Interview with Ben Harris, CEO, Decibel Insight

Ben Harris Decibel Insight
Ben Harris

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start a digital customer experience analytics company?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, so my aspirations to start a business began at a young age. Upon graduating with a business degree from The University of West England, I worked for a few years in business development (then known as Price Waterhouse) and at digital agencies (including Publicis and Ogilvy). Recognizing my passion in helping brands better reach their customers, in the early 2000s at the age of 27, I followed my dad’s advice and started my own agency with the intention of helping friends starting dotcoms navigate the complex marketing landscape.

My first agency taught me the importance of transparency, teamwork and the challenges in scaling a service business. When the agency outgrew our offices and I discovered our rent would increase by 500%, it was clear our business model no longer worked, and we had to develop a recurring revenue model. It was then when my CTO, Tim de Paris, and I decided to develop a technology that could help our clients better understand the cause of problems on their websites, and that’s how Decibel Insight was born.

It’s been exciting leading a scalable company and defining the new category of digital customer experience and behavioral analytics, helping global businesses like LEGO and CBS leverage machine learning that measures and understands how customers feel when interacting with websites and apps so they can create better experiences.

How do you see the technology evolving around customer experience in the coming years?

Marketers’ jobs are to deliver the best customer experience, and they have plenty of tools that help them deliver on that promise. But what they’re increasingly learning is that it’s critical to have insight into the “why” behind customers’ and prospects’ behavior with a brand. By understanding why customers and prospects are behaving a certain way, marketers can unveil how they can improve engagement. Technology like Decibel Insight arms brands with a level of understanding marketers never thought possible. We focus on providing brands with intelligence about why some visitors on their websites and apps are behaving differently, uncovering potential hiccups or major flaws. Decibel’s algorithms pinpoint the issues, and clients investigate using best-of-breed session replays, heatmaps, form analysis, technical performance and more. In the coming months and years, we’ll see more and more marketers use technology to reveal and predict customer behavior.

What are the top behaviors that marketers should be on the lookout for that indicate a poor website experience?

This decade will be seen as the rise of the impatient customer. The power is finally in the hands of the buyer, literally. With so much choice and the ease and speed at which customers can switch brands and loyalties (and spread the word by social media), it’s business critical for marketers to detect ”experience” problems efficiently and continuously. Traditional ways of tracking visitors via website visits, downloads, keyword searches etc. misses crucial insight needed into digital body language to empathize and communicate. By leveraging machine learning, we’ve enabled marketers to identify intriguing behavioral patterns which they now can’t live without: for example, multiclick (rapidly tapping on an on-page element) and bird’s nest (rapidly darting mouse around) indicates frustration or confusion, scroll engagement signaling engagement, and select & copy highlighting keywords and intent, or worse – research or fraud.

What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

I’m constantly impressed when a company bravely enters a market to shake things up — Slack is a great example of this.

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

As a business focused on helping enterprises deliver better experiences to their customers, we are fiercely passionate about making sure we practice what we preach. To this end, we use Decibel Insight on our own website to quickly gain insight into how to better optimize the experiences we’re creating. We use this in conjunction with a selection of other tools, including automation, email, video, CRM and social media to power our marketing efforts.

Would you tell us about a standout campaign?

British Airways has been an interesting and fun client to work with. They use our technology to better understand and support their digital customers. For example, British Airways uses Decibel’s innovative heatmap features to generate evidence-based ideas for improvements to page layouts as part of an ongoing cycle.

They have also used Decibel’s digital experience analytics to identify and solve problems with its website, for example, to establish why some customers who reported an issue were unable to log into their account. Using Decibel’s advanced session replay features, British Airways was quickly able to identify that the problem was user error and not a technical one, saving valuable engineering time investigating the issue, and enabling customer service to respond quickly.

A similar instance occurred for British Airways when a customer complained that they were not able to change a booking online. From the customer’s explanation of the problem alone, British Airways was not able to get to the root of this problem. But by combining the customer’s complaint with Decibel Insight’s session replay feature, British Airways found that the link to change the booking of the flight was, accidentally, missing from the page.

British Airways is just one example of clients who have identified website errors using Decibel Insight and have improved the user experience because of it. We help clients get to the root of known issues and alert them to issues so they can make improvements quickly. The value saved in revenue gains and cost savings generate a phenomenal return on investment.

How do you see customer experience management platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML technologies?

We see a huge marketing revolution on the horizon – ML first, AI after. The C-suite is now driving the agenda for their organizations to focus on how to make data actionable. ML helps enormously to process. And as the technology matures and companies advance, it will become less about historical insights and more about real-time. This means, rather than waiting for bad experiences to happen and reacting to them to ensure they don’t occur again, customer experience management platforms like Decibel will be able to proactively intervene in poor experiences as they happen.

One word that best describes how you work.

Always open

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Trello. I was proudly an early adopter and it’s proven the best way for me to record the hundreds of short, medium and long-term things I need to do so I can sleep at night with a clear mind.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?  

Start work before the world gets up and use that time to tune-in, plan ahead, and get the intellectual jobs done.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently addicted to Saastr podcasts.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Keep fit, no excuses.

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

Ori Soen from Medallia

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

Winner of 2017 Tech Business of the Year, Decibel Insight is at the cutting edge of behavioral analytics, developing its technology for enterprise clients so they can improve performance of their digital properties, at scale.

Decibel Insight
Decibel Insight is an award-winning, machine-learning technology that helps enterprise organizations measure and understand how customers interact with their websites and apps, so they can improve them. Known as Digital Customer Experience Analytics, and provided as saas or on-premises, it integrates and augments best of breed analytics, testing, personalization and voc.

It was born as an idea to help clients understand the cause of problems on their website, and then spiraled into something bigger when the UK government provided a grant for us to work with professors to develop it further. It launched at the end of Q1 2014 after three years of development, and is now the most advanced product of its kind globally; able to automatically identify users that had a bad or unusual experience with video-accurate analysis of why it happen.

Recognized as having surpassed its competitors IBM Tealeaf and Clicktale, Decibel has the seals of approval from a large array of clients like CVS, CBS, British Airways, Virgin, Novell, LEGO, ToysRus, General Motors, Journeys, Justice, Lids, Experian, Allstate, Sky, British Gas, Tesco, ASDA, TUI, Credit Suisse, Volvo, Toyota and many more.

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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