Tech

Helpshift contemplates customer support for the metaverse with Metashift

Helpshift has made it possible for mobile game makers to handle millions of customer support requests over mobile phones through automation. And now it hopes to do the same for the metaverse with Metashift.

San Francisco-based Helpshift started years ago using automation to make it easier to deal with customer complaints in mobile games and apps. It created nested frequently asked question (FAQ) answers that players could use in lieu of talking to a customer service person. The metaverse is the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

In games like Supercell’s Clash of Clans, that helped reduce complaints to hundreds, or enough for a small team of human support staff to handle. It uses both AI technology as well as just logical FAQ threads to enable lots of people to get their questions answered without needing to get a human on the line.

“We’re so excited about the opportunity the metaverse provides. It provides a natural extension of some of our decades of experience in gaming and becomes an extension of that,” said Eric Vermillion, CEO of Helpshift, in an interview with GamesBeat. “But like some of the other things that we’re excited about it can really improve the way support is delivered over today’s physical world of support in a way that relies heavily on physical identities and physical access.”

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With Metashift, Helpshift hopes to use technologies such as immersive customer service and user support, feedback systems, and blockchain verification with in-world support for mobile, AR, and VR experiences. The blockchain part would make use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Christine Dyer, head of marketing at Helpshift, said in an interview that it isn’t a good experience to boot users out of an app when they need support.

“The Helpshift story for a long time has been to keep people in the app and in the experience,” she said. “That’s why Helpshift is introducing Metashift, which is the first core system for the metaverse featuring in-VR support.”

The metaverse isn’t being viewed as science fiction anymore. Bloomberg estimated the metaverse market could reach $800 billion by 2024. Other industries that are embracing the emerging opportunities of the metaverse include fintech, mobile-first retail, and virtual entertainment.

However, as more brands move their businesses and customer experiences to the metaverse, they face big challenges and risks of disruption. Brands need new ways to engage with people in these new virtual experiences; they must be able to verify user identities and assets by navigating new technologies like NFTs, blockchain tokens, and identity tokens, and they must ensure that people are delighted with their new metaverse experiences.

“I am very excited about the potential of this parallel digital experience,” Vermillion said. “I think a lot of people think about the metaverse as kind of this new big VR game. I do believe that there will be some really cool games and experiences in there. But I also think there are some cool social professional realms that will really change the way we exist in society and in the metaverse. I think about the day that I sit down in a room with someone that speaks Japanese, Portuguese, or French from different countries and collaborate in real time and understand each other clearly.”

With its new Metashift offering, Helpshift will be helping metaverse brands by providing in-world support experiences so that customers can provide feedback, get questions answered, or chat with an agent without ever leaving the metaverse. With a metaverse-specific immersive customer support experience, companies can help reduce churn, increase CSAT scores, and drive revenue.

“This is something that we’ve been working on for a long time within mobile apps, and really we are extending it to VR and other forms of the metaverse to come,” Dyer said. “It needs to be immersive so people stay engaged. Because if you don’t have any of that, you’re kicking people out. You’re delaying support. There is a lack of personalization, people aren’t able to give feedback or report on bugs that they’re experiencing, and issues get left unresolved. It’s extremely painful for the user. And that’s where churn happens. There’s a lack of loyalty there.”

If you cannot adapt your user experiences to the metaverse, you risk losing millions of customers, Vermillion said. The metaverse has been hyped as an immersive and transformative development in how people interact and engage with brands online. However, in order to thrive, companies should prioritize the user experience to prevent churn and create engaged fans, he said.

Metashift’s feedback demo.

“Users should have an easy way to leave feedback and get in-world support, without having to leave the metaverse experience,” he said.

Keywords Studios, a leading video game developer and longtime partner of Helpshift, sees strong potential in the Metaverse and believes that demand is growing for new capabilities to engage with customers in AR/VR environments.

“We believe that happy players are essential to the growth of a game because they spread the word,” said Peter Gerson, senior manager of player support services at Keywords Studios, in a statement. “We enjoy our partnership with Helpshift because we know they understand the importance of a seamless user experience and allowing users to stay in-app. They are well poised to advance innovations in the Metaverse and we look forward to working alongside them in this journey.”

Mobile and AR support

Helpshift will deploy its new Metashift support solution in three phases. first, it will offer free out-of-the-box feedback, bug, and crash reporting (available for mobile and AR experiences starting May 3). Publishers can ensure their experiences are working properly and gauge product-market fit by allowing users to easily provide feedback and report bugs or crashes.

Whether a customer is already offering an experience in the metaverse or whether people are only working from a mobile app at the moment, deploying Helpshift’s out-of-the-box feedback will set them up for success and help reduce the app’s potential for churn due to poor user experience.

“Our objective really is to provide tools to help the companies understand when players or users are having issues. And when they see recurring problems, they see an alert and something that needs to change,” Vermillion said.

As for dealing with the sheer scale of the metaverse, Vermillion is optimistic that tech and automation can keep up with the demand for customer support.

“There are some complexity that gets added to it when you’re trying to deal with support issues across multiple entities,” Vermillion said. “But there is also the concept of more peer-to-peer engagement. When you are in a sporting event or amusement park, you often ask a person next to you for support, and you will be able to do that in a VR world.”

Blockchain support

Second, Metashift will allow for verification of identity or asset ownership (such as NFTs) by support teams from the blockchain or legacy identity providers (availability target in the third quarter of 2022).

Support teams can take advantage of new blockchain technologies to provide users with better and more secure support. This is important as brands will need to deal with virtual assets like NFTs that can have considerable value or the new self-sovereign identities that will be part of the metaverse. Phase Two of Metashift ensures that users’ virtual identities and assets can be supported across the metaverse through blockchain verification. This feature will be available for brands starting Q3 2022.

“The next leg of this is being able to actually support newer technologies that are coming into play with what we’re seeing with NFT assets,” Dyer said. “We’re seeing self-sovereign identity so that people can actually protect their identity, use it across different worlds in the metaverse, and then be able to actually have that verified within the support experience.”

If folks don’t want to deal with NFTs or blockchain, they would have to use options that don’t use those technologies. But Dyer believes acceptance will come, and it will make the support process easier.

Native VR support

You should not have to leave the metaverse to get support.

The third phase will be native VR support where customers can reach support from within the VR experience. It will be available in Q4 in 2022.

As user experiences evolve to become more engaging and immersive, so must the support journey for brands. That’s why Helpshift is in the process of delivering the first support solution for the VR metaverse experience. Users shouldn’t have to leave virtual reality in order to get support.

Helpshift has a conceptual demo where you would approach a cute customer service agent and initiate a conversation. The agent would respond inside the VR world and engage in a FAQ-based conversation with you.

“You can speak with the agent so that you don’t have to type something in VR,” Dyer said.

In Phase Three, users will be able to access FAQs, self-serve with AI-driven intents, leave feedback, report bugs and crashes, and chat with an agent right from the VR experience. VR support will be available starting Q4 2022.

Existing Helpshift users will gain access to Metashift as soon as the features are rolled out. Those that aren’t yet Helpshift customers will be able to start using Metashift for free when it is available in early May and can get on the waitlist now.

Helpshift has 145 employees and about 400 customers. It handles millions of tickets and its software development kit (SDK) sits on three billion mobile devices today. It has consumers in 160 languages around the world.

“Fundamentally, it’s the same principle that we’ve, we’ve seen in mobile gaming,” Vermillion said. “When you force people out of the game, at their moment of vulnerability when they need help, there’s a pretty good chance that they won’t come back. And I think in the metaverse, that’s going to be even more relevant as successes in support are going to be even more complex. Because you’re not just dealing with one brand. You’re not just dealing with one group, one game, you’re dealing with multiple different worlds, multiple different entities.”

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