This post is written by Raveesh Bhalla (@raveeshbhalla), our Lead Engineer and Interaction Designer.
It’s about 9 months since Aakrit and I had a call where he first told me his vision about Haptik. And to be honest, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. “Why not just tweet to the brand you have a problem with? Or, alternatively, why not just E-mail them?”
Having just shut down my own startup where I felt I had built a product that people loved, but just couldn’t remember to use, I was worried that Haptik aimed to be yet another medium of communication in a world where there already were too many.
However, having known Aakrit for a few years, I had this nagging feeling that I’m not seeing the entire picture if he was excited about it. I knew that there was something inherently wrong with the status quo, and that I desperately wanted it to change. I had to make a choice.
I chose the red pill.
This brings us to today, when we released our first functional update to our app. There are two key elements to it, the first being our new My Companies section, and the second something I rather uninspiringly call Smart Actions.
As the title says, these are little steps. However, I’m enormously excited that I can finally share them with you.
My Companies is quite straight forward, yet something that is a little awkward to implement. At it’s most basic level, it is a bookmarking feature that allows you to point out which companies you, as a user, care about, and have the app give them greater emphasis while navigating.
If you have been with us from our beta days, you’d remember being able to do so by favoriting a company. An issue we recognized back then was simply calling the feature “favorites” led to people marking a multitude of companies they liked, but never particularly communicated with. Additionally, it led to a lack of discovery of other companies.
We knew this feature was important prior to our launch, by when we had north of 100 companies being shown to the user. However, we made a decision not to include it in the very first build until we got it absolutely right. Version 1.0.5 sees us take the first big step in accomplishing that.
My Companies has been designed to help you navigate faster through the app when you need to, yet ensuring you can easily find a business that you haven’t marked earlier. Over time, My Companies will evolve as we understand how users are using the feature.
Till not too long ago, whenever someone asked me why would a business choose Haptik over a popular messaging app, I failed to give a very reasonable answer. I knew in my heart that solving the customer service conundrum required building a platform that was dedicated to it (hence why social media and E-mail don’t work well). I however failed to put up a very strong argument with the lack of users to back it up.
The amazing response we’ve received in the past month to month and a half has pretty much strengthened our beliefs. And, more important, inspired us to think beyond the limitations of a regular messaging app. Spending some time reflecting on how we can innovate, I came upon a very important realization: the core user experience of Haptik is always going to be in our hands.
What I mean by this is that for any other app, once it is in the hands of users, there isn’t much you can do to assist them. You can create product tours, add tooltips and give detailed tutorials. You can also attempt to tailor your UX based on context, which is better than nothing but still imprecise.
On Haptik, on the other hand, we are in this unique position where we’re part of the app’s experience, via our agents. After all, they’ve installed the app to talk to us! This gives us a tremendous opportunity to tailor the UX as per the user’s current needs, essentially taking out the margin of error that exists in contextual interfaces.
For example, if a user asks one of our agents how to turn off the notifications within the app, we don’t have to point out that the settings can be access from the left drawer, we have the ability to actually offer them a button in the conversation that can take them there. Similarly, if we want to get our users to share the app with their friends, we don’t have to tell them from where they can do it: just put it right in front of them, decreasing the friction that could have prevented them from doing it in the first place.
No other messaging app can really do this, since in those cases the developers and the agents aren’t actually working next to each other. Additionally, these are features that benefit our customers, whereas for a WeChat or a Line, the core user base would remain those using it for social reasons.
Haptik 1.0 might not have felt very different from a regular texting app, but over a period of time, as start rolling out our key elements, the real value of our system would become clearer.