March 2017 Edition
The New Jersey Tech Council caught up with Huang to nd out more about his startup idea, record growth, and news-making company culture.
You founded Boxed in 2013. Where did the idea came from?
I grew up going to the Price Club with my parents every weekend. I remember we used to borrow a family friend’s card (it was businesses-only back then) and hope that they didn’t look too closely at the picture! Once I moved into the city, I no longer had the luxury of being able to get to a club store. Then, when I had my rst child, I no longer had time. I realized I must not be the only one having this problem and saw an opportunity right away to take the big-box club experience online in a way it had never been done before.
Were there any doubters? How did you convince people it would be big?
I think it was the great Aristotle that once said, “Haters gonna Hate”. People thought my co-founders and I were crazy starting Boxed with zero retail experience, but we were able to take what we learned about mobile consumer behavior from our rst startup to build a product people would love to use. We also focused on a particular niche, stuck with it, and hammered it home. Many investors we pitched didn’t, but customers understood the value proposition quickly -- now it’s just a matter of ensuring more and more people are aware of our brand and what we stand for.
In general though, there will always be doubters. In the world of technology, if everyone thinks something is a great idea, it might actually not be that transformative of an idea. Selling books on the internet sounded dumb to a whole lot of people in the 90’s.
Startups that grow as rapidly as yours, and experience such success, can get tripped up. How did you navigate that potential dangerous terrain?
No one can accomplish this entrepreneurial journey alone. My team and I have made it a priority to speak with other very successful people in the retail, ecommerce and tech spaces to get advice on how to handle all of the difficult situations that arise.
In addition, we have also surrounded ourselves with the best people and given them the resources they need to excel. Our growth as a company is completely due to the fact that we have such a great team. And, for the most part, I lead by staying out of their way!
Your company culture has made headlines. It’s obviously very important to you. Can you talk a bit about your philosophy, and why it’s so important to you?
A company is only as good as the employees who work there. You can have a great product, but if you don’t have a dedicated team willing to put in the long hours it takes to make a startup a success, then you’re destined to fail. What we do for our employees -- paying for their weddings and their children’s college tuition -- is our way of repaying them for all they do for us.
If you boil it all down though, I grew up poor and remember growing up poor. I was taught from that experience how not to treat people.
Founders, executives, employees—no matter where you are in the chain of command, when you love your job and are passionate about what you do, there are things you worry about, things that keep you up at night. What’s that one thing for you?
The thing that keeps me up at night is our customers. Boxed is not what it is today without happy, loyal customers; and I am constantly thinking about whether they are happy with our service and if there are ways we can do more for them.
Boxed isn’t your first startup. You sold your first one to Zynga. What is it about startups that you find exciting? Challenging?
I’m just happy not to be a corporate lawyer anymore! This is a million times better. Seriously, though, I just love taking an idea and turning it into reality.
I still get awestruck every time I walk into one of our four fulllment centers and think about how this whole thing started with a bunch of buddies in my garage.
I know you have reams of advice you can share with our readers, but if you had to pass just one bit along, what would it be?
If you have an idea you’re passionate about, go aer it. We all die one day, and on your last day here, you probably won’t regret that you took a shot in life.
Chieh Huang is the Co-founder and CEO of Boxed, a company that is disrupting the wholesale shopping club experience by enabling customers to shop online or via mobile app for bulk-sized items delivered right to their doors.
When it Comes to Customer Service, Self-Service is Essential - Not OptionalPluggedin
Self-service. It is no longer a suggestion for businesses if they want to succeed in this digital age. Today, self-service has transformed from a “nice to have” option to a preferred way of doing business as more and more consumers expect digital tools from those they engage with.
Thanks to smart phones and smart technology, entrepreneurs have created new business models that meet new customer expectations: to connect with businesses when it’s most convenient for them. For Comcast, this means making sure customers can reach out when they want, whenever they want and on the platform they prefer to use. One way Comcast addresses this user
which allows customers to control all aspects of their account from their mobile device, desktop or televisions via X1. Customers can easily view and manage their account information, share or change their Wi-Fi password, check on the status of equipment in their home, pay their bill, troubleshoot issues, view and/or cancel upcoming service appointments, schedule time for a representative to call them back and much more.
Customers can also use the latest My Account app feature, TechETA, to see exactly when their technician is “en route” and “arriving” for a scheduled appointment. they can even view a photo of their technician, so they know exactly who to expect at the door.
Nearly 12 million customers are using My Account to control their accounts, restart devices, make payments and schedule a call.
Another way Comcast has incorporated self-service is through its X1 voice remote. Customers can say “troubleshoot” or “help” into the voice remote, which will automatically direct them to troubleshooting solutions to x common issues. Customers can also access help videos – available in English and Spanish – on how to use certain features of their Xfinity products.
As more customers do business through social media, companies must oer customer support through social channels. It also provides businesses an outlet to address customers’ needs and monitor feedback. In 2007, Comcast instituted a dedicated Digital Care team that uses a growing number of platforms like forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit to seek out and help customers online, listen to feedback and answer questions. In 2015, Comcast tripled the size of its Digital Care team in order to get back to customers faster. (As a result, response time on social channels has improved by 95%.)
Comcast has also built unique network monitoring tools that can detect when something is not right long before a customer would ever notice a problem. Because the X1 platform is a cloud-based, soware updates are quick and easy. Another example of a self-healing feature involves DVR functionality. If a customer goes to watch a program on their DVR and the recording fails, the DVR will immediately retry the playback. If the retry fails, X1 will automatically begin playback of the program if it is available On Demand.
Customers are responding positively to the value and convenience of selfservice options. Consider the numbers: Fourth quarter 2016 saw a 90% increase in self-service transactions compared to the fourth quarter 2015.
increase in self-service transactions compared to the fourth quarter 2015. Self-service is not intended to eclipse traditional forms of customer care. Comcast is available to customers through phone, live chat or in person. (they’re opening Xfnity Stores in retail locations, including 8 in New Jersey.) the most eective customer service platforms are the ones where all the pieces fit together, and appeal to the customer on their terms.
James Samaha is the Freedom Region Senior Vice President, Comcast.
Patient Responsibility: A Growing Concern for Health Care ProvidersEducation Highlight
Fueled by a combination of factors, patient responsibility collections, or reimbursement collected directly from patients as opposed to Medicare or insurance companies, are becoming increasingly concerning for health care providers nationwide. These patient collections are increasing in size/value and are comparatively difficult to collect; having both a lower rate of collection success and a longer collection timeline compared to Medicare and standard insurance companies. This combination is resulting in the erosion of bottom lines across the industry. Small physicians/groups and large hospitals/systems alike are impacted by this trend and are actively seeking methods to improve collections performance on this increasingly important piece of their overall collections pie
collections pie. Over the past decade, high deductible health plans (“HDHP”), or those with deductibles above $1,600 for individuals and $2,600 for families, have been rapidly growing in popularity. This trend has been escalated in part by the individual marketplaces born through the Aordable Care Act, where, according to a report by Health Aairs, almost 90% of enrollees are in a plan with a deductible beyond the qualifying threshold for an HDHP. Increased enrollment in these plans leads to increased patient responsibility collections, highlighted by a Kaiser Family Foundation report which indicates the average annual outof-pocket costs per patient rose almost 230% between 2006 and 2015.
Providers and administrators are attacking the problem through approaches on both the front end and the back end of the billing process. On the front end, a push to increase transparency and accountability to the patient along with the utilization of today’s payment methods are keys to improving the collections process. This includes a range of eorts from estimating patient responsibility before services are provided, taking credit card information with an agreement to charge the balance automatically upon completion of services, and patient education around their plans, deductibles, and estimated likely costs.
On the back end of the process (collecting of accounts receivable), sophisticated data analytics are being utilized to increase the efficiency and improve the level of success in collecting outstanding patient balances. Digging into the patient receivables using new and intuitive metrics allows billing and collections teams to focus their eorts and tailor their approach to collecting outstanding balances on an account-by-account basis, a vast improvement over the outdated method of simply sending a past due balance letter to all accounts.
The increase in patient out-of-pocket costs and the difficulty surrounding their collection is yet another hurdle today’s physicians and systems are facing. Those that take action now to improve their processes and technology on both the front and back end of the collections cycle will better position themselves to successfully navigate the issue, and maintain their bottom line.
Tyler Tracewski is a Health Care Services Group Manager at EisnerAmper, assisting clients with strategic and financial planning, development and integration of financial modelling tools, and overall practice management. Contact him at 212-324-2296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.