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Khoros Executive Interview

Mike Betzer, Chief Digital Transformation Officer, Khoros

Mike Betzer is the first-ever Chief Digital Transformation Officer at Khoros.  He focuses on aligning with the top 100 brands in the world and becoming the partner they trust for digital CX. Mike is the author of “Outside In,” a book on digital transformation, and a frequent industry speaker on the topic.  

Mike has been helping big brands interact with customers for 30+ years, starting with 14 years leading contact centers and technology at MCI. He then started Ineto Services in 1999, a SaaS contact center infrastructure company, which he sold to Siebel in 2004. Mike then led the new Siebel OnDemand division, becoming the lead for CRM strategy at Oracle after Siebel was acquired in 2006. In 2008, he became President at Convergys to create a new technology division and lead key acquisitions. He left Convergys to start Social Dynamx which was acquired by Lithium. In 2019, Lithium joined Spredfast under Vista Equity Partners to become Khoros. 

Khoros History

Lithium was a world-leading community software provider, especially after acquiring Social Dynamx. Vista Private Equity then bought Lithium. They saw that there were many components for buyers to navigate, which made it too difficult for consumers. Instead of modules and parts of solutions, all the elements were combined to create a platform that makes it easier to engage with customers. The new entity then bought Jive, which brought together the two leading community software solutions.  As Khoros, we then merged with Spredfast to complete our digital customer engagement platform. We have recently brought in Topbox (now, Khoros CX Insights), which provides analytics across all channels and Flow.ai.

We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time integrating all those products into one common place as a single repository of information. We’ve upgraded Lithium and integrated the best of Jive into a cohesive cloud architecture which is now on Amazon Cloud. If someone is a customer of one of our clients and wants to do self-service but can’t resolve their problem, they can escalate to a bot or to care that seamlessly flows across our platform. The front end of our community is our care module. Agents watch what is happening in the community. They don’t engage unless there’s a more complex question which requires the customer to connect with an agent. We tag everything in care so that we can see the customer’s profile: what they like, what actions they take, what makes them happy and their sentiment.  Tags then turn into marketing labels which allows the client to create outbound marketing campaigns to specific customers. 

Khoros and Social Media 

Khoros is particularly effective on social media platforms like Twitter. For example, one of the largest airline carriers can discern when an unhappy customer’s tweets go viral. The community sees the problem and in cases where a complaint is not actually valid, the company can push a knowledge article from the community to Twitter to automatically respond to the customer. We would also put out a link to the community and say, ‘here’s your answer.’

Companies like this carrier or a finance organization that is also our client have command centers where their social media team and community team quickly become aware and understand what is trending. They are prepared to act when there is a major Twitter storm. We believe we have become the largest provider in digital communications through social media because companies are aware of the imperative to respond quickly and get on top of potential situations that can have significant consequences. These are our roots. We launched asynchronous messaging a long time ago, now asynchronous messaging has been integrated into our platform across email, chat messaging and other critical channels.

For our airline clients we built a connector to their homegrown CRM which houses their list of frequent flyers. While we don’t need the list itself, we want them to tag when a complaint emanates from an frequent flyer so they can take a higher level of action.  If someone from that group has gone on to Twitter or Facebook, they will want to react appropriately to any problem.  We have built a piece of middleware in conjunction with the client and can communicate through it. The company can append social media communications to a customer’s profile. Thus, if the customer comes back on Twitter or any digital communications channel, the agent can see the history and instantly address the source of that customer’s dissatisfaction. Even if the customer switches to the phone, the CRM tracks the problem to make the agent aware.  We also pass along the customer’s sentiment or happiness score or NPS. Making this information available encourages awareness and cooperation between phone agents and digital agents.

As New Channels Arise, Our Customers are Covered

We can quickly create plugins for new channels. We have monthly engagement calls with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp. We work with them every month on any changes they might make to their platform. We bought what is now known as Khoros CX Insights because it provides an over-the-top analytics platform. We can pull in data from anything in our network and Khoros CX Insights can take care of anything that is not in our network. Customers can see everything that is happening in Khoros as well as what is happening in an application.  

AI and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are becoming integral in care communities. In serving one of the world’s leading consumer electronics companies, we established the premise that we don’t want to turn bots into a glorified IVR. We advised them to look at everything that is happening on social media channels and chat and see why people are contacting them. It’s possible to find out that we could easily send them to community with the right link to resolve their issue 30% of the time. People love to use search to solve things on their own. That is where we plug in a bot to help them when they can’t find the answer on their own, even when the information is available. For example, let’s say it’s an issue with a washer or dryer and the customer does not know the model number. The bot can acknowledge that the customer is having trouble and ask directed questions that help guide them. Once the customer provides answers to the questions, the problem is narrowed down. The customer is then sent to an article or to a person who can help get the answers. Working with this company has enabled us to better use Flow.ai to build out that entire stack.

While it might seem that we are overwhelmingly involved in B-to-C transactions, about 30-35% of our business is B-to-B. One of the major tax software companies, have both sides. Their advisers have their own internal network where they can talk about and collaborate on which articles are beneficial for their client bases.

Digital First

Our definition of “digital first” is that 95% of the people on this planet start on digital. Most consumers don’t want to look for an 800 number. They just want their questions answered and if a company can make digital simple, they will go to either the website or use something like search.com to find what they want. If people need more help, they will go to the phone. We have found that 80% prefer not to call. The first thing we say to customers is everywhere you post an 800 number, also put a message icon next to it and watch what happens. At least 50-80% of the time, people will stop calling.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people didn’t know what was true. They wanted to hear a human voice to assuage their skepticism. We believe digital is much more efficient than telephony. If a company does digital right, it can cut the number of agents, which greatly reduces human costs. 

Omnichannel Experience

People don’t want to have to start over after trying to resolve an issue on digital. All our engagements go directly to the company’s CRM, which becomes the key conduit to enable seamless omnichannel interactions. The agent can see what happened on Twitter, for example, and know that the customer is likely calling just to verify.

In my role as Chief Digital Transformation Officer, my impetus is to ensure that while companies use all the available technology, they get the process and communications issues right. We focus on helping them get their telephony team to work with their social team, their community team, and their marketing team.  Until now, companies may not have optimized their teams. I tell them it’s not that hard technically, it takes focus and good tools and a robust CRM. It takes change management and process management to move these companies from what they have been doing for the past 30 years to a digital-first mentality.

Data Analysis

If a company has bits and pieces of what they need, we can bring them together to connect and bring all their data to the platform or advise them on what they need to replace. One reason we bought Khoros CX Insights was to analyze data.  Once installed, we can show them how to see everything about every engagement on every channel. This gives our customers standard reporting across every channel even if all their current reporting systems are different. With Khoros CX Insights, we can normalize the data and advise them on what other channels they might utilize.

Role of the Agent

We see the role of the agent evolving to a phenomenal one over the coming years. The way we are building technology is to use the agent as the expert to tune the bots. The bot is the assistant to the agent and the community is assistant to the agent. The goal is not to replace the agent but for them to tune these components. With this assistance, the agent should be able to handle 100 to 400% more traffic because automation is now their friend. It’s not about efficiency so much as it is about effectiveness. Agents not only tune the bot, but add to the community with the number of articles they publish. The more they publish, the more successful they become. It turns what had been once perceived as a redundant job into a creative writing communication job, which can radically reduce the turnover rate.  Agents are going to become more and more sophisticated to handle the real edge cases because they can leverage the automation to do other things automatically. 

Customers who do things digital first don’t want to hear cliched responses after they have already done all the research. The agent must reflect knowledge of both the product and the actions the customer has already taken. Everyone from the CEO on down must think like a customer thinks and be there for them. 

CRM is super-important to us.  We do not want to be the database of record which is why we are deeply connected to Oracle, Zendesk, Salesforce, Workday, and others. We want to be a company’s engagement platform and we’re the front end of that. 

We believe the #1 thing that consumers want is to have a positive outcome in that moment of truth. When someone reaches out to a company on whatever channel they use, what occurs in that one minute will determine whether the customer loves or hates them. They are going to say they need help and expect because they have paid, the company is going to know who they are and the value that they bring, and connect them with the right person to solve their problem. The customer wants to know that no matter what they purchase, whether it’s a consumer product or a service, they are going to get the best service on everything.


Service has become the new marketing. That’s why having the ability to create tags that tell you about what a customer’s interested in is so important. Organizations can not only respond better, but create campaigns that are specific to a channel. Marketing and care have never worked together like that, but now we are enabling them to do so.

Perhaps the only positive thing that came out of the pandemic has been that every single brand has realized how fragile their infrastructure has become and many are taking steps to fix it. They know they need to make a change now and customers are giving them a chance to do it on new channels. When they go digital, their customers are happier, their agents are happier, and they can leverage the advantages.