits that lack the time and budgets to extensively train their service agents. Alan Berkson, Freshdesk's director of community outreach, says that customers tend to "find that the user interface is modern and intuitive instead of clunky and old-school."

And accessibility is not something to take lightly, especially when small businesses are the parties in question, industry experts agree.

The product has "a great look and interface," Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Forrest Research, says. "It's just very simple to use from the agents' point of view."

"A lot of companies that are on the smaller side, and fairly new to customer support platforms, may feel like Zendesk and Desk is too [complex] for them," adds Brent Leary, cofounder and partner at CRM Essentials. Freshdesk appeals to those teams—typically with 10 or fewer employees—that are attempting to break away from email and Excel spreadsheets and into something more sophisticated by making "it a bit easier to on-board and use," Leary says.

But simplicity is not the company's sole focus. This year it launched new features for mobile apps and support for social media to enable companies to address customer service issues that surface on Twitter. Likewise, Freshdesk integrated its offerings with those of Box, allowing customers to share business documents with agents so that they could more easily resolve queries.

Over the past year and a half, the company has continued to widen its scope. In June 2014, the company introduced MobiHelp, a software development kit that enables organizations to create customer support applications for mobile devices. In 2015, Freshdesk enhanced those capabilities with the acquisition of Konotor. "Konotor takes us to a different level because [the company offers] more of an [end-to-end] mobile engagement," Berkson says. "It allows you to do push based on where people are, from a marketing point of view, and also get context from a customer service point of view."

"For companies that do commerce through their mobile apps, this is really critical," Jacobs says. "Customers expect service at [every] touch point, and if you're selling stuff through an app, it's really important to have assistance built in there."

Freshdesk made two other acquisitions in 2015. The first of these was the October purchase of 1Click.io, a video chat and cobrowsing platform. According to Jacobs, the tool stands out by reducing the number of steps agents and customers must take before initiating a cobrowse session.

Also in October, the company acquired Frilp, whose offerings will enable Freshdesk to further its peer-to-peer support efforts. "Frilp is going to give us some interesting things in terms of machine learning and community-based knowledge management and customer service—getting people you know to answer questions," Berkson says.

"They've really grown leaps and bounds in terms of customers, number of employees, and funds they've raised," Leary says of the company.

Berkson estimates the company brought on about 25,000 net new customers last year alone—not too shabby, considering that its current customer base is around 50,000, and as recent as 2013, it tallied only about 8,000 customers. In light of this growth, Freshdesk expects to move upmarket.

FRESHDESK

CEO: Girish Mathrubootham

Founded: 2010

Headquarters: San Bruno, Calif. (With offices

in London, Sydney, and Chennai)

Projected Revenue in 2015: N/A

Employees: 520

Customer Count: 50,000

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