Assembled, which bills itself as a workforce management platform for customer support teams, today announced that it raised $51 million in a Series B funding round led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Emergence Capital and Basis Set Ventures. CEO Ryan Wang says the new capital will be put toward product development, including schedule optimization algorithms and integrations with HR software, and launching an initiative, CX Scholars, that'll commit a percentage of Assembled's revenue to continuing education for support workers.
The pandemic placed an outsized burden on customer support organizations, which were faced both with increasing customer requests and work-from-home challenges. According to a 2021 survey by tech vendor Replicant -- who has a horse in the race, granted -- 71% of people believe it's harder to reach a real person now than it was during the beginning of the pandemic. There's likely truth to that -- the average annual turnover rate for U.S. contact center agents now stands at 30% to 45%, The Quality Assurance and Training Connection reports.
Wang doesn't pitch Assembled as a cure-all, but argues that the platform can help ease the burden somewhat on overworked support workers. Wang co-founded the company in 2018 alongside his brother, John Wang, and Brian Sze, both of whom he worked with at Stripe.
"While at Stripe, [we] observed the support function transform rapidly into a complex, geographically dispersed operation comprising thousands of people," Ryan Wang told TechCrunch in an email interview. "The Great Resignation, staffing shortages, remote expectations, and shocking turnover rates have driven a recognition that companies must balance the needs of the business with the needs of their support teams. This has provided tailwinds to our business as companies pay closer attention to how they staff, organize, and provide greater empowerment and flexibility to their agents. The acceleration of digital transformation driven by the pandemic has also been good for us. We see, on the one hand, a rise of new, digital-first brands and, on the other hand, traditional brands building ecommerce into their businesses."
Image Credits: Assembled
Assembled attempts to predict and prepare for influxes of customer calls, texts and emails through a range of forecasting and scheduling techniques. For example, the platform draws on historical support tickets and even Reddit activity to anticipate future volumes of customer requests (by queue, channel and site). Simulation models project how things like email backlogs might evolve over time under different staffing conditions, while optimization algorithms create schedules -- respecting rules such as the length of shifts, the amount of time between shifts and the amount of flexibility at a shift's start.
Managers using Assembled can create schedules themselves if they choose and let agents request changes to those schedules. They can also view metrics like response time and service levels, as well as comparisons with historical performance.
On the subject of analytics, it's worth noting that some contact center platforms have recently been accused of coercive surveillance, for example forcing remote employees to install cameras in their homes to check whether they're staying on task. Assembled claims that it offers no such features and allows clients to delete any user data that it stores, including basic identifying information (names and emails), schedules and support activity data.
With the new CX Scholars program, Assembled looks to encourage "rising customer experience leaders" to learn business fundamentals and other skills to advance their careers while benefiting their teams, according to Ryan Wang. The details of the program, including the selection and awarding process, remain somewhat nebulous as of yet; a spokesperson said: "We're gathering intel from our user community to get a more precise sense of what kinds of education and networking opportunities are the most useful to those working in support."
Ryan Wang sees Assembled competing with solutions from spreadsheets and "legacy" systems like Teleopti and Calabrio to pure scheduling tools such as WhenIWork and startups like Tymeshift and Playvox. Legacy tools, he asserts, were "built for a different era," while most scheduling tools are aimed at simpler environments involving smaller groups of people than in customer support.
Image Credits: Assembled
"The technology used to organize people in [the contact center] industry is outdated and, more importantly, steeped in hierarchical processes and practices from more than 20 years ago. How do you staff a phone line or email inbox that requires prompt response? How do you organize an operation that crosses multiple offices, time zones, or is perhaps fully-distributed? The modern support team must answer these questions while providing flexibility and a trusting, empowering environment to the people representing their brands," Ryan Wang said. "Customer experience is one of the most people-intensive functions in any given company -- across our customer base, it typically accounts for 30% of headcount (as much as 70% in financial services). In a world of staffing shortages and distributed work, we help companies solve the tricky people logistics problems associated with delivering great support."
Assembled has achieved notable milestones over the past few years, including tripling its client base to more than 180 enterprises with brands like Etsy, Stripe, Zoom, TaskRabbit, Asana and Restaurant Brands International (the parent of Burger King and Popeye’s) and forming partnerships with customer experience vendors Five9 and MaestroQA. To stay ahead of the pack, Ryan Wang says that Assembled will build out new products tailored to trust and safety, fulfillment and IT help desk scenarios and open a New York office with plans to expand in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, where over 60% of Assembled's support agents are based.
"Assembled is 63 people, having grown by 4x in the last year. We plan to roughly double the size of the team by the end of the year," Ryan Wang disclosed. "We are not disclosing the company’s revenue at this time, but it increased 4x since the last [financing] round."
To date, San Francisco, California-based Assembled has raised $71 million.
NEA partner Vanessa Larco, who plans to join Assembled’s board of directors, said when contacted for comment: "With all of the resources and focus companies pour into product development and sales -- it is critical for customer retention and brand reputation to maintain this level of focus on post-sales interactions as more than half of customers are willing to switch to a competitor after just one negative interaction. Delivering great customer experience is an industry-agnostic goal that more and more companies are paying attention to ... Assembled was born out of firsthand experience with scaling support teams at Stripe. Ryan Wang and his team are truly passionate about empowering and optimizing support teams. The team’s combination of experience, technical-capability, and passion really grabbed our attention and we believe they are the right company to help solve the rising challenges enterprises face with customer experience management."