This week Twitpic founder Noah Everett launched his new startup, Charleston, SC-based Helpmint, to create simple conversation streams out of all a company’s email, SMS and Twitter support requests. The platform launched in beta this week, and Everett said he developed it as an internal tool to run support for Twitpic’s photo- and video-sharing platform, and then decided to launch it as a stand-alone product. ”The solutions we were using before were either too clunky, too expensive, or just had a lot of bloated and unnecessary features,” Everett said in an interview. “We kind of boiled down support to a conversation with a user.”
Helpmint trackers support messages via Twitter, SMS or email. Support agents can forward their support emails to their Helpmint email address (@yourdomain.helpmint.com) to track it, and can either reply to emails using their Helpmint email address, or their own custom email address. A company’s Twitter stream can also be linked, which then pulls mentions of the linked account into Helpmint conversations. Agents can also choose a custom phone number in order to be able to respond to support requests via SMS, similar to SendHub’s SMS for organizations tool. Right now that option is only available for paid plans, though Everett said they’re trying to open it up to all users.
The goal is to simplify conversations on different platforms into one stream, with each item divided into needs action, responded, and completed. Agents can reply to emails, Tweets and SMS messages from within Helpmint, so Everett also views Helpmint as a basic social media management tool. Similar to other customer service forums like GetSatisfation, each company gets a support homepage (yourcompany.helpmint.com), which can be customized with their branding and info (URL, Twitter account, description). Companies can also create support articles, which answer questions or provide info to users, and are displayed on a company’s profile page.
Pricing is free for the first agent, and $24 per month per additional agent. In comparison, GetSatisfaction doesn’t have a free plan, and their $19 per month starter plan only allows access to one moderator (the $49 per month plan includes three moderators). The company has permission settings for agents, so that only the owner will see all account information, including billing details; admins have control over account settings, including managing employees; and agents are limited to managing conversations and creating and editing support articles.
Helpmint is entering the busy online support space, with existing market leaders like GetSatisfaction, Zendesk and UserVoice. These existing companies offer a lot beyond just replying to email and Twitter comments, everything from Google Analytics and Salesforce integration to APIs. But Everett said he’s not trying to get large companies on board, and is instead targeting companies with 1-10 people. “Our goal is to hit that long tail of startups: Our product is geared to smaller companies who want a super simple platform for customer service,” he said. He is planning to add Facebook as a support option, and said he’ll consider adding more integrations based on early user feedback.
Everett will still focus on Twitpic, and he said his goal is to let Helpmint fund itself rather than take external funding. Helpmint’s design is clean and its functionality simple, which could be a plus for small companies looking to add a public-facing support page, but likely won’t be robust enough for enterprises that require custom solutions.