This is a translation of an interview with Carl Holmquist, Freespee co-founder & CEO, published by Mimi Dilling from DI Digital on 1st January, 2017
“We got off to a false start at the beginning”
Carl Holmquist, CEO and co-founder of Freespee
When Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren founded communications platform Freespee six years ago they initially met with considerable resistance. Now the company is attracting venture capital and major customers.
An 'old' approach to web-based customer communications saw online customers managing their own buying process with little interaction with the vendor. Freespee founders Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren saw an opportunity to make it easier for brands and consumers to communicate and drive superlative customer experience.
“We were hitting our heads against a brick wall when we started talking about this six years ago," says Freespee’s CEO Carl Holmquist. "Back then, everyone thought the Internet was self-service, but that’s simply not true. Customers are just as loyal to online stores as they are to physical stores; the only difference is that if companies are unable to provide a good customer experience online, it’s very easy for the customer to take their business elsewhere.”
Freespee has flown somewhat under the radar so far and has even been described as an obscure Swedish company . Few people know who the founders are, despite the fact they have acquired a huge sum of SEK 143 million in venture capital. This means it is more than likely that online shoppers will have encountered their software.
Freespee’s technology sits on top of the sales systems and customer systems of client companies, handling communication between them and their customers. One of its functions is to help companies answer their customers’ queries through platforms such as live chat, email and over the phone.
Read this article (in Swedish only) for more information: Swedish Freespee brings in SEK 90 million – “We are anonymous”
“It’s like when you’re waiting for the train and it turns out to be running late," says Holmquist. If the train operator doesn’t let you know, you get really irritated. The train might arrive at any time, which means you can’t leave the platform. But if you’re told that it’ll be leaving in half an hour, you can go and buy a coffee or something while you’re waiting,” says Carl Holmquist.
Last autumn, the Uppsala based company obtained a total of SEK 90 million from French venture capital firm Ventech and from their current owners Sunstone Capital (NTL) and Inventure (NTL). It also landed a host of major customers, such as JLL, eBay, BNP Paribas, Lloyds Bank, the Marriott hotel chain and car giant Fiat Chrysler.
“And whether you’re a customer waiting for a train, sitting in a telephone queue or waiting for a response to a live chat, the communication about what to expect is pivotal to a customer’s experience,” continues Carl Holmquist.
“It’s like when you decide to call up a company. Rather than the website telling you that there’s a seven minute wait, you call them and make your way through the voice prompts before being told how long you have to wait. Why didn’t they just say so straight away, you can’t help wondering. This is something that could ruin a customer’s experience.”
“The problem here is not that the company doesn’t want to talk to you. They love talking to customers. As long as they’re talking to you, they’ve won because they’ve created a customer relationship.”
According to Carl Holmquist, 98% of visitors to a company’s website leave without buying anything. This is a problem that companies are only just realising exists and want to address; assistance from Freespee is just one of the ways they are trying to deal with the issue. Thanks to this trend, the company has grown so much that it now employs 40 staff and has offices in London, Barcelona, Paris and Cologne. But Freespee was not an obvious success from the outset.
“We got off to a bit of a false start at the beginning. We thought we could solve all the problems associated with communication between our customers and their online visitors. But such problems can vary hugely from organisation to organisation, and that’s where we dropped the ball. Fortunately, we were able to remedy this when our investor Sunstone came on board in 2012.”
Aided by this autumn’s capital injection, the company will continue to develop its software by exploring artificial intelligence-based features. Freespee is also considering expanding into the United States to get closer to US customers who are already using the company’s service on the European market.
“We now know exactly what we are doing and things are really starting to take off. We’re at the heart of the ecosystem for enabling new consumer behaviours,” declares Carl Holmquist.
The original article in Swedish can be found here: http://digital.di.se/artikel/freespees-grundare-vi-trampade-snett-i-borjan