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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Vasili Triant to talk about all things digital CX. Vasili is the Chief Operating Officer at UJET, a partner of Kustomer, creating a product that delivers the ultimate experience for the modern consumer.
Is Voice Dead?
For nearly 30 years, experts in the CX industry have heard rumors that voice as a communication channel is dead and useless for navigating customer problems. With voice being such a popular mode of communication, one can’t help but wonder if this is true. According to Vasili, not only is voice still relevant to CX in 2021, but in the last year, all communication channels have skyrocketed in popularity. “The reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing….They’re all increasing.” More recently, the industry has experienced a shift towards digitizing CX, making good customer experiences more accessible on a multitudes of platforms. As more platforms such as voice, email, direct messages, chat, text, etc. are more commonly used in the CX space, the amount of interactions needed to solve customer problems also rises. “The number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem.” This increase in interactions is necessary for providing a more holistic experience to consumers.
Adapting to the Modern Customer’s Habits
A holistic approach to CX doesn’t stop simply at omnichannel communication. The modern customer lives in a world of mobile phones, uploading to the cloud and for companies to keep up with the ever changing customer-scape, they have to adapt to new technologies to stay relevant. It’s important that leaders stay informed on the latest CX technologies to keep customers happy. An agent should be equipped with the tools to meet their customer on their preferred communication method. For example, if a customer is having difficulty with an appliance, they should have the option to text a picture of the problem to the CX agent rather than describe it over the phone. When options like photo and video messaging are included in communication channels, it helps customers feel better understood and their problems are solved more efficiently. “A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be.”
Change or Be Changed
Change is inevitable, but why is it so hard to cope with? When Vasili urges leaders to take action and to start looking for places within their organizations to adopt modern CX technology, he isn’t pretending that change is easy to accomplish. In fact, he recognizes how hard it is to choose the right technology and the right time to implement it. Many leaders feel the pressure to fully integrate their systems and go digital but hesitate to do so because they don’t know how. The ultra-modern technology provided by Kustomer and UJET can help alleviate some of this pressure by offering the solutions to ticketing and CX problems. Keeping customers in mind is another helpful tactic for tackling new processes and technology. When it comes down to it, stellar CX is about creating a seamless customer experience and having empathy for the entire customer journey. As Gabe Larsen puts it, “It’s change or be changed.”
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Full Episode Transcript:
How Companies Are Evolving in the Mobile Age | Vasili Triant
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty, let’s get rocking and rolling. We’re excited to go today. We’re going to be talking about how companies are evolving in the mobile age. You got myself, Gabe Larsen. I’m the Vice President of Growth. Vikas, why don’t you take a second, introduce yourself? And then we’ll have Vasili introduce himself.
Vikas Bhambri: (00:28)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s sidekick and 20 years CRM contact center life.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Awesome. Vasili, over to you.
Vasili Triant: (00:38)
Vasili Triant, Chief Business Officer here at UJET. Formerly was the Vice President and GM of the contact center business at Cisco and prior to that, I was actually CEO of a cloud contact center company called Serenova. So happy to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, exciting to have you. Excited to get going today. Wanted to start maybe, Vikas, with you kicking it off and then I’m going to jump in.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:02)
Yeah look, I mean the cloud industry is transforming at a rapid pace. I think, what we’ve seen particularly in the last six, 12 months is that we are now seeing our customers and prospects in the market just adopt new technologies and the big drive and the makeshift to digital. And what we often hear from people in the industry, analysts, et cetera, is that voice as a channel is dead right? And no. Vasili, you mentioned you were at Cisco and now UJET. What’s your take on that? Does voice have a play in a world where people want to WhatsApp and they want to chat and they want to SMS? Where does voice sit in this market?
Vasili Triant: (01:42)
You know, we’ve, the voice is dead thing I’ve heard since the late nineties. And I think the idea originally started that with digital transition, people start using internet more, commerce started becoming over the web. The idea was, if you move to chat, you could reduce voice interactions. People wouldn’t want to go over voice and you would reduce costs of transaction. And that was a big move of the late nineties and pretty much the first decade of the two thousands around like, “Hey, how do we reduce costs?” The reality is consumers want to communicate with brands via channel, I’ll just call it X, and voice continues to be a big part. But the reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing, right? So they’re all increasing. Actually the number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem. Like you may do chat and voice and maybe like a tweet at the same time, right?
Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. It’s interesting to see these different channels, people from thinking every channel that’s added is going to cut down the conversations and it seems to add more conversations to the overall mix, but I love the phone is dead. It’s I mean, you probably, it sounds like you’ve been hearing it for now 30 years and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. So what do you think about the space? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a long time Vasili, and certainly the trends and the challenges have shifted. Consumer expectations have shifted over the last little while. Obviously COVID now playing a big role in consumer expectations. Where are we now? What are some of those big rock challenges that the contact center market’s facing?
Vasili Triant: (03:37)
It’s an amazing time right now, just overall, right? So I kind of see things in really kind of two dimensions at this point. And we’re in, by the most evolving, rapidly evolving transition in the contact center space, because unfortunately COVID has become this defining moment where, what used to be like, “Hey, I’ll get to a cloud transition at some point,” now it’s, “I have to because one, my business, it can’t be in brick and mortar or has some limitations on brick and mortar, but also the consumers are changing how they’re interacting my brand.” Like I’m not going anymore to a Macy’s or Nordstrom or a Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy things. I’m just doing everything online. So you have this change of how consumers are dealing with brands, and frankly, there’s a rise in just overall activity from brands and consumers in whether it’s retail or sports and buying things delivered to their home.
Vasili Triant: (04:33)
There’s a second dimension, which is we now have to evolve and where are we going? And those kind of break down into there are these legacy cloud solutions, we call them kind of cloud 1.0 solutions, that were originally migrated from on-premise into data centers. And we added multitenancy as an industry. And that’s a majority of the vendors out there. There’s cloud 2.0 which builds solutions that leverage infrastructure as a service, which really increased reach and the idea was to increase scale. But the problems really blanketed all of these vendors around reliability, scalability, reach, ease of integration with all these other applications. And now you have this rise of what we call cloud 3.0, which is purpose built for this era of consumer transition, of brand transition. It obviously, there was no prediction that COVID was going to happen, but there was a prediction or an idea that consumers and the world will be more mobile, be more smartphone centric and connect in different ways than we did before.
Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Hmm. I mean, do you feel like when it comes to most of the market, this, COVID hit a lot of companies, fairly hard, meaning they worked, they weren’t remote ready. They were playing in kind of this on prem. You don’t necessarily have to put a number to it, but a fairly large number of people were kind of playing in that 1.0, 2.0 realm when it came to their contact center technology expertise, et cetera. Is that fair?
Vasili Triant: (06:06)
I would say that a majority of the people, there’s still 80 to 85% of contact centers are still in on-premise technology. You have another 15% that we’re playing with what I call the 1.0 or the 2.0 transition. So in that dichotomy, you have the prem folks that are like, “I have to do something. I have to get there and I’ve seen issues with cloud 1.0. Who can solve my problems in this modern era?” And then the folks that were in cloud 1.0 are now some of them are having booms in their business. And they’re saying we need platforms and solutions that can scale both, like scale number of transactions and users, but also scaling, “Hey, by the way, we actually have to get to CX transformation. Like we actually have to make customers happier,” because if I don’t like you, Gabe, I can just drop an ad or drop a website, just go to another website. Like it’s no longer what store you’re driving by or what restaurant you just saw. You’re looking at everything electronically most of the day.
Gabe Larsen: (07:07)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve played in this space for a long time, why haven’t some of these companies not be able to make that transition? As Vasili talks about it I’m like, “What a bunch of fools! Why are they waiting so long?” Why is it so hard?
Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
The change is hard, right, in the best of times. And I think when you look at these organizations, the three big prongs to any transformation, right? We’ve got the people first and foremost. And I think for a lot of these organizations, when they think about retraining their agent, when they think about [inaudible], when they even think about their training guides, they take pause, right? Like, “Oh my goodness. We’re going to have to do this all over again. We’re going to have to build it if doesn’t exist,” right? So I think that becomes one area. The second is their processes. I think a lot of them, to Vasili’s point, it’s less about the technology. It’s, have your processes actually adapted to the modern consumer? And look, I mean, you look at the, telcos are a prime example. They just haven’t. They’ve got a monopoly, there’s a reluctance to change or willingness to change.
Vikas Bhambri: (08:15)
But I think until those verticals or industries get disrupted, they really say, “Look, we’ll just going to handle things status quo.” And then ultimately it’s the platform challenge, right? The thoughts or concerns about going from 1.0 or 2.0 to 3.0 and the generalization. And you know, that consultants in the past that created this concept of, well, this is going to cost you millions of dollars. And a lot of times, if people are like, wait, I really, so I think those are the three things where it’s not we aren’t smart people, et cetera. Most of them that Vasili and I speak to will tell you, “We know we have to do it. It’s just a matter of the when and the why.”
Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I’m surprised that it’s 80%, I’m seeing multiple comments of people. I just popped the, Sheila, she agreed with me, Vasili, that 80% is the number of people. So we’re not talking about a small, there’s a lot of people who have now been forced into a very uncomfortable position, but you know what? There’s nothing like –
Vikas Bhambri: (09:09)
Well here’s the thing. Like, and I’ve said this to you before, and Vasili, I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this. The pandemic, in a way, has created the biggest stress test that at least I, in my career, in the contact center, CRM industry, I’ve ever see., Whether it’s broken people’s technology where they’re like, “I want to send my agents to work from home, but they literally cannot pick up the phone and get a dial tone,” to, “My processes don’t work.” And now the consumers are barring them where Vasili said, we’ve seen interactions go up naturally in the course of years. Now we’re seeing four or five and we spoke to one CEO who’s said he’s seen 50 X the number, I mean, it was almost an unbelievable number, the number of interactions for the stress test.
Vasili Triant: (09:53)
One of the challenges that is actually happening right now, though, is there is, there’s kind of two pieces to this transition. One, I have to get my agents to cloud. So we’re just going out and buying cloud solutions. And of course you can look at the public markets right now in any SaaS company and in our space is frankly just booming regardless of what we call fit for purpose. The second part is, I need to get to CX transformation. Like, how am I going to be a better company than my competitor? And how am I going to like listen to my consumers? And it’s kind of most things like if your car broke down, is the answer that I need to find a car that works for how many kids I have, how far I’m driving, my budget on insurance or is it, I just need to go get a car, right?
Vasili Triant: (10:37)
And there’s a lot of companies right now that are like, “I just need to go get a car and then I’ll worry about the CX transformation later.” And what you’re going to see is kind of this double bubble of companies moving to cloud, then realize, “Okay, I got that problem solved. Now I actually have to improve customer experience because this didn’t meet my needs.” Or, like the common thing you might hear from some companies is, “Oh, we have outage Wednesdays or outage Thursdays,” because the platform just can’t meet those needs. And this is a lot of the things that you’re seeing out there. There are some companies taking their time saying we have to make the right move to engage our consumers because it’s about cloud, but it’s also about how do we improve customer experience because lifetime value is more important than either cost of transaction or just even general uptime.
Vikas Bhambri: (11:28)
Yeah. I would say to that point, I am speaking now more to the C level about this, than ever before. And I think it’s because this has become, once again, the stress test, that’s flagged this for a lot of CEOs, COOs and this is broken. And I think that the contact center to a degree has done a great job of shielding the executives from this, and everybody’s focused on top line growth, et cetera, right? So now these things are hyper escalated visibility. When you have slow down Wednesdays, or when people consistently are contacting your agents and you’re just like, “I’m swearing my system. I hate this thing. That’s like my, one of my biggest pet peeves. My systems are slow or our systems are slow today. My system just rebooted.” People are taking to the airwaves on Twitter and Facebook and all calling these brands out. So now it’s getting visibility at the exact level.
Gabe Larsen: (12:25)
Yeah, whether you like it or not, it’s coming. I think Kristen from the audience send us a messgae. Change is imperative. I think people are recognizing that, but how do they do it? As you think about some of these successful companies you’ve coached, you worked with clients specifically, how are then companies, they’re being forced to do it, how are they actually being successful in making that transition?
Vasili Triant: (12:48)
I think the biggest success that I don’t know if I’d say we see or I see or the companies that actually start looking at the problem from them being a customer of their own company, right? When I break it, when they kind of break it down one more level and say, “If I’m dealing with my own company, how am I entering? How am I, what are the touch points and what is my frustration?” A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be. And so when we talk about how is customer service evolving in this mobile world, where is your consumer? Are they on their smartphone? Are they on their PC and their website? Like, you need to understand that and you need to meet them there.
Vasili Triant: (13:35)
One of the things that we hear a lot about is, “Hey, what about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?” And the comment there is, if your consumer is already at Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, they’ve already had a failure of customer experience with you. And now you’re trying to solve the problem after the fact, like they’re already ticked off, you got to get to the front end of it. And if you can do that and look at it from the consumer’s perspective, then you can figure out where is their journey and what are the things that we need to offer them? It’s really about digital transition right now, and being able to offer those options. And there’s not a lot of things that do it all. There’s a lot of great marketing messages. There’s a lot of like, we can talk about automation. So one hammer saying, how do we improve customer experience? But then there’s a whole other segment of the industry, it’s like, how do we automate the front end? Because if we automate the front end, we think people want to not deal with a live person. Or we think that we can reduce the number of agents which ends reduces costs and maybe it helps our P and L. The reality is you have to back up and think about it from being a consumer yourself, whether you’re viewing a banking application or insurance, or any type of on-demand tech, whether it’s Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, whatever it may be, right?
Vikas Bhambri: (14:53)
Yeah. That goes back to the early discussion we had around voice. And this whole thing that we’ve been hearing in the industry for 20, 30 years, that voice is dead, and nobody wants to call the 1-800 number. No, nobody wants to call your crappy line. Nobody wants to scream at your IVR. That’s like they speak to me and give me your number or give me yes or no and then don’t understand what I’m saying. And now yelling and screaming. It’s not that, we still see that when push comes to shove and consumers really want to get ahold of you, they want to speak to somebody else on the other end of the line, right? Because that’s a great example –
Vasili Triant: (15:31)
One, but yeah, the biggest thing, one context, right? That’s the other thing too. Like if I speak around my house and then all of a sudden I pick up my phone and I get on a website and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there’s like a website that was just about what I’m speaking.” Like, there’s this expectation from consumers of what technology can do today, and so it’s like be smarter. So when I do call in, you should know that where I was either in your app or on your website, let me skip the first couple of steps. Like, why do I have to press one for English and two for Spanish? Shouldn’t you know that either I’m a Spanish speaker or an English speaker? And not buying like legacy things, just like caller ID, but like where I’ve already got it digitally authenticated at an application or on a website, like if I’m on your website and I already have it translated in Spanish, when I hit contact us and I go to a phone number for like either a web RTC call or something like, why are you asking me that question again?
Vasili Triant: (16:24)
Skip it. I actually called a major hotel chain that I deal with the other day and they put this big, massive automated speech thing in front of it. And they’re trying to solve my problem. Like, oh my God, I just want the person that I usually deal with so I spent a few extra minute, getting through all that, got to the person. And then they said, “How can I help you? Can you give me your information?” I’m like, “I literally just did all my authentication.” And they actually had it before and they lost it with this whole automated thing. It doesn’t pass the information all the way through. And that was, I said, “Forget it. I’ll just go to the website and just deal with it myself.”
Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And that’s the thing and I often talk about this and I think over the last 10, 15 years, no offense Gabe, we’ve seen a lot of investment in the customer acquisition side of the house. Sales and marketing technologies to that point of hyper personalization that Vasili talked about. I talked to my wife about, should we be buying a new bike for my daughter? And next thing we know we’re getting bombarded on every website we go to, every app we go to with advertising for bicycles. And then we acquire the customer, we sell them that bicycle, and then something goes wrong. The pedal breaks or the seat breaks and we’re like, “Oh no. Now we’re going to send you to this antiquated infrastructure back in the 1950s,” right? Kind of like black and white screen. And now you’re going to have to do all this to get your problem solved. So it’s amazing. And I think that the tide is turning where people are like, “I’ve invested in that acquisition, but I really need to have that same focus and mindset on personalizing the customer support service side as well.”
Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
Yeah. It does feel like it’s time. And the time obviously is now, so Vasili, recently, we both kind of announced a fun partnership between UJET and Kustomer, but I’m curious to talk some challenges and some of the successful ways people are overcoming those challenges. How is UJET jumping in and solving some of these challenges in addition by themselves, and then with the Kustomer addition to our partnership?
Vasili Triant: (18:25)
Yeah. So we’re just an ultra modern, like new way of looking at things. We built a platform that took into account how everything has evolved in this era of technology. So forgetting just infrastructure pieces for a moment, what are the common things that happen when a brand is trying to gather information and flow in order to then answer the problem and you start with data, right? So you need all the data in one place. What is everybody doing? They build all these systems and then try to integrate all these data stores or systems or records. We’ve purposely built our application for CRM and ticketing. In other words, we said, “Where are brands going to want all their information? They’re going to want it in their CRM or ticketing platform.” So we purposely built an application for that. We don’t store any of that, we actually put it in one place. It’s not about integrating and starting to have these data disparities, but more unifying it. Also, when you’re looking at something it’s all in one place, and then you can answer problems better. The second thing is the biggest thing, frankly, is where are consumers today? They’re on their smartphones. They’re on the web and meet them where they’re at. So we essentially embed the connectivity between a consumer brand in their app, and we don’t make the consumer go outside of it. So you can get things like, know how long they’ve been on either a page or a place within the mobile app. You can know geolocation data, all kinds of different things around the problems already looking at and skip steps. What does that mean? I may know that Vasili shouldn’t go into an automated attendant to start asking me all these questions and he needs to go to a live agent right away, or his problem might be simple. Let me put them into a virtual agent.
Vasili Triant: (20:11)
And I can connect through voice, chat and then do more advanced things like share photos, share videos. I was dealing with an appliance company the other day and I built this new house, put all these new appliances in, and I’m trying to explain the problem. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just want to show you. What can I do?” “Well, we don’t have an email for individuals, but you can send it to this thing.” I mean, there’s like all these delays and we enable real-time communication through a lot of different methods so that essentially consumers can interact with a brand the way they want to. And we make it seamless between that mobile experience and web. And the reality is, this is where consumers are today. They’re on these devices. And so you need to be able to interact with them there. And we just do it differently. Now with Kustomer, it’s interesting because you all have taken an ultra modern approach to the ticketing and service problem. And then we’ve taken this ultra modern approach to customer experience. So the types of brands that are really looking for that CX transformation, what’s better than this ultra modern approach from two companies where it just blends together? The integration becomes seamless. You’re not looking really at two different applications, but essentially one solution to solve my customer service problem.
Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
Yeah. I love it. Vikas, what would you add to that?
Vikas Bhambri: (21:32)
No, look, I think the key thing is that data and giving access to the agent, right? So you have that human experience. For me, it’s bringing in that data of who the customer is, where they are in their journey, right? All the data that UJET gives us in terms of where they are in our app, where they are on our website, what are they looking at, what did they do, who do we know? Because you can authenticate as well, right? Bringing that all then to the agent to get right to the heart of the matter, resolve that problem all effectively, for one, the customer’s happiness. But then the brand’s efficient. Now I can actually handle more of these inquiries, the surge that Vasili talked about earlier. So really it is a win-win for the agent, the brand, and then effectively the consumer.
Gabe Larsen: (22:17)
I like that, you guys. We fit a lot today. As we wrap, we’d love to just have a quick summary. We got a lot of CX leaders out there, contact center leaders trying to make this transition. What’s that one thing you’d leave them with as they kind of get ready for a fun weekend here? We’ll start with you.
Vasili Triant: (22:35)
I’ll take that one then. I’d say we’ve got to find the solutions together that are ultimately going to make your customers happy. And that’s what we’re passionate about is making your customers happy at the end of each of those experiences and along the entire journey.
Gabe Larsen: (22:51)
Love it. Vikas, closing remarks from your side?
Vikas Bhambri: (22:53)
Yeah. The last thing, I think when a lot of people see the joint offering between Kustomer and UJET, their minds are blown. Like, “Wow, this is what I dreamt up. This is what I thought.” I’ve heard these comments repeatedly for the last three years. But then people are like, “Well, we’re not there yet”. It goes back to what Vasili was saying about earlier at 85% of these people on the 1.0. I think it’s really about working with UJET and Kustomer to say, “How do I kind of walk through a process or change management?” Crawl, walk, run. This stuff’s getting me there. Right? You don’t have to knock it all out. Especially the, I think a lot of the enterprises see it. And they’re like, “This is modern. This is new.” But it’s better for the new age company. And eventually those new age companies are going to come eat your lunch if you don’t figure it out sooner or later. So what I would say is figure out ways to kind of start the adoption process now.
Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, I love it. It’s like change or be changed. It’s happening whether you like it or not. Guys, thanks so much for joining. Vasili, it’s great to have you bring in that experience. Vikas, partner in crime, thanks as always for jumping on. And for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (24:05)
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