Smilee is software, service and smiles in one package
Finnish company Smilee wants to help businesses convert website visitors into sales by being in the right place at the right time with the right answers.
Teuvo Karppinen and his friends were baffled. They had set up a website for a rental cottage in Finnish Lapland with fancy photos and plenty of information, and people kept visiting the site – but reservations and requests weren’t flooding in at the pace they were hoping for. What was wrong? How could they encourage people to make the last meaningful click?
“Had we been sitting next to the visitors, we would’ve been able to answer all the questions and address whatever doubts they might’ve had,” Karppinen explains. “We realised we needed a tool that helps us engage with the customers.”
Yet one was nowhere to be found. Despite extensive searches, the team noticed that the only way to have the service they wanted was to build one on their own.
“Our only option was to start coming up with a business plan,” Karppinen says now, about six years later, as the CEO of Smilee, an international business chat service provider.
From shopping baskets to actual sales
The problem Karppinen and his friends had identified was simple; and as they began to research the market, it turned out that other webshops had similar issues.
“Website visitors put things in their shopping basket, but there may be a tiny thing or piece of information they want to ask or confirm,” Karppinen explains. “If there’s not an easy way of finding it out, the last step won’t be taken.”
Whilst conversing with potential clients, many brought up the fact that even with suitable software a lot of companies would lack the human resources to actually discuss with customers in real time. Thus, the Smilee team decided to offer a two-fold service: software as a service with the actual service included, meaning that Smilee also provides the customer service agents that run the chat.
The client promise is to convert website visitors to leads and deals.
“There are many global trends on our side here,” Karppinen notes. “Online sales are growing year by year, and as today’s youth become paying consumers online shoppers will increasingly prefer chat over phone.”
At the moment, Smilee is a market leader in Finland in the car business. Karppinen tells that the company decided to focus on that particular industry to gain market share, but in the future other industries will be taken on as well.
There are plans to expand to other areas than just sales, too.
“For example, waste management and circular economy raise a lot of questions amongst consumers, so we can work as partners also for other service providers than retailers.”
A boost from Business Finland
After establishing itself in Finland, Smilee has started to take over the other Nordic countries. Its internationalisation has been boosted by Business Finland selecting it in its Young Innovative Company programme, which offers funding to accelerate global growth.
Despite the growing international presence, Smilee doesn’t plan to set up a team in each market. Karppinen says this is because the chat personnel consists of freelancers who work from pretty much wherever they wish.
“We can train them from wherever as well, as all of our materials and tests are available in digital form,” he adds. “That makes our model very scalable, as we can increase the size of the team rapidly.”
The core team has eight members with different responsibilities, and there are seven others in support functions. The founders have diverse backgrounds in, for example, sales, technology, customer support and the startup world in general, which has, in Karppinen’s words, helped build a dynamic team.
In a couple of years’ time, Smilee aims to gain foothold in the Nordics and some of the biggest European markets, with car sales in particular focus. Whatever the market or industry, Karppinen says there’s a third goal on top of software and service: smiles.
“After each interaction, we ask the client to review the customer experience and tell us whether their problem was solved or not. Receiving a five-star review will bring about a lot of smiles: the client will be smiling, we’ll be smiling and so will our client companies for closing deals.”
Text: Anne Salomäki
Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Business Finland
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