Co-Founder & CEO, Vauld
Darshan Bathija is the co-founder and CEO of Vauld (previously Bank of Hodlers), with a mission to transition the world to decentralised money. Vauld works to build a banking system that is more swift, secure, and decentralized than traditional banks and is built on permissionless blockchains. Prior to his current role, he was the Head of Partnerships at TapChief (acquired by Unacademy).
- [02:42] What have been the biggest customer support challenges for Vauld
- [06:35] How to measure customer support effectiveness
- [11:40] How has customer support at Vauld grown
- [14:20] Best practices to follow in customer support
And today I have Darshan with me. Darshan is the co-founder and CEO of Vauld, (Previously Bank of Hodlers).
Where their mission is to transition the world to decentralised money.
He started off his journey as an investment professional with Piramal Finance and moved on to head partnership for TapChief, which was later acquired by UnAcademy.
Welcome to the show Darshan.
Thanks for having me.
Darshan, why don’t you start off by telling about… more about Vauld, about your role…to our listeners?
Absolutely. So Vauld is a cryptocurrency lending and trading platform.
We are roughly 3 years old. We are customer facing and have customers from a 190 countries.
So we are truly global. We are venture capital backed. We raised around a couple of months ago.
We raise our Series A then, but we also raised a smaller round late last year.
We are about 75 people out of our Bangalore office and about half of that is in the support function. Our mission, as you rightly mentioned, is to accelerate the transition to decentralised money.
We think it’s the most customer-centric form of money that’s ever existed and we want to enable more banking touchpoints on the crypto… in the crypto world, We started with that mission three years ago by introducing a system where customers can earn yield on one end and get a line of credit on the other.
We have connected them through the platform, through our platform and that has grown quite significantly since our launch.
What we intend to do over the next 12 months is combine more core aspects of banking such as storage of wealth through a bank account or payments through a debit card uh… deeply integrated into the Vauld ecosystem.
And this won’t just be accessible to people in India, but rather people in Singapore, Europe, US, and a bunch of other countries.
So we would like many people to use us as their primary banking destination and hopefully transition more… more payments, more savings in the crypto world.
Fantastic. I mean, crypto has come a long way in the last five years, right?
I mean from being talked about as a techie currency and being talked about as somebody who… I mean from a underground currency types to somebody now.
And now, I mean, offering lending rates, borrowing rates. This fascinating to hear about.
We’ll get into the podcast now, right? And we’ll get into the meat of it, right?
[02:42] Siddharth Sharma
In your view, right, and specially I am talking about crypto. How has the industry evolved in the past year and what are the biggest challenges you have been trying to solve in the customer support space?
So I think the challenges are two fold in the crypto world.
One is education as a…. as a new customer in itself, because as you know, it’s such a new space.
Where many people are actually owning crypto for the first time in the last 12 months. And that one time education required to better understand what… what Bitcoin can do for you. What Ethereum can do for you?
What are the differences between both of them? How do you use a platform to purchase crypto? How do you move cryptocurrencies and the likes? That one time education was significant.
And the next cohort of, I would say, customer queries come in when they’ve OK, they bought their first crypto. They have bought their first couple of cryptocurrencies and they are going down the rabbit hole of figuring out what the 10th biggest token is.
What the 50th biggest token is, and, so those are the two health…uh, aspects of learning that are biased towards uh..information. And in turn, what we do is we try to digest that down and ensure that its communicated reasonably well.
But… and of course, given that we run a platform where we provide this service to purchase and earn interest, we get a bunch of queries around…
How do we generate the yield?
And in case, you know, somebody is not able to figure out something on their own on the platform. That’s when we like someone from our team to… to help them with that process.
Right and you talk about customer support. You talked about how you are helping your customers, right?
Both in fact, to educate them as well as to help them transact their first time, right? How is customer support like in your organisation? Like, could you elaborate on the team structure when it comes to the support section?
Sure, so when we handle support, we like to think of them as asynchronous communication and synchronous communication.
Asynchronous communication tends to be first information heavy on our end. Through an education process of email or any other download that we tend to share with them. The next form of communication is when they need something instantly.
Which is why we have a full fledged team to help with that. We are about 75 people now. About half of that is in support. So we are keeping up with demand and the way it’s structured is really simple.
We have a director of customer success, who has… who has two people directly report to them. One is a quality specialist, and the next is a people manager.
Under the people manager, we have shift leads, because we offer at 24/7 service, and under the shift leaves… leads we have associates.
Now, a particular shift can have anywhere between 3 people to 10 people, depending on what time slot we are talking about and which day.
And the quality team, which I think we have a bunch of folks there, essentially combs through the chats, combs through the support.
What the most frequent questions are? And in turn, builds intelligence from that to possibly either productise that solution so that it doesn’t.
The metric is what is the total number of tickets per customer that come up.
So optimising on that front along with how… how well are our associates… uh… uh… up to date with the crypto space so that they can help the customer..
Because of how rapidly changing the crypto space tends to be, education tends to play a significant part into the support experience in itself.
Both for the associates as well as for our customers.
[06:35] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. And you talked about the total number of tickets, right, per customer, right, as a metric, right? How do you measure effectiveness specifically for your customer support team?
And I mean, apart from this metric, are there any other metrics you track on a regular basis?
So those are very broad level metrics that the… support tickets per… let’s say, 1000 customers or something is a very broad metric.
It could be, you are getting inquisitive customers.
It could be that your… your platform is just not working for some particular reason.
We don’t…we don’t give them this number to goal because there are so many things that are outside their control, right?
Quality of customers that come in.
Are we targeting right?Is the marketing team doing the right job… a good job?
Or is the product team doing a good job and ensuring that the service just works.
So, how we measure customer success is what the support NPS score is. That’s the goal number that we set. And then there are other numbers that we like to achieve which is, what is our first response time and what is our ticket closing time.
So we goal for a 60 second response time and a 24 hour resolution time. And, more importantly, we measure happiness post the ticket closure.
That’s the….thing that we… we really care about.
And the experience that we are going after is not the Amazon sort of experience.
Although they may be interpreted as the gold standard at this point. It’s still quite disconnected to the problem, we think.
It’s such a sophisticated decision tree that it’s almost binary.
And they are likely going to automate many more steps in that decision tree.
We see support as an aspect of retention and… and possibly valued… value creation, because when you interact with a traditional bank, I dread it.
I really do.
I’m afraid that when I talk to them they are going to sell me something that I don’t want.
Like a credit card or a personal loan. And if I have an actual problem, they take weeks on end to solve it.
So what we try to deliver here is almost like a relationship. Except that we never initiate the conversation.
We don’t want to be the one calling and saying why don’t you meet our business goals?
That’s not their problem, right?
I mean, if a customer is coming to us with a concern, that’s when we want to be the friends or the folks that are..our customers can pick up when they have a problem with crypto.
That and not be intrusive beyond that. So that’s the experience we are going after.
I completely sync with the point here. We talked about how you dread when you, you know, have to talk to your bank, right?
It’s more about, you know, it’s like they’ll tell Sir, you have this much in your account savings.
Why don’t you invest in this?
Or why don’t we give you an overdraft facility?
Or you have a pre-approved draft facility of overdraft of this much allowed.
Would you like to go for it? Like the amount of questions they ask, it’s like why did I even call you to solve my problem?
I’m solving your problem.
Exactly. And I don’t think it’s the associates fault, you know.
Yeah, it’s not. It’s a top down driven thing, right?
It’s completely… it’s completely a directional problem and a lack of focus around creating customer delight, from the top.
Yeah, yeah, uh, so I mean now talking about customers, right?
You know, with the new age crypto and, you know, different sets of demographics targeting right?
I mean, obviously you have your early adopters. The ones who are really good. I mean the ones who have a really strong fundamentals on crypto. Then you have the laggards like me, right? Who are like on the fence and like, OK, we’ll see what others are doing. If it’s fine, we’ll go in.
Do you think customers are changing their mindset when it comes to support? Specifically customer support for your brand?
And are they trying to reach you on different channels other than the email and phone?
So, what happened over the last three months is that we just saw huge wave of customers come in post our latest funding round.
And customers don’t tend to reach out to… we don’t look at what channel they reach out to.
We try to figure out what the problem is. And if they are not being heard with the options that we’re giving them, it’s obvious that they are going to try to be heard in other ways.
So that’s a failure on our side. If let’s say they are going through channels outside of email or even chat, or even phone support, which we have.
We have a telegram community which we are transitioning to discord, and of course there’s a social media aspect to this too.
And we see Telegram and social media getting more heated up in case the primary channels are failing.
If the primary channels just work, we don’t see any activity on the other channels at all.
Except very constructive suggestions on what we need to do over the mid or long term. It’s not immediate solve my problem right now, you know. That’s when there’s the most amount of frustration.
That’s when you really need to get to the bottom of things.
[11:40] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. And you talked about, you know, you are currently what… on web, chat and phone, right?
So, you know, how have your support teams grown and evolved in the past few… like, you know, you talked about the few months or three months post your funding where, you know, got a flux.
But your support system, I mean, given the thought process behind it and how you have structured it. I’m assuming this is like a long drawn thought process.
It is… it is strategic more than OK, I’ve got new customers, so I get new customer support folks, right?
So how has your support team grown in the last few…like, you know, quarters, if I were to ask?
So we have a very decentralised approach to this thing. We try to find the right people to solve the problem.
We try to hire the best in every industry and what we did was not trying to reinvent the wheel here.
We think, where we were two months ago. Was that we were not even meeting the basic mark, because of just the sheer amount of new customers that we were getting. So that problem was very solvable.
But when we think about the mid to long term… creating customer delight, Uh, that’s when we knew we had to get the team.
A very empathetic team that actually cares about customer problems and actually cares about technology at the same time.
Because even if you don’t have one of those two, you’re not a good fit to… to… to be on the other side of someone who does, you know? If the…
And to your description of a lager, I wouldn’t put you in that bucket at all.
About 0.5% of the world’s assets are stored in crypto right now.
If we look at adoption, we are talking about anywhere between 1 to 2% of the investor community globally really gotten… has really gotten into the crypto space.
So if you put that number, we are still at the early… early adopter… entrepreneur stage transitioning to possibly the early majority.
So, we think we are at 150 million unique customers in crypto all over the world.
Uh, we see it is inevitable that it’s going to get to a billion. Which means 85% of the people who will own crypto in a couple of years from now don’t own cryptocurrencies at the moment.
So there’s just a significant amount of investment that… uh… companies in our position need to do to ensure that that on boarding experience was easier than what we had to go through ourselves.
Because it wasn’t straightforward and, uh… we need to do a better job than the traditional industry has so far. That’s how innovation feels like innovation.
It shouldn’t feel like innovation, because it’s some fancy technology in the back end. It should feel like a better experience for the customer.
That’s how we are going to see that wave happen.
[14:20] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. And, you know, while, you know, we talked about, you know, you keep talking about building a delightful support experiences, right?
And you keep talking about, you know, you want to provide a customer delight, right? And that’s how you have structured the entire customer support, you know you have worked in the investment and banking space for a long time and you were with…which got later acquired by UnAcademy and now, obviously with Vauld, right?
Your thoughts on what used to work before and what works today, right, in terms of providing a delightful customer support experience.
You know, I think we’ve come to overvalue technology on the delight side quite a bit to the point where AI chat bots are good, but if they are not coming to a resolution, it’s frustrating.
I reach out to the chat already at possibly a slight amount of frustration because possibly something is not working.
And then, when I go through the experience over the last 10 years maybe, where I can’t reach a person for the life of me.
That’s just terrible. And that wasn’t the case 10 years ago.
If you think of what our parents used to use, from a banking standpoint at least.
I can only speak to the banking aspect. They would call a person, and if you are a high value customer, they would show up.
They would come home. And if they weren’t a high value customer, you could go and you could meet the person who onboarded you, right?
Now, given that we’ve moved from there to the completely digital world, how do we… I am not saying we need to recreate that experience. But, at least recreate the way we felt about customer support at that point. And if AI chat bots are not getting us there, which, I think, unless it’s extremely well structured, it won’t.
We have to put better caliber, higher caliber people in front of the customer.
You can’t hire someone straight out of school possibly not gone through more education from there.
Possibly not fluent in the language that the customer is talking to… talk…talking in. With zero perspective on… on the actual instrument and reading out of a script.
That just doesn’t work. I would rather, I would rather invest significantly and ensuring that folks are sufficiently trained.
They are a customer of the platform first. They understand the problems.
They have reported customer feedbacks, or feedback that they have experienced themselves. And then start shadowing our customer, delight folks, and then in turn take them… take these tickets directly.
So significant, more investment…in terms of filtering out the right people for us as well as… post them joining and ensuring that they have complete context of the platform is… is uh… is really lacking, at least in the BFSI space.
In my perspective, and that could… that could be significantly improved, along with better structuring of chat bots in case a company, for whatever reason, choose to go down that path.
I think it’s a perfectly good solution to many problems if it’s a repeatable problem.
But I think if you can eliminate the chatbot trying to solve the problem and try to have your product solve the problem, you…
Like, that’s how that transition happened. First pick up the tickets, in case it comes. It’s a new ticket. Of course. You don’t know. Then a transitionary phase where you could… you could take them through decision trees on the chat bot. But that’s really not the long term solution. The solution should be it should be obvious on the platform itself.
[18:14] Siddharth Sharma
All right. So we talked about, you know, uh..you know, you are talking about how the chat bot industry has to evolve.
And also, you know, the brands need to make sure that the product answers most of the questions, right?
Because, once a person comes either on support, that means that there has been a disconnect between the guest or the… you know, I would say the expectation of the customer and the delivery of the product, right?
That’s when the customer has an issue and therefore the person has come out to support, right?
And, I mean, you need to proactively solve that in product to get lesser on that front.
Right? So in your view, right? And we talked about, you know, specifically in BFSI, right?
Is there a way to, you know…Is there a need, not a way, is there a need to reimagine the customer support, you know?
And In your opinion, has the pandemic forced BFSI, and I would say traditional as well as the new age, new banks, crypto, who look at, you know, innovating uh..when it comes to engaging with their customers?
So when I think about what the best possible experience is, that’s how I like to work backwards.
I don’t think about trying to make the support experience better. I’ll try to make the experience better and a support being a significant part uh..driver to that.
If I think about what the best experiences are, I think of a few brands in India.
I think of PayTM in terms of its wallet. I think of Google Pay possibly. I think of…Zerodha in terms of its stockbroking app. And the funny thing is, I don’t remember the last time I spoke to a support agent in any of these products.
Now, that just means that their product teams have significantly invested into ensuring that the … the product is extremely well built.
And I think a lot more focus needs to go on that in products that don’t achieve that.
And I think the crypto space unfortunately doesn’t achieve that, I’m putting myself in this bucket.
Investing in stocks is not a very straightforward process, but look at how… how elegantly companies have solved that in India.
The crypto space… the crypto space needs to beat that.
I think that’s the floor right now. That’s the direction we’re going.
And in the transitionary period that we can’t do that, or we’re working towards doing that.
Ensuring that people who really get crypto, who can help the other person and putting that person in front of a customer who is possibly confused or in distressed uh..and… and making sure that they feel heard, promising realistic timelines, and following up on that is the most important thing.
Now anything above that is… is a delight, right?
When you try to build a relationship with the customer and what not.
But if you try to do the latter without the former, it’s… it’s completely broken.
It feels like the bank experience, where I have a problem.
And I’m not being heard, there’s no resolution.
And then there’s this other dude who is trying to make small talk with me with a possible agenda. I don’t want that at all. So try to ensure that the product solves the problem.
If not, ensure that the customer experience guy understands exactly what I’m saying and get… helps me and promises realistic timelines and sticks to it.
And then if you can do both of that, I would love to build a relationship with this brand.
All right. You talked about the chatbot industry, right?
And you were saying that ok, no chatbots is a good thing for repeatable problems. But ideally, you want it to be solved by the product and obviously, you know, get to them in a delightful way.
But do you think… you believe that automation and conversational AI can help enhance the quality of customer support?
I think it could if implemented well. But I’ve very rarely seen it implemented well.
I mean, capturing my information through our conversation is slightly more frustrating to me versus just filling in a form, right?
So if the conversational Ai is just capturing information, then it’s not solving… for what’s special about conversational AI.
I think what’s special is taking up the first third or first half of a human chat, of course, information capture is part of that.
But also better understanding what the problem is.
If, let’s say, that can be automated, you can significantly speed up a..a..resolution because capturing the information, understanding it.
And then coming to a resolution is the whole closing the loop piece, right?
So at least, capturing the information and possibly suggesting the most frequently asked concerns in those categories could be one such solution.
But replacing it using conversational AI as a replacement for a Google form is inexcusable.
Got it. And, if you have… if I had to offer you one tech in customer support that, you know, if you could just wish for like, hey I want this. What would it be?
One feature, you mean?
One tech in customer support.
Like the tech that you want today for customer support, what would it be?
I would say, like, I start a chat and if it’s not in… if it’s not apparent what the solution is within 15 seconds, I get to talk to a person, and I don’t have to tell them what the problem is.
If, let’s say It’s a solvable problem
Then I instantly start a screen share over there and then they possibly navigate me through the problem.
And I don’t have to talk to them ever again.
[24:00] Siddharth Sharma
Alright. And you know, I’ll bother you for one more question in the conversational AI space.
How do you think bots and automation will evolve in the coming…say next two to three years?
I hope it goes closer to complementing the human experience.
I think, even if you look at a few brands that have done…at least decision tree based chat solutions.
I think Swiggy has done a fantastic job narrowing down what the possible concerns are.
And the fact of the matter is if you… in certain outcomes where you just add a photo and say that this is the problem.
They front your money and say very sorry, here’s your refund. Thank you so much.
And the reason why they do that is because they realise it’s just more economical and a better experience for folks to, just… to ensure that the… the financial compensation makes up for the bad experience.
You get much lesser tickets, much higher NPS both from a product as well as the support experience.
And a much more lean and effective team. You can invest more on technology and product as opposed to scaling a manned team.
With regards to conversational AI, I think it again needs to come from a strategic level where it’s just not setting up this tool and apparently can help me reduce my tickets.
But rather a clear focus on what the… what the possible outcomes are.
What…why is someone distressed with the product or service and what can we do such that they have the best possible experience without the need to talk to a person.
Like, if that is the trade off that you are trying to find where, a conversational AI can lead to a partial or complete reimbursement of a micro transaction for example.
To ensure that, (a) they don’t have to talk to the customer support team and (b) this completely solves for that problem.
But… that would be a fantastic outcome for more products outside of just a Swiggy, for that matter.
Got it. So with this, we come to the end of the podcast.
Thank you so much Darshan for being with us today.
It was lovely hearing your views and basically I got a lot of insights into about how async and sync communication, about how to structure… customer support is structured.
And specifically about, you know, how customer support is a crucial element in the new age crypto platforms as well.
Thank you so much for being with us today.
Thanks Siddharth. It was a pleasure.