We’ve all been there. You make a quick call to your broadband provider to report a fault. An hour later, you’re still on hold and at your wit’s end.
Imagine you never had to experience that ever again. An appealing thought, isn’t it? A new app called ‘Hero’ promises precisely that.
“Consumer experience is one of those last areas that hasn’t really bought into the mobile or digital age. Being left on hold for ages was the case for consumers way back in the 1960s,” Hero’s founder, Adam Levene (pictured below), tells Techworld.
Hero’s selling point is that it lets people message businesses as easily as their friends, removing the need to make unnecessary or time-consuming phone calls.
“A lot of people now prefer messaging to calling. If messaging friends is so easy, why is it not easier to message businesses?” Levene asks.
Work on the app started in June 2015. Levene got some seed investment from Jon Claydon and Jamie True, who previously funded Grapple, a mobile design studio he helped to run from 2010 to 2013.
Hero launched in minimum viable product form in November 2015. It is currently only available ‘in beta’ on iOS devices but Levene promises it will be expanded to Android in the coming months.
“I made the very expensive, unscalable decision that I wanted all consumers to be able to access all businesses in London, from the word go,” he says.
Most businesses are not using the app themselves directly yet, aside from a few early adopters like MADE.COM.
To mitigate this, Hero has an intermediary team in place between the business and the consumer, which will handle queries from any consumer to any business in London.
“We’ve found 98 percent of requests relate to purchasing intent at the moment,” Levene says. “However the idea is for it to be for all queries, including complaints.”
The app has a sleek, minimalist interface. When launched, the landing page lists a number of different businesses by category: clothes shops, restaurants, salons, opticians, and so on.
Techworld tried out Hero to book a restaurant. The search box revealed the restaurant was available on Hero - a good first step.
After messaging to request the booking, Rachel from Hero replied within a minute to confirm they were working on it. Although it took them a few hours (it is a really busy restaurant), they managed to get a table at the time I asked for.
It was a good initial experience. In fact it felt rather like having your own personal concierge.
However, it does raise the question: is hiring people as a go-between layer for the business and consumer sustainable for Hero? Levene hopes that eventually it won’t need to be.
“We can use all this usage of the app as a business case. We’re still figuring out monetisation as this tech is so new. But if we’re driving footfall or pushing people to businesses, there could be some logic in affiliate or kickback models,” he says.
The team is currently exploring the possibility of taking payments within the app itself, as an option within the conversation thread with a retailer.
It sounds like Levene has his work cut out for the coming year.
As well as figuring out monetisation, he plans to try to increase the number of businesses using the app (he hopes to encourage more small retailers to use it), grow the number of consumers, embed the app in London and explore expanding it elsewhere.
Levene is also keen to encourage bigger, more traditional industries like utilities companies and airlines to use Hero for customer interactions.
“We want as many consumers as possible to have their first ‘Hero’ moment. It’s like taking your first Uber. It suddenly just feels like the future,” he says.