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Intelepeer Executive Interview

Brian Gilman , CMO, Intelepeer

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In her continuing series of live interviews with CX/contact center technology providers at Enterprise Connect, CrmXchange Managing Partner, Sheri Greenhaus, sat down with IntelePeer CMO, Brian Gilman to discuss their low-code, no-code CPaaS platform.

Let's first talk about IntelePeer in general.

IntelePeer is a low-code, no-code communication workflow platform Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) by definition, but not CPaaS by execution in terms of how we go to market building our solutions.

Please explain CPaaS, for those who aren't that aware of it.

CPaaS is a platform that provides communication APIs. SMS, voice API is a messaging API that sits over the top of other communication systems within your network, your contact center.

Do you provide the hooks for different applications?

Originally, we all would simply pick up the phone and call. That was the only option. Then came Amazon. We got used to Amazon providing us with a different customer experience. Originally Amazon was an outlier. Then the pandemic hit, and people stayed in their homes. Now people are given different ways to interact with businesses.

We've gotten comfortable with different ways of communicating. Most of us use our phones for everything but calling. We don't want to pick up the phone and sit on hold for 45 minutes. We now have expectations around SMS, chat or social media integration and communications. APIs are what provide all those omni-channel capabilities to businesses.

What do you see as some of the biggest changes in customer loyalty?

I think one of the most significant changes is how people want to consume. They're no longer holding brand loyalty. If the consumer does not get the experience they want, the way they want to consume, they're going to go somewhere. The ability for companies to be agile and to meet the customer and the channel of their choice is what has fundamentally changed. It's not just offering channels; it's offering the appropriate channel for the type of business that they do.

For companies to keep their loyalty, what are the best practices to meet them with whatever channel that they need?

I think this is extremely crucial for companies to provide the best channels to communicate quickly and effectively, resolving issues promptly. If it can't do that, customers will go elsewhere.

For instance, I had to refinance my house a year ago. I needed to get someone on the phone immediately. I could be placed on hold for 45 minutes or, my favorite one, "due to high call volumes, we can't take your call right now," and a prompt click with a dead connection—an absolutely horrible experience. I needed immediacy. I wanted to go to live chat with someone because chat is synchronous. They didn't offer chat. They offered email with a 48-hour SLA. Companies need to understand that it's more than providing a channel; it's having a complete understanding of how people need to interact with you and providing the channels that will allow them the immediacy they need.

At the end of the day, there are two types of interactions. There are transactional interactions such as checking a bank account balance. I can do that on my phone. I don't need to talk to an agent, and as a consumer, I am provided with an easy way to self-serve. The second type of transaction is more personal, a larger transaction such as buying a home. I'm probably going to need to speak to somebody. If I can't physically speak to someone, I better be able to interact with them via messaging or chat. Providing me an email doesn't do any good because it's an asynchronous channel when I need to be live.

It seems like many companies are not providing the channel of choice.

This gets back to what I was saying about loyalty. Before the pandemic, people can lean on their brand. Big global multinational companies were providing the experience they wanted to provide; they were not necessarily thinking it through because they didn't have to. During the pandemic, many employees worked from home. Companies were in survival mode. They needed to figure out how to get calls that were going to the contact center. With a limited number of agents and spiking call volumes, it was a scramble to keep the lights on.

Some companies evolved out of this to adopt a 'How do we make a better customer experience now because we can't have all these calls coming into the contact center' mentality. We know the world's reopening. Call center volumes are not going to be at those peak volumes forever, but eCommerce is now part of our norm.

Some companies evolved. They thought about issues like 1) How do we get better with self-service? 2) How do we get that volume out of the contact center and 3)How do we keep our agents happy? Historically, the brand was the brand. Now the brand is the customer's experience.

It's interesting; if you go into retail stores, they don't have the inventory they used to have and tell you to go online.

Yes. That's just it. Many astute retailers are now leveraging their brick-and-mortar as demo centers and not keeping inventory. A lot of the employees in retail stores now are almost hybrid contacts. So, when you have big call spikes, they're not working in the shop; they pick up the phones. Companies have had to rethink the model because of this fundamental shift in customer behavior.

Everyone always looks at Amazon and turns to their distribution models as being their primary advantage. Walmart, for example, has stores all over the world; that would be their distribution centers. Now you can purchase something and have it delivered to your door in an hour. That's a fundamental shift for even a company like Walmart, which still has heavy foot traffic. They're having people ship out from the stores.

For the companies that don't make this change, is it just too heavy a lift because of their legacy systems and the undertaking is daunting?

Yes. Some companies have fundamental technology issues that prevent them from modernizing effectively. We've been talking all week with analysts. There are over 12 million on-premises contact center seats in the world today, the old legacy contact centers. They're stuck saying, "how can I modernize the legacy infrastructure?"

With IntelePeer, they don't have to rip and replace everything?

No, we're not a platform, we're not a PBX, we're not the contact center. We're enabling a lot of the self-service capabilities that sit adjacent to our contact center or over the top and the PBX environment.

So IntelePeer can work with most systems that they already have?

Exactly, yes.

If a company is going to engage you, how do they find you?

Most of the time, there is a primary need. If it's a doctor's office, they want to minimize the missed appointments. So they're thinking about SMS reminders. Often, they'll find us either digitally or be at an event and you'll hear me speak on stage or something like that.

We always talk about how not to categorize ourselves; we are CPaaS by definition, not execution. Our customers often hear CPaaS and think, 'we can't develop something like that,' and walk away. We built a low-code, no-code capability on what was a very complex case of APIs. When you look at some of the competition that's in the market, they provide the code, but it's on the customer to build it. I'm not technical, but I can build out a lot of the applications that a doctor's office would need in five minutes. I can deploy a workload that fits my needs with a few clicks, answering a couple of questions and dragging and dropping the features I need.

 If I'm a doctor's office, what do I look for? Do they know low-code/no-code?

No, they don't. But many times, they will look for appointment scheduling. We understand what they're searching for, workflow in vertical markets and their pain points. It's been good for us because we don't have to worry about trying to find people who were looking for something that they don't know how to find.

In some cases, it's better for you if they know less about coding.

It certainly allows us to have a less technical conversation. We can very easily solve needs without paying someone to build it or come to us to build these workflows. We've evolved to something that it opens up solutions and capabilities many companies wouldn't have access to previously.

Your conversation revolves around solving their problem.

 And fast! Take a traditional contact center IVR where the customer calls in and checks for the automated response, which gets you to the right place or the right person. If you were to build that leveraging a competitive platform, it would probably take you several hundred hours, several hundred thousand dollars in either development resource hours or paying someone to build it. With our low-code environment, you can do that same thing in a matter of days and with our no-code environment, have it done in five minutes. We have customers who are running hundreds of smart flows, which is what we call a low-code environment. We work with a company where a single person is managing it across multitudes of contact centers. He tweaks it weekly, if not daily due to the complexity of their business.

What industry is this?

It's a healthcare group administrator, a rather complex business. You constantly have new people coming in and out of programs. You have massive call spikes within the contact center, coming in from many different benefit places go across various organizations. One person manages all of those flows. And if you were going to go and do that with a traditional, you're going to pay a ton of professional services to get it done.

So he can tweak what's happening in the IVR through your system?

Yes. They built the IVR with our CPaaS. He's managing it through a low-code drag and drop capability. He's a citizen developer, so he's not a developer by training but has a basic coding capability. Though basic, he can handle some of the complexities and the workloads.

In most cases, let's talk like a couple of levels above, maybe a law firm or a doctor. What are the steps? Does somebody from IntelePeer consult with them and determine their needs, or do you say here it is, you can figure it out?

Most of the time, they have a need around a certain pain point. They will engage with one of our sales reps or one of our channel partners, and they will walk them through the process. They can build on their own. We have professional services for customers who need help building. They're not on their own if they don't have the capability or they want to work with us to help them build out that application.

For something more complicated, how long does something like that take?

It depends on the level of sophistication. It could take several days to a week or two, but it's not months. And once it's built, it's easily replicated. You can build templates within the system. So, you have your IVR you've built out; you can copy that, paste it and start your second flow off the base you've just built. The first build may be the longest, then it's just hours after that.

It's pretty easy to reproduce?

Absolutely. And in this environment where you have similar flows across different groups of people with different benefits, you may be taking a single template, replicating it and making tweaks. That first build, maybe a couple of days, the second and third builds take a few hours to complete the nuance of what they're trying to do in that flow.

What are some of the key things they should know about using digital platforms or digital automation?

I think the biggest challenge they have is fully understanding their customer journey and where a platform like ours can help impact the business. At the end of the day, they're coming to you for a singular thing. But when you think about all of the areas from admission, leveraging health care post-care treatment, where our workflows can impact that business, whether it be two factor authentication that when a patient calls in for the first time, they can authenticate who they are, different components of the appointment reminder, payments etc. These are all really big pain points that the doctor may not know we can solve for them. They came to us because they had a real big gap around the appointment reminder.

Is healthcare a big area for you?

I find that healthcare, finance, retail are the ones that getting very specific and helping customers understand. I can market you SMS; but it may not make any sense to you because it's a generic horizontal application. If I can talk about payment reminders within healthcare organization, it's the same thing, but I'm making it applicable to that doctor so he understands I'm speaking in his language.

Hospitals are getting dinged by the insurers for re-admission. There's a whole level of complexity trying to keep patients from coming back. They need to think through what they do in a post-care environment, such as a message to refill a prescription. The ability to educate in a post-care environment where the doctor doesn't necessarily have face time with that patient but is actively engaging with that patient.

Where do you see customer service going and where would we be five years from now?

I think we've seen probably seven or eight years of change in the past year. I think we're going to see companies getting much more sophisticated about their approach to customer service. They're going to start to get smarter around data. I think that is one of the biggest issues with businesses today is they understand the need for interactions in channels, but they don't have the data because all the communication channels are not pulling from a common database.

Aligning the data, the analytics, the AI, the machine learning… all of those things that we always talk about in line with the communications channels, provide better intelligence to the agent or employee. So that way, when the customer comes in, they're getting a more tailored customer experience. And it doesn't feel like my chat channel is independent from my voice channel. I think that's where we're going to start to get better coordination. That world of the three-legged stool of UC contact center and APIs are now starting to meld. That convergence of singularity across all of those pools and the intelligence behind it is what will drive tomorrow's customer experience.

Is there anything we haven't talked about you want our audience to know?

You need to understand your audience's needs and really map out the entire journey. Many companies today get stuck in an issue around a singular solution. They get stuck in that mold and they're not thinking through their journey well enough.

When we talk about the best-in-class businesses, they've really tailored a customer experience. They've thought through every portion of the customer journey. Not only from the time that they're first interacting, but through the entire customer engagement. People have a choice now; they can't think about individual interactions. They have to think about their journey. If they don't, each interaction becomes very isolated. It's a journey, understanding everything from a single touch to all the customer's potential interactions.