Your cable is out, and you’ve been on hold for 31, no 32, minutes waiting for someone to help you. Today, even with all of the tech-savvy ways to communicate, if you want to talk to a business, you are still likely using the phone . . . and sitting on hold waiting for a customer service rep.
"Twenty-seven percent of consumers state that chat is their communication preference if it’s possible," explains Patrick Arlia, cofounder of Twoople, an innovative update to basic chat that is poised to solve this nagging problem. In November 2012, he realized that if nearly a quarter of people doing business wanted a change, then that was a business opportunity for him. But it was not enough to simply build an app that let people chat with corporations the normal way you talk to a coworker or friends. "The problem is, chat tools are not democratized for business use and those that are, are exclusive and don’t lend themselves well to engagement purposes," says Arlia.
Enter Twoople. Arlia, a Toronto-based web developer who used to build apps for Fortune 500 companies, sold his e-commerce business and dedicated himself to building this new online engagement tool. That included bringing in partners Luciano Volpe, Rino Spano, and Opinder Sahota, all of whom he had worked with in the past. The self-funded company launched in March 2014.
To use it, you go to the company website, create your own personalized Twoople address and then give the address out to anyone you want to set up a chat conversation with. "You share it the same way you’d share your phone number or e-mail address," says Arlia. Next, that person can click your address and instantly chat with you. "And they don’t have to register for Twoople or download an app—this is the inclusive part," explains Arlia, who wanted to eliminate the online red tape of having to register with a site every time you want to do something new. To prevent popular people or businesses from having to engage in chats with everyone, filter-free, Twoople requires that first-time conversations send a notification that can be accepted or ignored. There are also Android and iPhone apps that can send you an alert when someone is ready to chat—er, twoople—you.
Most users—and there have been more than 4,000 in the three months since launch—turn to Twoople for the very business purposes Arlia imagined. Success stories include small business owners—such as a bar owner in Formentera, Spain, and retail store Dallas Golf—who can be in direct conversation with customers to gauge likes, dislikes and promote sales and other changes. There are also real estate agents who Twoople with potential clients as a way to interact more personally than an email allows. In addition, businesses, even ones as frustrating-to-reach as a local cable company, can also embed their Twoople address as the customer service link on their website. "The great thing is the ubiquity—they're no longer limited to offering chat through their website," says Arlia.
Twoople is also changing how individuals communicate professionally. It has given the outdated business card a new lease on life. After awkward networking events where cards are distributed, most people are left with the even more awkward prospect of calling or emailing someone to try to "casually" continue a conversation that began at an event. Now, they can jump into a chat, which feels closer to normal because it mimics how most people are already communicating.
For the future, Twoople is looking to combine one of the classic relics of telecommunication with modern technology. "We plan to introduce an inclusive click-to-chat directory—sort of like the Yellow Pages, except for chat. Consumers would be able to visit twoople.com, search for a profession and click-to-chat with a number of matches in their area, all without registering." "Twoople," coming soon to a dictionary near you.
[Image: Flickr user Bradley Gordon]