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Victor Antonio: [00:00:08] Hi. This week on the AI in sales podcast, I speak to Ido Bornstein Cohen, who is the CEO of Conversocial. Now, Conversocial is an interesting AI platform that's used to aggregate different messages from different sources so that you as a company can increase your customer service and communication. I talked to Ido about what's changed over the last 20 years. How brands are using the technology to actually get their message out into the market, but also as we look at the changes in the last 20 years, how is communication changing? One of the things he talks about, which I think is fascinating, is how we've gone from multi-channel communication back to unichannel conversations and communication. That's a fascinating subject we touch on. Also, we're going to talk about how we use an API to make service seamless on both the agents side and the brand side. Lastly, we're going to get into some case studies on how the Conversocial platform can help you increase revenue, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. Let's jump in the interview right now.
Ido: [00:01:16] I've been in the customer engagement space for quite a few years, almost 20 years already, in the CRM space and live chat, in several senior positions and some of the big companies, SAP, LivePerson. I have always been passionate about the space. I have always been passionate about how people communicate with brands and how to make it simpler and more efficient and more delightful. That's what eventually led me to Conversocial.
Victor Antonio: [00:01:52] And before you jump into what Conversocial is, give me your take. This is such a broad question, but just to throw it out there. Tell me what you're seeing. I mean, the changes over the last 20 years, just incredible.
Ido: [00:02:06] Incredible, man. Incredible. And, you know, a lot of those changes are actually driven through technology. There are so many things that we're able to do today that we just were not able to do like 15, 20 years ago. Right? And we all walk around with our mobile phones. And it seems so natural and it seems like we've had it forever. My kids don't know a world without a mobile phone. But, for us, it used to be pretty challenging. If you wanted to buy something, you had to go into a store. If you wanted to get customer service, you have to either go physically to the place where you wanted to get the service. You remember those days?
Victor Antonio: [00:02:57] I do remember those days. I also remember that, maybe I'm just a little older than you, but running out of the house without a phone!
Ido: [00:03:05] I also remember that. If you had set up to meet somebody, you actually had to be on the spot, on time, and you couldn't just call them. Right. Nobody calls anymore today. And that's really changing the way that we do things.
Victor Antonio: [00:03:28] Well, I think that's an interesting touch point right there. Let's kind of use that as a segue, because, you know, there's broadcasting, then there's narrowcasting. When you look at messaging, it's more like narrowcasting. I think that's why we came up with emojis to make sure people understood our sentiments. So, Conversocial, talking a little bit about your company and how you're leveraging this new medium where people just want to communicate the quickest possible on text. "I don't wanna talk to a human." Talk to me about that and your company.
Ido: [00:03:55] Absolutely. So, our company got started when social media kind of entered the world and the idea was: people are interacting with their friends, they're going to also interact with brands, and brands aren't there yet. So they need to have some way of providing a good customer service and communication. They need to be able to connect with their consumers.
And since then, social, and the whole idea of social, it really evolved and it changed, especially in the last five years or so. It started in the Far East with WeChat, an app that basically has everything in it from buying things to communicating with brands to mini stores of specific companies. And it also came in to North America and we started seeing it. And it also came to EMEA as well. And today, when we think about "how do we communicate?", it's mostly private. I'm sure that if some of your listeners are from EMEA, I'm sure they're using WhatsApp because you can't avoid using WhatsApp if you are in Germany or in the UK. And, if you are in North America, there's a good chance that you might have bought an iPhone just because you wanted to have a blue bubble rather than a green bubble! And you wanted to participate in a group text. So those things are really driving a lot of how we're working and interacting today. And, in my experience, it always starts with consumers. You know, we start by changing our behaviors when we interact with one another; friends and family. But eventually, it also infiltrates the brands. And then companies start doing the same thing.
So when you think about Conversocial, we have a platform for customer service and customer communication over messaging. We have an agent desktop. So if you have a contact center and you have people that are replying to people who are sending them things over messaging: WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and Twitter DM and so on. All those channels that we use to communicate between one another, our system actually collects those, routes them to the relevant people within the contact center, with the right priority. In addition to that, we have an automated component, which is why you and I are speaking, which basically enables us to take all of that communication and make it much more seamless, both in the agent side but also on the consumer side. In many cases as consumers, we're very privy to the whole idea of automation on the consumer side. But there's a lot of impacts for A.I. and automation on the brand side as well. If you're looking to collect some information from somebody, you don't have to ask them, "what's your name, what's your address?" You can send them an automated process that actually collects all of that information, puts it into the system seamlessly and makes everything much simpler and easier to use.
Victor Antonio: [00:07:18] So, one of the things I read on your website, and if you're listening to this you should go to the website: conversocial.com, is that you really hit on moving from omnichannel to unichannel. Talk to me a little bit about that. Put some spin on that so people really understand what you're trying to communicate, because that's a shift in thinking, I thought.
Ido: [00:07:40] Yeah, definitely. So, it's amazing how the world kind of evolves and rebuilds. Right? And when you think about it 10 years ago, 15 years ago, around that time, there was mostly one channel that you would use to communicate with brands. It was the phone. We all would search for the phone number of the company that we wanted to get service from. We would call that we would get a line. So the idea of focusing on one channel is not a new idea. But what ended up happening is because so many channels opened up and companies started implementing ALL of those channels. But they did not go deep in any of them. So you had this shallow way of supporting people. But they couldn't really get a lot of support. And at the end of the day, the only thing they would do is send them back to the phone, which is the worst experience ever. If I'm waiting on hold and then I realize that instead of waiting on hold and speaking to you over the phone I can actually go into a messaging app and have a conversation with you. But the first thing that you tell me, you collect all of the information, and then you send me back to the phone. It just doesn't make sense. It's actually a horrible customer experience. You go into messaging with that great promise and then you realize that it's only sending you back to the same place that you tried to run away from.
Victor Antonio: [00:09:16] You know, it's interesting if you think about it. Everything is cyclical in life, right? You start out with a single channel called the phone and then we create all these different channels. People talk about multi-touch, multi-points, really touching a customer. But they always jam you right back to the phone. That's even ironic right there. I was reading a book, I think is a great book, several years ago, it was called Effortless Experience. When you talk about the customer efforts score. In other words, how much effort does it take for me to resolve a problem? And the goal is to reduce the effort. Customers don't want to be wowed. They just want you to reduce the effort.
Ido: [00:09:51] I couldn't agree more. Exactly. And I think that's a shift that we're seeing. There was a time where everybody tried to delight and everybody tried to wow their customers. But it's not sustainable. So the idea is really to focus on messaging. Don't send people back to the phone anymore. And the way that you do that is by going deep and going deep means that you integrate into back-end systems. And suddenly that idea of effortless appearance… You think about the best customer experience that you've had. You didn't have to speak with anybody. Right? You went through a process seamlessly. You understood, you felt in control. You understood exactly what you need to do. Nobody was telling you "this is a service call." "No, this is a sales call." "Now you want to buy something?". "Let me transfer you to our sales department". And the only way to do that is if you really focus on a channel and you go deep, whether it be, you know, iMessage or Apple Business Chat, which is by growing exponentially. Whether it be Google with Rich Business Messaging, whether it be Facebook Messenger. Some of the experiences we have on Facebook Messenger are absolutely amazing: booking an appointment. That connects the online and the offline, which is also a trend that we've been seeing in our space. There's big brick and mortar stores. How do you connect the two [offline and online experiences] together? How do you do it in an automated way? When do you have to involve humans? When can you leverage, you know, sentiment analysis, machine learning, NLP, to actually drive all of that communication in a simple, seamless way? So, if there is one thing Conversocial exists for, our main purpose in life, is to make brand communications and customer communication simpler. That's what we're here for.
Victor Antonio: [00:11:52] It's the bottom line. And so let's talk about the machine learning, the sentiment analysis and all these things that you apply or bring. If I'm from a small company, medium sized company and I'm out there, how could I use you? Who do you serve? In other words, who would benefit the most from your products? And then what would it take me as a small, medium sized business, or even a large enterprise corporation, to use your product? What does that take? So, who do you serve? What does it take to implement this stuff?
Ido: [00:12:20] Perfect. So, actually, most of our customers are enterprise brands. We do have quite a few and midsize businesses and small businesses. But the idea is really, how do you connect? Think about those channels. It's connecting two things together. So on one hand side, you have your consumers who are communicating with you through a specific channel [e.g. WhatsApp Business, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat]. You have to configure that channel. And on the other hand you've got either an automated service, which we sometimes call bots or chatbots, and a human or a bunch of humans on the brand side. What we do is we start by configuring the two [humans and bots] together. It's pretty straightforward matching customer IDs and then you're off and you can get started. On top of that, we build automated experiences. So what we do usually is we look at "what are the things that people are actually talking to us about?" We call them intents. And we look at the main intents that you have. "Why are people sending you emails and why are people calling you?" Then we try to automate those processes. We say, "OK, you know what? You're a retail company. Most people are calling you because they want to know where their order is.” So, automate a delivery notification. Lo and behold, you've already created some sort of a process within your mobile app that nobody downloads because mobile app penetration is at around 6 percent. That actually enables people to see where their package is at but they don't know about it! So you take that process that you've already created, you already have the APIs into the delivery system. You connect it to the process that we have on those messaging apps. You put it in a prominent place within the website. By the way, it doesn't have to be in the contact us page. Everybody tries to shove everything into contact us. But we've seen that if you're trying to design something and you have tiles of different furniture or different shirts and stuff. If you put something in the middle, it actually is going to create a much higher level of engagement.
Victor Antonio: [00:14:43] Good UX design.
Ido: [00:14:43] You got it, exactly. So you think about taking those services and those APIs that you've already created, connecting them to the messaging channel and enabling people within the messaging channels without ever leaving iMessage [for example]. It's like texting with your friends to get all of the services that you need. So that's usually how we get started, we get started by analyzing the intents: what are people talking to about? Why are they calling you? In most cases, most companies have some data around that. And that's, by the way, where the human side of our business actually helps the automation side of our business. Because in many cases, if it's already a customer of ours and we know why people are calling them and we know why people are chatting to them and we know that customer satisfaction and we know we can see spikes. So a lot of it is around the data. So it's not only about solving in real time, but it's really solving things from a longer term perspective. We take that, we build it into the product in an automated way. We keep on monitoring that. But those intents that we have not set up for automation, we actually connect those messages to the human teams that are available. And then based on that data that we have, and through natural language processing, we're able to route them to the relevant people, whether it be an automated process or a human. We're able to prioritize them in the right way. For example, if you're at an airport and your flight is delayed and you need to book a new flight so you can actually catch your connection, then we need to put you in a much higher priority. And that's the thing about it, is that we have the data to enable us to do that without asking the user questions. And again, it goes back to making it simple for a consumer. So, how do we take down all of the hoops that you have to jump through in order for you to get great customer service? And the nice thing about it, Victor, is that it actually helps the brands as well, because it reduces costs. It also increases customer satisfaction, so everybody enjoys it.
Victor Antonio: [00:17:03] It's a win win. On your website, I looked at a couple of your case studies. One that was really interesting, speaking of reducing costs. Let's talk money because it's all about also driving down costs, if not increasing revenue. I think the company is called Volaris, which is an airline company. And there you have the cost to serve dropped by 83 percent because, as you know, in the airline business, margins are razor thin. So walk me through what you did for them, because I think the listeners would love to hear a tangible example of how to apply this to a business, especially with thin margins.
Ido: [00:17:40] Absolutely. First of all, Volaris is a domestic airline out of Mexico. They're the number one domestic airline in Mexico these days. They've even surpassed Aero Mexico. So they're a really amazing, amazing company. Part of the way we came up with the whole idea of going deep in one channel is a result of what we've seen with Volaris. So when we started working with Volaris, they had multiple customer service channels, a lot of their volume, like 80 percent of their volume on the phone. They had e-mail, they had live chat. They had a little bit of social, a little bit of messaging. And the work that we did with them was really to get them focused. And they started by getting focused on Facebook Messenger. And then, being that they're a Mexican company, and that the penetration of WhatsApp in Latin America, specifically Mexico, is very high, when WhatsApp was released in a beta form, we also added Whatsapp support for them as well. So how do we take the cost down? How do we take the effort down? Now we are getting one layer deeper. Messaging is an asynchronous form of communication. That means that there is no idle times for people in the call center. Put aside automation for a second, we'll talk about automation in a second. But, you just think about, you're an airline, you need somebody's passport number. What would be your response? "I'll just go get it. Give me five minutes. I'll go get it" and that person stays on hold. They're [the human agent] sitting in a call center, they're being measured by how long it takes to resolve issues, they now need to wait five, ten minutes. And you find your passport and you can give them your number. So eliminating that cuts the vast majority of the time. Why am I saying eliminating that? Think about the way that you send iMessages or WhatsApp messages or Facebook Messenger messages. You get the receipt notification, you get the read notification, you don't have to answer it right away. If you answer it like an hour later or two hours later, that's all fine. This is part of how we interact.
Victor Antonio: [00:20:22] So bottom line then, you could actually serve more customers quicker instead of waiting five to eight minutes while they get their passport numbers. You're maybe onto the next one or serving somebody else.
Ido: [00:20:32] Exactly. So think about it like an assembly line where you get the customers. Then you respond, you take it out of your queue. They then get their answer and they respond. It goes into the queue. But what we're doing is we know how to match people back with the same person who responded to them initially. That creates much stronger relationships with the brand to make you feel like "oh, I know them. I just spoke with them five minutes ago. And now I have the answer for the questions that I asked." So, we've seen very high reduction in cost to serve and an increase in customer satisfaction. They [Volaris] measure NPS. So we saw a very high increase in NPS compared to phone and compared to other airlines providing the same level of customer care.
Victor Antonio: [00:21:25] Yeah. You see, if you look at the website, you'll see it. You got a beautiful graph where you show the shift within the call volume, how it's dropped and moved over to messaging more and the amount of time saved.
Ido: [00:21:37] And, you know, just fresh out of the oven, we have a new image that actually shows out of that increase in messaging, how much of it is actually handled through automation. And you see that a big piece of it is actually handled by automation. So there's no people who actually have to handle many of those service calls or sales calls.
Victor Antonio: [00:22:02] And, you know, that’s the interesting thing, because it is counterintuitive in the sense that we get off the phone and we deal with messaging and they're happier. So if you kind of think of it as counter-intuitive, but it works in today's world.
Ido: [00:22:14] It does. It does. And the younger generations today, they don't want to speak with people, they don't want to pick up the phone. And I remember that I saw a study, it was about six years ago already, where they surveyed the millennials and they asked them: "what do you use your phone for?" And calling was actually the second last.
Victor Antonio: [00:22:40] That's funny, we're getting old by friend. But, we're catching up to the younger generation. So we can begin to wrap this up Ido because I know you're a busy guy. Talk to me about where Conversocial's going, where is the industry going? Give me a two, three year prognostication of where we go.
Ido: [00:22:58] Wow. So I think we're going to continue seeing the simplification of customer interaction. First of all, from an information perspective, we're going to see a lot of them automated processes that are actually helping humans, at least in the next two to three years. After that, maybe we'll have sensors that would enable us to communicate even beyond verbally and just kind of do things that go beyond our verbal communication. You think about the evolution of our communication. We kind of switched from voice to text to maybe...
Victor Antonio: [00:23:39] Telepathy? [chuckles]
Ido: [00:23:41] Yeah, I don't know if it's telepathy so much or if it's brainwaves. I've seen a few research papers lately where actually you can communicate through brainwaves without even speaking, but that's longer term. But I think eventually, when we think about communication and we think of simplifying communication, what's simpler than just thinking about something and it happens?
Victor Antonio: [00:24:06] I think the layer that lies between where we're at today with messaging and, we'll just say ‘brainwaves’, is prediction, right? Being able to predict and anticipate before the customer actually verbalizes or says I need it.
Ido: [00:24:20] And you know what? We didn't talk about it today, but that's a big piece of the way that we think things are going. The more proactive you are, the more you can anticipate, and data enables you to anticipate [and] solve some of these problems without consumers even telling you that they have a problem. There's nothing better than that. So I think in the next few years, we're going to see a more proactive approach by brands when they see more integrations into their backend systems. That's a little bit technical, but that would enable us to do things from the beginning to end. We're going to see a substantial increase in rich media. So what are we sharing, how are we sharing? You want to book a premium seat on a flight. And instead of giving you the flight, the number, you will actually see an image [via messaging] like you're seeing on websites today. You'll be able to click on it and you'll be able to go through and use Apple Pay to pay for it. So it's going to be click, click, click. Done. So the level of simplicity is gonna increase the level of proactive [customer service] based on data. And, hopefully the level of delight is going to increase as well. I think we're also going to finally see the convergence of sales and service. This technology, that is messaging, is actually enabling that because we don't have to switch. The bot doesn't care if you're trying to buy something or if you're trying to get customer service, you don't have to be transferred to a new bot, right?
Victor Antonio: [00:26:00] That's right. It's very interesting. That's a very interesting perspective. We'll leave it on that. We'll have to pick that up the next time, maybe a conversation about data storage. How do you begin to prepare all this stuff and grow? But that's another topic. But on that note, Ido, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.
Ido: [00:26:17] Victor, I appreciate it, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.
"But I think eventually, when we think about communication and we think of simplifying communication, what's simpler than just thinking about something and it happens?"