The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

Ep 17: The Role of Intelligent Automation in the Future of Work featuring Rashmi Vittal, CMO of Conversica


Ep 17: The Role of Intelligent Automation in the Future of Work featuring Rashmi Vittal, CMO of Conversica

But everybody has Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the revenue collective podcast. This is a special bonus episode. We've got rush me Vitel, the chief marketing officer from Conversica, in a really interesting interview about the future of work and the use of intelligent virtual assistants, Iva's in the Front Office to help qualify leads, to help route the right contact information in the right people to your sales team and really how this era of automation and the future of work plays into what's happening with the pandemic, what's happening with budget cuts and how certain companies are taking advantage of this, of this automation in order to make do with less, less head count, more focus on cost how do you enhance all of the productivity of your existing team using things like intelligent virtual assistant? So Russian is also a longtime CMO, but before that she comes from really a world of product and professional services and transitioned into the marketing world over time at IBM. So it's a really interesting conversation. Before we go and get to the conversation, we want to thank our sponsor, Gong, the number one revenue intelligence platform for remote sales Gong and revenue collective are thrilled to announce our strategic partnership. We're bringing you the best events, content, research and space is to engage with your peers and, of course, to kick it off, their sponsoring the revenue collective podcast. New New stuff every month. Don't miss out. Stay up to date the latest collaborations at Gong, dot Io, forward slash RC. Without further ado, let's listen to my conversation with RUSHMI fatal. Hey, everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the revenue collective podcast. Today on the show we've got one of the great CMOS in the valley. We've got rush me fatal, who's a chief marketing officer to company called Conversica, and she was actually a guest at our revenue collective offsite back in April and she's here today to talk to us about sort of the future of work. And let me just read you our bio because it's important and it's impressive. With more than twenty years of pre IPO and large corporate enterprise software experience, rush me loves to build winning teams that bring to market high growth enterprise software solutions for CMO and CIO buying centers. She excels at scaling businesses with revenue generating go to market strategies and focused execution that drive market awareness and pipeline growth. Prior to joining Conversica, rush me led marketing for Sap Customer Data Cloud after the successful acquisition of Gigia, the leader in customer identity management. She's held various marketing leadership positions at IBM, Oracle and New Star. Rush Me, welcome to the show, Sam. Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here. We're excited to have you. So we like to start with just a little bit of contextualization. So we know that you're the chief marketing officer at Conversica, but we want to give you an opportunity to tell us what is Converseca and you know, what does the company do? And and then we'll dive into a little bit about your background. Yeah, happy to answer that. So you know converse because are really NEAT company. We are really build. Our vision is to build the largest augmented workforce in the world. And what does that mean? What we offer intelligent virtual assistants. Think of intelligent virtual assistants as aipowered virtual team members that help front office organizations like marketing sales, customer success teams, even finance teams to engage with their perspective buyer or customer in a natural two way interaction to determine what that perspective buyer or that customer wants to do next. So you can imagine in a in a marketing sales, set of scenarios. It's how can an intelligent virtual assistant help qualify your leads to determine if their sales ready and if they are sales ready, then pass them onto sales and the post sales side of the house? How can an intelligent virtual assistant work with your customer base to do really important things like setting up that account review or finding opportunities to renew or seeing if there's an opportunity to do an upsell across cell or expand the lifetime value of that opportunity? So really running the gamut...

...of that full customer revenue life cycle our IVA's or helping organizations attract and quire and grow customers at scale. In fact, converse go has helped our customers generate over twenty billion dollars of revenue as a result of using our IVA. So it's really impressive. Wow. So how long have you been there? I joined at the end of two thousand and eighteen. Okay, so so maybe coming up on two years. Yeah, let's let's hear a little bit about your background because, you know, we were going to dive into the future of work and to understanding intelligent virtual assistants, and I've got a lot of questions. But walk us through. How. How did you bet? What's your original background? You know, I read, I read the biou. But walk us through how you got here. Yeah, not on a straight line, for sure. That's you know. Interestingly enough, I purposely took just a random path to get here. I wanted to learn everything about a software company. So I've, I feel like I've done it all. I've been in Qa, I've been in product development, I've been in professional services. So everything from helping build product, making sure product works, to then making it work and it at a client site gave me just all the understanding of the importance of understanding Your Voice of customer or your customer needs, your customer wants, and delighting customers. So that led me to the opportunity. I was at IBM, a part of my stint. I was at IBM for ten years and you're the latter half of that time. I got to oversee kind of a new budding set of technology products that they wanted to turn into a product. We bootstrap that together. These were research assets that came out of the watts and labs, the booglean labs and and the Yamato Labs, and we put it together to form what was called IBM content analytics. We push that out into market. It served just it was an ability to analyze unstructured text. So if you're seeing a pattern here, yes, there's a pattern from where we are today at Converseco and what I did in my past. But the things around natural language understanding, you know, understanding a large volume of unstructured content to surface insights, right insights you never, never would have known, and then use that to help drive better business decisions was really fascinating. And what I worked on was what is, I guess technically could say was like the precursor to what is now Watson and how and all the ways that IBM has expanded Watson. So that was really exciting and and I've been in big data and analytics for for a long time. And then made the pivot over into marketing and specifically around attack and MARTEX solutions and how these organizations can benefit from digital identity and whether you're stitching together digital identity on a from an anonymous point of view to then figuring it out on it more of a deterministic point of view, and then how do you build profiles off of that and that and those profiles could then be used to have more targeted marketing or targeted sales or targeted service, and so that's that from kind of an overview of my background from a technology point, I've always been fascinated about being on kind of cutting edge products, kind of leading the way, breaking trail in Converska just fits right nicely into that path. You mentioned this trans position from kind of product development and almost quasi general management to marketing. was that a difficult transition for you or or did you feel like, how did you to yourself qualify your expertise and ensure that, as you transitioned into marketing, you felt like you were best position to be a World Class CMO, as you clearly are? Well, thank you. I don't know, perhaps debate may be out on that, but you know what it what it is I'll never forget this, an IBM executive, a business unit leader at IBM. You know, I had an opportunity to have a multi SCIP level with him and and he told me one thing is, you know, the number one thing you always want to make sure you do in your career is understand the perspective of the customer and if you can delight the customer, regardless...

...of what job role you have, and you always keep that mindset of what it what do we need to do to delight the customer, you're always going to stay ahead. And I remember that even when I was in professional services. I did two stints of professional services, one first startup company named Ryo Technologies, and later on and IBM and lab in their lab services, and I always remembered that because if you understand, if you could put yourself in the shoes of the customer, the market that you're targeting, then you're always going to have that North Star and I think that is super important when you come to marketing, because that's all we do right we are trying to figure out who our customers are, who our market is, where the revenue that our products and solution should be coming from, and then who are obviously the personas are target buyers, and then all the homework you need to do to resonate with that, with that group, and so, you know, that's essential foundation for good, solid marketing, and then everything there you just build on top of it. Whether that now comes to how do I drive awareness, how do I drive to Managin, you know, how do I enable sales teams? It still comes with that core foundation of truly understanding who your customers are, what they care about and how can your solutions actually help them? That makes a lot of sense. So let's talk about CONVERSICA. So, having all of that in mind, you know, I'm curious, first just from a marketing perspective, because it sounds like the IVA, this intenal, intelligent virtual assistant concept, is pretty horizontal in a sense, like it could be used for a variety different applications. How do you, as the CMO, how do you think about who to approach and who to target and who you're you know, primary ideal customer profiles are versus Your Secondary Ones? Yeah, it's a great, great question. I hear at Converseco we've always been very started out, very much so focused in bridging the marketing and sales gap. Right. If you think about marketing and sales today, it's been in just an age old conversation that defines the relationship between marketing sales. Right. What does marketing want? Marketing wants to drive and have a higher contribution to pipeline and revenue targets. Right. What does sales want from marketing? Betterlyds, right and qualified leads. And so marketing is always complaining that sales never follows up with leads enough and it sales is always complaining that they never get enough quality leads from marketing. This is a classic blend Gary Glen Ross Discussion. And and the question is, how do you fix it right? Well, the best way to convince a sales team that they have quality is to show that the prospect themselves is saying I'm interested in talking to you. Right, and that and that is what we focused on with our AI assistants. It started very simply as determining value out of the leads that the sales team were working and if you can work the lead, and what I mean by work the lead does engage in an actual interaction or two way conversation with that lead to determine if they're interested to talk to a salesperson and guess what? If they raise their hand and say that we're interested, that's pretty good, Darren gone. You know, proof that a sales guy should go work that lead, right, and provided they know the rough pricing, you know, I could provided they the budget is somewhat aligned with your solution. Yeah, well, let's assume that your you have a decent marketing practice and you've done that homework I was talking about. You know who your ideal company profile is and customer profile is, and the leads are generally within the context of that profile, right. And so that is where it began. It's just really trying to say, okay, let's make sure that we are showing the value to sales of the leads that were generating for them. And then it evolved from there. It evolved because marketing has additional use cases to support, like, especially now more than ever, right, we are investing in, let's say, digital events. You know, before covid nineteen, a lot of people were just invented investing in a lot of mix of events between physical and digital. But how do you drive people to those events that you're putting a lot of money in, and how do you make sure you're following up with those who either register or attended in a timely fashion? That follow up... typically done by your sales team and they typically don't follow up in a timely fashion. And we know that if you can actually follow up with them within like ten minutes or half an hour of them joining that that call or that Webinar or attending that event, you give a twenty one times more likely chance that they're going to respond back to you. You know today that sales people aren't able to meet that SLA whatsoever. So and we shouldn't expect them to do that. They have other things that they're trying to focus on and do as well. So another great example of how you can use, you know, an intelligent virtual system, but intelligent automation solutions to help drive these kinds of needs. And then you asked about how do you go into secondary well, you know, we take a look at it is of it this way. We're not right now in what people might call back office operations like we're not. We're not in the business of hat right now, of providing employee specific intelligent virtual assists, like intelligent virtual assistance that could support the employee base. We're looking at it from the perspective of how can an intelligent virtual assistant work alongside and augment and existing team to work with people that are outside of their four walls, right, so their prospects, their customers, even, let's say, partner relationships, and so that is our focus, is that we're looking at those front office operations all driven around Revenue Acceleration, revenue generation. That helps these organization meet those goals while also driving better operational efficiencies. One of the issues I've had when I've worked it kind of big data analytics companies is access to enough of a data set that machine learning algorithms and natural language processing algorithms can actually be meaningful and and iterate well enough so that it feels like a more human interaction. So how have you solved that problem? Or is that not a problem because you're using kind of open source data sets so that the interactions aren't even that complicated. It's like hey, we saw that you're on the website. You want to learn more? Stuff like that. How do you solve that issue? Yeah, it's a great it's a great question. So we actually run our we actually have our own AI models and we're we we've been at this for a while. So, so we've been at the since two thousand and seven. We have had, yeah, we have had almost a quarter billion of interactions run through our systems, which is it. To your point, is really key and making sure that our ai models are super accurate. We've also invested a lot in the conversations themselves. So one of the key kind of benefits has and in also, I'd say, a struggle that some people have when they're thinking about this type of technology, or maybe it's kind of like it's sister technology, like chatbots, are things like you have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. You have to write the conversation, you have to write the email. In our case, you don't have to do that. We've done it for you. So we've invested in building a very robust conversation library based on a series of skills that are iva support and because it's gone through a quarter billion interactions, those conversations are pretty tight right, meaning we know these are the best type of conversations to use for the use cases you're trying to support. We always provide kind of you know, like anything else, people have business specific language that they want to use. They have, you know, they have things, whether it's the offer, the products, goes or services that they offer, the language of the business, the industries that they're targeting. You can add that flavor and spice and to the conversations really easily. It's not hard at all, and then you can run run with those. And so, to your point, we really do work on those AI models. We do have the our rd teams focusing on that and we continually are having more and more data coming through the system. Here's one interesting note. You know, during covid our platform saw an in increase of twenty percent of interaction traffic versus a decrease like so our IVS were used more during covid than less.

Is that because teams were downsizing and replacing maybe traditional human interaction with Ivas? Yeah, there's a little, there's there's that that that's definitely picking up. I would say that's picking up more on the trend of the recovery of the economy. I think in when people were in that kind of survival mode. Initial if you guys, if you recall the emails that we're going out, that the headline of business continuity. Like we're here we're not going anywhere. Those were really important messages to get out. The thing is is that that's a hard message to get out in a personalized manner at scale. So people were using our IVA's to help them do that, and then to their existing customer set and then for new customers at exactly I mean as as budgets were kind of shut down and hiring freezes were put immediately in place and workforce reductions were happening. Now we were there to help pick up, kind of pick up that that slack and in continue to drive some business progress. Do you feel like like there's always a there's this tension? On the one hand, maybe there's a goal of making Iva's feel as human as possible, but there's another world where me, as a user, I might be okay with knowing that I'm interacting with the BOT, provided that maybe that's transparent and maybe I can see the benefits of it, because it's like a scheduling system, like coundlary or something like that, in the sense that I'm okay that it's a that it's a it's an algorithm that I'm interacting with, because I know that it actually be more efficient and more directed to the point? Do you find that you're really trying to make things feel as human as possible, or or are you open to the idea that maybe they could just be transparently algorithmic? I think it all matters about the customer experience. Right at the end of the day, you've got to put yourselves in the customer shoes and what is it that they want? How do they want to be interacted with? I don't know about you, but I don't like when I go to a website and I just finally find the thing that I'm looking for and I get interrupted by a chatbot. It's not doing that because it knows something specific about me. It's doing that because of being configured, because it's programmatic to pop up right, and then you know, once you're interacting with it, that it is programmatic, that it's very limited, and you can get very frustrated because if you ask it anything outside of its happy path right it's going to wig out on you and just say, you know, sorry, can't help or contact this person. What we see is that you can have a good balance between the human likeness and the human like behavior, along with the efficiencies that automation and these AI technologies can bring you so that people feel what like nobody wants to feel like they're waiting right so or they don't want to be impolitely talked to or that there isn't sufficient follow up. Right. But if you can do these things, if you can actually engage in a very polite manner, if you can respond quickly to any of their questions with a very relevant response, and if you can help direct them to the next step right where they want to go, and you can do that all within a good time frame and you're doing it, I mean literally our ivs do it with a smile, then you're going to get far better engagement. Right. So that's that's exactly kind of what we're just seeing play out. It. You can be efficient, but you could be efficient and polite and human like in that and and I think people really respond to it. And I think people really respond to it especially now that there's so digital right right now that that it's like a lot of our all of our engagement right now is digital, and so being able to deliver that human kindness, in that human lightness on digital is is beneficial. There's there's not a negative let's put it that way I imagine that. I mean my hypothesis would be that that converse, because one of those businesses that benefits on, you know, fortunately or unfortunately, from a global pandemic and from a lot of emphasis and pressure on cost reduction or...

...cost savings and maybe reductions and force. How's your company responded to the last six months of this global pandemic? Yeah, really well. I mean, look, I think I say really well now. It was hard as we shifted from que to q two because, like everything else, everybody just kind of went. All businesses just felt like they went constipated, unless you were like zoom, and so we had be entering into two thousand and twenty. We had a really robust strategy, you know, set over the course of, you know, three to five years, and part of it was going to get you know, we were going to do some pivots and shifts that we're going to take, you know, twelve to eighteen months to execute. And then covid hit and we looked at that we said, wow, we actually have to move after we have to accelerate our pivot so that we can be poised for the demand that was going to come thereafter, because exactly to your point. You know, budgets are restrained, workforces are reduced, you know, I know, like, let's think, let's talk about CMOS. I mean we were all directly impacted from the perspective of we had a really evaluate our budgets more tightly, scrutinized by finance teams to ensure that whatever we were investing in working, it was going to get an Roi sales teams and fortunately had to deal with a just a slow down in their pipeline progression. Right while, while that first quarter, if you recall, right April, March, end of March, April may, people are just like, well, what is this and what's the impact as we all shift to digital? And I think for us, you know that those first few months, because we accelerated our strategy and executed in ten days and repivoted, and that pivot was largely focused on the markets that we went after and the type of customers that we went after, we saw a turnaround on our company, so much so that in that Qto we became profitable. So for a startup like us, that was awesome to make that type of a pivot, because that originally part of the plan. No, it wasn't as I said, we were going to take we were going to try and get to cash flow break even by the end of two thousand and two thousand and twenty and we were able to turn profit in Q two. We are continuing to invest to grow. We secured we just announced last week that we secured our series dfunding. So super excited about congratulations. Thank you. And you know how hard it is to, you know, raise funds during this time. is also a testament to the fact that what we did to execute and prepare ourselves for covid was his is really paid off and now we're poised for growth, for really the growth and the high growth that we're looking for in two thousand and twenty one. So yeah, I think for us, you know, blessing and curse at the same time right, really, really difficult to see the impact that it's had economically worldwide. At the same time, for us, I think our CEO really did a great job and leading the way and in driving the shift and pivot that we needed and get us on the track that we needed to get to where we're will poise now for two thousand and twenty one. and Are you, because everybody's you know, it's we're recording this and the middle of September people are either knee deep or about to get knee deep into two thousand and twenty one planning. Is Your Two thousand and twenty one plan the same as it was nine months ago? Higher? Lower? You know, are you? Do you feel confident about your forecasting capabilities at this point, given everything that's happened? I think there's still some you know, I think there's still some economic volatility and I think they're while we're coming out of it. I'm seeing recovery signals, you know, from hiring to again, seeing others getting funded and money's being flowed. I think those are all positive signs. But I still think we're entering into the fall season, in the winter season, and we know, we've been hearing right that from the least the pandemics impact, the numbers will go up in the winter as things settled down and get cooler and colder, and so we are keeping an eye out on that and what the impact has. But I think overall we're really bullish on what two thousand and twenty one is going to offer. So we're poised...

...for growth and because we accelerated our execution on our strategy. Right we're really driving forward on what two thousand and twenty one is going to be. So we did dramatically change what our strategy was. We just accelerated it and we're set up for we're right now putting all the building blocks in place that we need so that we can hit the ground running further and harder faster in two thousand and twenty one. Do you feel and sort of like want to, you know, thinking about time? Maybe the last topic is just sort of like the general future of work. It feels like converse, because really well positioned for a new world where maybe there is more emphasis on cost or expenses. How do you integrate sort of this idea of intelligent virtual assistants with kind of like where the general workforce is going? Yeah, I think. I think all analyst Surveys and industry industry surveys indicate that CEOS, CEIOS, business leaders are taking a hard look at, you know, how can they adopt ai technologies, like intelligent automation solutions, like intelligent virtual assistance, to help them? Because see, in this in this digitally enabled world, you have to be a digital athlete and think about what that means. Whether you're a marketing leader, sales leader, a customer success leader. What does being a digital athlete mean to you? And so you know, for a sales leader, is more than just being good. Now on Zoom. Once you were used to having facetoface meetings and closing deals facetoface. Now you need to do that digitally, for sure. And the question is, beyond zoom, what other tools do you have to assist you to either drive more pipeline or close more deals? And this is where I think, when you think about an intelligent virtual assistant, should think of it. About about it this way, right, how can I augment my team to drive greater performance and productivity, and how can I do that fast and in the other thing is, like, you know, in today's Day and age, when you think about it's like how can I ramp up workforce productivity and performance on demand? Because if we are still going to go through economic voluntility, sometimes you need a ramp it up like and create more productivity and and performance on demand, and sometimes you need to wratch it that down. And if you're if you're solely relying on human capital to do that, that's impossible, right, because think about the sales sales, the average sales wrap, average sales rep to ramp up takes four to six months, right. You don't sometimes have that time. And so instead what you can do is is you can bring in an intelligent virtual assistant to help drive that pipeline, while then the not maybe the ten new reps you need, maybe the five new reps you need, can then take that new demand and go run with it to try and close it. So I think you're going to see people's minds are shifting, not just because of the cost but also because they still got to drive that that top line revenue number and growth, and so so I think, I think you're going to see a more broadening of that. And the technologies are just getting better and they're only going to keep getting better. So from an accuracy and confidence level, that's just not going to be really a question because already, like I could even say this today, our Ivas are more accurate than than a human is. So it's a little scary, but it's true. And so so it's one of those things where, as a technology gets more robust, you're going to see teams thinking about, okay, how do I bring on. You know, how do I bring on a little help to make us be more to make us be higher performing. Makes a lot of sense. Rush me, it's been great having you on the revenant collective podcast. If folks are listening and you know they're interested in learning more, potentially, maybe they want to engage converse gon a in a sales cycle and they're happy to interact with a BOT to prequalify themselves. But what's the best way to get... touch with you if folks want to follow up? Oh yeah, absolutely, you can reach out to me on Linkedin. Rush me with a toll and I've got my linkedin profile. The best way to reach out to me. No Prom at all. or You could reach me at rush me at conversecacom. Awesome. Folks want to reach out to me, you can. It's Sam at Reven Collectivecom or linkedincom forward in form F Jacobs. Rush Me. Thanks so much for being on the revene collective podcast. was great chatting with you. Sam. It was great to be here. Thanks for having me. Hi everybody. Hope you enjoyed that conversation with rush me. I really enjoy talking to her. She was a guest at our virtual offsite over the spring and conversico sounds like one of those really interesting platforms. As you mentioned, they just raise their series d one of those companies that is both incredibly exciting because it's taking the best of machine learning and natural language processing and turning it into these things, these intelligent virtual assistants which can improve, follow up and pre qualifyly gads and do all of those great things. At the same time that converseco represents, you know, one more step towards the replacement of human beings for so many different jobs and the slow evolution in the slow devourment that technology has over manual human activities. So it's both a blessing and a curse and one day we'll have to figure out how to replace all the people who no longer have jobs because of all this intelligent virtual automation. But on the other hand it can help you do right now more with less, and CONVERSECA sounds like a really interesting company. If you want to reach out to me, Sam at Revenue Collectivecom, we're going to be bringing you more episodes with our new host, Casey Gordon Lett. If you want to be on the show or you have ideas for the show case. Kacie at Revenue Collectivecom, and otherwise make sure you subscribe, make sure that you click five stars, make sure that you're gearing up for this big membership drive that we're going to be doing in October. We've got a bunch of great incentives for people that refer members that end up joining, including five years of free dues for people that refer a certain amount of people. So it it's going to be exciting and we're really trying to make October the biggest month of the year as we head into two thousand and twenty one, and we'll hope you'll join us if you have questions. Sam At revenue collectivecom. If you need anything from revenue collective, drop into the help dusk channel on slack. Otherwise, we hope to talk to you soon and if you need anything for me, you know my email addressing more to find me. So we'll see you next time.

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