Robinhood announced Tuesday that it will be bringing "24/7" phone support to its 31 million users. It's a long-overdue move for the stock and crypto trading company founded in 2013, but one that signals its maturation following a challenging year that brought the company its biggest crisis, a surge in trading volume and its own entry to public markets.
Users with a question or account issue will now be able to request a call inside the Robinhood app and receive a call back some time later from a support agent. Previously users had been pushed toward the option of messaging the company and escalating the issue through an email chain, while limited phone support had been offered for specific customer trading issues at certain hours of the day.
While Robinhood is certainly not the first trading firm to offer phone support for its users -- the company has been criticized in the past for its limited customer support options -- Robinhood crypto lead Christine Brown notes that it is the first crypto exchange to launch phone support, and hopes that the increased level of support will provide an added level of assurance for users plunging into crypto trading for the first time.
"By being the first to offer this service, I think we're further reducing the barriers that a lot of our users might think of when they think of crypto trading," Brown tells TechCrunch. "I think a lot of people today think that the crypto exchanges are very hard to onboard onto... and god forbid, you ever have an issue, email support -- let alone phone support -- is scarce."
Scaling its support team to handle the phones for tens of millions of users has meant a hiring spree for Robinhood. Brown says they have tripled the size of the internal team and have also tapped a large number of contractors to handle phone support. Robinhood's customer support army will be a "fairly even" split between internal Robinhood employees and contractors, Brown says. Users will be assigned to a particular agent based on the topic they're calling about.
The company isn't advertising any guarantees for the amount of time between sending a request and receiving a phone call from the company, acknowledging that certain market events may stress test their systems, but Brown says that generally their internal target is to call back a user within 30 minutes of making a request.
The structure of this flow will likely frustrate some users who might prefer a phone number they can call, and some key types of issues will clearly fall through the cracks, including when a user is locked out of their account or having a major issue with the app. In a launch blog post, the company details they're working on a solution to bring phone support for users locked out of their accounts, though that features rollout will be sometime in "the coming months."
Customer support workflows are made to be stress-tested, and Robinhood is certainly no stranger to the damaging effects and challenges of unexpected market frenzies.
The company took a major hit to its reputation earlier this year amid a meme stock trading surge that forced the company to cease or heavily limit trading of popular stocks like GameStop. At the time, some users felt they were seeing yet another example of a financial institution protecting the professional investor class, while it soon came to light that Robinhood was financially unprepared for the trading frenzy and was forced to raise emergency funding to keep up with investor demand. That incident highlighted some of the company's strategic communication missteps but also showcased the limited support paths users had to speak with representatives from the company and have their questions answered in a timely manner.