Interview with Alok Kulkarni, CEO, Cyara

Alok Kulkarni
[mnky_team name=”Alok Kulkarni” position=” CEO, Co-Founder, Cyara”][/mnky_team]
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“Voice experience management is going to become a core competency for any marketer and represents an exciting opportunity to develop in the digital economy. “

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start a customer experience assurance platform?
I had been working in the contact center industry for over 15 years and what I loved about it was how critical customer experience was for the success for any business and how passionate our customers were about it. However, delivering a great customer experience was extremely difficult for large enterprises, as each customer was unique. That’s where I saw the opportunity for Cyara.

The complex tech environment— with enterprises dealing with multiple vendors and solutions, and various versions meant it was nearly impossible for companies to be sure that the customer experience they were delivering met the brand promise. The existing testing and monitoring technology was very hard to use, manual, hardware-based and required coders to manage it.

My vision was to create an easy-to-use, cloud-based CX assurance platform that was independent of any specific technology. Our platform enables companies to measure and detect any CX flaws from their customers’ perspective in real-time.

Since starting Cyara eleven years ago, we have become the global leader in providing an omnichannel customer experience assurance platform. The world’s most trusted and respected brands use Cyara and it’s been quite an honor working with them. My role now as CEO at Cyara is to build the team and work with the world-class Cyara team and customers to define our vision, strategy, culture, product direction and the user experience for Cyara. It’s been a very exciting journey getting to this point.

MTS: How does Cyara fit into a modern CMO’s martech stack?
Cyara provides CMOs with visibility and real-time insight into their customer experience from an operational perspective. It’s what we call operational customer experience. Just think of it as live NPS or Customer Satisfaction scores without having to survey actual customers. CMOs can use the Cyara Mobile App to close the loop between the actual experience their customers are having and their marketing strategy.

In today’s digital world, it’s not good enough to get analytics days or weeks later on the success of any campaign. It needs to be real-time. Cyara can give marketers the assurance that the customer journeys they have designed are not being compromised by technology-related issues which are the primary channels of communications in a digital economy.

MTS: How do you see the technology evolving around voice experience management in the coming years?
I think bots and voice-based assistants will play a vital role in helping engage with the customer on a more personal level. And it may potentially move on to a virtual or augmented reality scenario. Therefore, voice experience management is going to become a core competency for any marketer and represents an exciting opportunity to develop in the digital economy. From Siri to Echo, as these virtual assistants proliferate on our phones, cars, and laptops, they offer a very powerful platform to deliver the ultimate personalized customer experience for marketers. It’s a marketer’s dream.

MTS: What are the pain points for marketers in leveraging virtual assistants and chatbots for refined content delivery and personalization?
The very dynamic nature of providing a personalized service to the consumer with a bot can be challenging because of the vast minutiae involved with personalization. Human beings do a great job of conversations with empathy and context and are able to have a more emotionally sensitive dialogue with customers reading between the lines instead of the abstract. This can be more difficult to do with a bot. The maturing of AI technology can hopefully solve these challenges.

Another critical pain point is providing connected journeys— which is a major focus for us at Cyara. If the customer needs assisted service and the virtual agent is not able to transfer the interaction with context to a customer service agent, customers get really annoyed. It’s the number one customer-facing issue that was identified as part of a Frost & Sullivan survey we commissioned last year. It can be achieved but there is currently limited visibility if you don’t have an assurance solution like Cyara.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m watching for trends directly applicable to CX world, with companies such as Amazon Connect, Talkdesk, and Jibo. I’m also watching the evolution of variety of startups— from Slack to Sonos, Uber, Tesla, Snapchat, Highfive, Evernote, Square, Headspace, Hubspot, and SignNow, among others.

The common thread is that they’re all potential game-changers– either in changing the way people communicate and interact, or disrupting an existing market– and those all carry potential learning and inspiration for me at Cyara.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
A big component of our marketing efforts is customer education, so we’re regularly hosting webinars, publishing newsletters and blog posts. And we’re getting ready to host our first user conference in 2018.

To effectively manage the outreach and content, we use blogging platforms, event management and survey tools, a CRM platform, and ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

And of course, we track our own customer experience, across all our platforms, using Cyara.

MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign?
We recently launched a new product called Velocity, with a visually arresting campaign and the tagline, “You’ll be blown away.” Having a bold campaign like this is unusual for our category and drove 10X engagement on LinkedIn. And we consistently delivered it across all touchpoints, from news to social media and direct marketing.

The audience for the campaign was potential buyers, and engagement with the email campaign was really high. We also had a lot of demos scheduled as a result. Strategically, we are transforming our product offering with Velocity, so it needed to stand out. The launch has allowed us to have much more strategic conversations with potential buyers — particularly because Velocity ties in seamlessly with the DevOps approach that is a key market-wide trend — which is a great result.

MTS: How do you see the conversational platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML technologies?
I see them evolving to provide a very personalized experience and the ability to complete a transaction rather than a hand-off to assisted service. A proactive, pre-emptive approach around the intent of the buyer persona so that bots assist with timely valuable insight will succeed. I think the evolution of AI- and ML-based systems will also go omnichannel. By that I mean not just voice, but also chat and other media types to deliver a business outcome tailored to the user.

This is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
It’s not one word, but “Like it’s day 1.”

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
My Gmail, Active Inbox, GoToMeeting, Trello, Reminders, Music, Tally Counters, Kindle, TripIt, Google Apps, Cyara, my Apple Watch Fitness App, my Fitbit app, WhatsApp, Calendar, TimeScroller, Google Maps, MindNode, virtual assistants, Evernote, OmniFocus, YouTube, SignNow, and LinkedIn.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
My Apple watch automatically unlocking my laptop every time I need to login, my air pods which change context depending on which device I’m using for. For example, I can seamless connect to my laptop or my iPhone.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I’m currently reading Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward Bernays and the Technology-as-a-Service Playbook by Thomas Lah and J. B. Wood.

I consume information through podcasts, my Kindle, via Medium, and various apps.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m always keeping an ear open for great advice, but one that perhaps resonates the most is: “You’ll never get your time back, so don’t waste it.”

MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jeff Bezos

MTS: Thank you Alok! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Also Read: The New Disruptor-Conversational Marketing and its Practices

Alok likes building things, watching people grow and pushing the boundaries of possibilities. He has the benefit of enjoying a wide range of roles ranging from a research engineer, consulting through to professional services, pre-sales, sales and leadership.

Alok’s passion is innovation, technology and getting a team together to deliver it. He loves dreaming about what can be achieved however impossible it may seem.

His goal is to make Cyara a huge success. Customers, employees and innovation are his no. 1 priority.

Cyara provides the world’s leading Customer Experience (CX) Assurance platform for digital (email, web chat, SMS…) and voice channels. Many of the world’s best known companies trust Cyara to enable rapid innovation of the customer experience and to achieve better customer outcomes, while dramatically reducing the cost of development and testing and minimizing the risk of exposing customers to poor customer experiences. The Cyara Platform provides a foundation for organizations designing, testing, and monitoring the customer experience, across all customer interaction media, and across the entire technical architecture.

Typically Cyara customers innovate 40 to 70% faster than their peers, and reduce the time and expense for testing their software by a third or more compared to manual testing while providing better test coverage to identify and correct issues in their customer experience environment. In addition to testing, Cyara also provides active monitoring of the customer’s environment. From self-service applications through to the agent desktop, Cyara provides leading-edge solutions to some of the most recognizable brands in the world. Every day, millions of flawless customer interactions are delivered by organizations utilizing the Cyara Platform.

[mnky_heading title=”MarTech Interview Series” link=”|||”]

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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