AetherPal - customer care - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2012


Where it's based: South Plainfield, N.J.
When it was founded: 2009

Why it's Fierce: What if a carrier's customer care technicians could remotely access a customer's smartphone when they were having a technical issue? What if they could see what was happening on the screen so that they could better diagnose the problem and cut down on the time the customer was on the call? AetherPal thinks they have the answer. AetherPal is a privately owned division of test and measurement firm w2Bi, Inc. The company provides a remote diagnostic tool for customer care professionals so that they can see and access what is happening with a customer's device when the customer calls technical support. The service is similar to having the ability to remotely access someone's desktop to be able to diagnosis computer issues.

Importantly, in an age when consumers are more concerned about mobile security than ever before, the solution is entirely transparent to the customer. Customers need to give permission to the customer care representative to access their device at each stage of the diagnosis. Each call has a specific session-based PIN so that the technician can only access the device during one call. Customers can also firewall off via passwords certain parts of the device from being viewed, such as photos.

AetherPal's business model revolves around a software license fee, but the company is able to customize its software, and can charge on a per-session or per-technician basis. Currently, AetherPal supports Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian smartphones.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) selected AetherPal for its customer care reps. AetherPal is working with Verizon to get a database of all of the devices in its portfolio that the carrier wants the solution to the support. The goal, naturally, is to ultimately reduce churn. 

What's next: AetherPal is working with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to get support for its solution on the iPhone. The company admits that Apple has been a more difficult nut to crack and that technicians through its solution cannot, for instance, remotely wipe an iPhone's content. The company is also conducting trials with other carriers and OEMs around the world.