MarTech Interview with Joshua March, Founder and CEO, Conversocial

MarTech Interview with Joshua March, Founder & CEO, Conversocial
Joshua March, Founder & CEO, Conversocial

“While the launch of the bot platforms in 2016 caused a lot of hype, we’re now starting to see brands figure out how to use the bot platforms to add real value for customers.”

Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What galvanized you to start Conversocial?

I started my career by founding one of the first Facebook app development agencies in the world, back in 2007. Conversocial was initially a project of that agency, started in 2011 as a general social media management system that helped clients engage with customers through Facebook and Twitter.

I pretty quickly came to the realization that as all communication shifted into smartphones, social media and mobile messaging, these channels would become integral to how companies did business across every function. Social could no longer be an island sitting just in the marketing department  —  it would need to be deeply integrated into every business unit, including customer service.

After Conversocial was hired by a major retailer who shared this vision, I spent a lot of time sitting in major contact centers, understanding how customer service agents worked and the tools and analytics that contact center managers needed to run a large-scale customer service operation. It was this experience that led us to pivot Conversocial to focus on bridging the gap between the rapidly shifting worlds of social media and mobile messaging and the needs of the large enterprise contact center.

What does Conversocial do and how is it different from other companies in the digital customer care space?

Conversocial enables brands to deliver seamless customer service over social messaging channels. Our software combines a powerful routing engine and agent desktop with automation capabilities and real-time insights that enable our clients to handle millions of questions every month through channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. We also enable real-time chat on our clients’ websites, powered by Messenger Customer Chat.

Conversocial has proven experience in transforming platform, processes and people to help our partners navigate the necessary complexities of digital customer care. Our award-winning customer engagement platform has enabled hundreds of global brands, including Google, Tesco and Hertz, to deliver a unified approach to a new generation of customer interaction through social messaging and intelligent automation technology.

How do you prepare for the highly disruptive technology ecosystem?

I spend a lot of time thinking and researching, including connecting with many other industry leaders and entrepreneurs (both in real life, and on Twitter!), and reading about the latest technological developments. Innovation is one of our key values at Conversocial, and we are always looking to push the envelope and be a disruptor with new innovations in the social, messaging and AI fields — so thinking about the future and figuring out how to build it is part of the job!

What is the state of intelligent automation technology? And how does Conversocial harness it to empower global brands to automate interactions with their customers?

While the launch of the bot platforms in 2016 caused a lot of hype (and introduced a lot of bots that turned out to not be very useful at all) we’re now starting to see brands figure out how to use the bot platforms to add real value for customers. Previously, in the customer service domain, it was much harder to automate full conversations — there are just too many variables for what a customer could ask. But social messaging channels are different. Humans and automation can work together in a way that’s never been possible before.

This means that you can have simple bots that triage requests and collect information before handing over to a human agent, or that can fully handle basic tasks (like checking on a flight or order status). At Conversocial we firmly believe that this combination — bots handling simple tasks, humans handling complex issues — enables customers to get faster and better service, and enables brands to handle significantly more service volume quickly and efficiently.

Artificial Intelligence can also be used to increase agent efficiency behind the scenes — for example, automatically categorizing inbound messages, and suggesting answers for agents to approve. This is another key innovation area at Conversocial.

What are the core tenets of your business development model?  How does Conversocial add value to digital transformation journeys for businesses?

We’re at a really exciting time right now, as the rise of messaging is enabling it to play a key part in digital transformation projects. We help our clients move their customer service volume away from expensive channels like the phone and email and into social messaging, enabling higher customer satisfaction and lower cost-to-serve, as well as opening up new re-engagement and sales channels.

While the core of our solution is our software platform, we really operate as a partner to our clients. We work to understand our client’s major challenges and objectives, then map out a plan for how we can help work towards the objectives through a combination of our platform, services, and partners.

How often do you measure the performance of your Marketing Analytics and Sales Reporting?        

We measure Sales and Marketing performance daily and report weekly. Things move quickly in a modern business such as Conversocial that we need to have a handle on all essential KPIs to ensure we clearly understand the activities that are driving our business performance. All decisions are supported by data, with senior management having a heavy metrics-based management approach.

What are the major challenges for brands in delivering truly seamless customer service for today’s consumers?

Many companies have tried to jump too far into automation and self-service. If you use it in the right way, automation is incredibly powerful. Whether a bot interacting with a customer or Machine Learning, making agents more efficient behind the scenes, automation can speed up the response and resolution time for customers and massively increase service efficiency. But, if you try and build a bot that can do absolutely everything, and make it very hard to actually speak to a real human, this can backfire — and the likely result is an even more upset customer who’s picking up the phone and costing a lot. In fact, the majority of phone calls to the contact center come from someone trying to get help digitally and failing — a massive expense.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in technology and digital customer care for 2018-2020?

We’re at a major inflection point right now with social messaging and automation. In the last eighteen months, Facebook Messenger has become a major business messaging channel (with over 10 billion messages sent every month between businesses and consumers). In the next 12 months, we have WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat and Instagram all fully releasing their business messaging capabilities. These are going to help catalyze a major shift in how people contact businesses into messaging.

We’re also just at the beginning of the journey with voice assistants. While some companies have experimented with basic ways of incorporating voice into their customer experience, this will play a bigger and bigger role in digital strategies over the next couple of years as voice assistants become more prevalent, connected to smart screens, and even better at understanding Natural Language.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

I’m a big fan of Assist, who have developed some of the most innovative messaging and voice bots in the market, enabling real sales and transactional use cases. I also pay close attention to Intercom, who are providing a combined bot + human model for sales and support use cases for small businesses, and doing a lot of great things.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital customer care use case. How did you measure success?

In November 2017, Conversocial was the first digital customer care platform to gain early access to the closed beta of Facebook Messenger Customer Chat, which enables businesses to replace their traditional web chat with a new capability that works seamlessly across both web and mobile. Since then, Conversocial’s customer Argos, the UK’s third largest retailer with a website that serves nearly 1 billion visitors annually, has been able to move a significant portion of their customer service volume from email to messaging.

Similarly, Latin American airline Volaris’ roll-out of Messenger Chat with Conversocial’s platform has also been a huge success, yielding an 83% improvement in customer service efficiency, as agents can handle five times as many customers through messaging compared to traditional web chat. They now handle more customer service inquiries over social messaging than over phone and email combined.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

After a lot of hype over the last couple of years, AI is finally starting to have a real impact on business. More and more brands are starting to figure out how to implement automation into their customer service operations, with the combination of bots and human agents being the magic key to enable bots to increase efficiency without frustrating the customer.

I spend a lot of time reading up on all of the latest developments in artificial intelligence, and talking through them with our data science team. I think it’s essential for every executive today to have a good understanding of how AI is going to impact their industry — this is partly why I wrote Message Me, on the future of customer service in the era of social messaging and AI.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology is a core part of everything we do at Conversocial, and we’re always looking for how we can use technology to better improve how we work and communicate. As an international company with staff in multiple countries, this is essential. We give teams the freedom to try out new tools and technologies that will make their life easier, which often results in new tools being introduced to the company from the ground up.

One word that best describes how you work.

Focused.

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

Twitter is really an essential tool for me to keep up with the industry! Recently I switched to the email client Superhuman, which has been the first email tool to really make a significant improvement to my email efficiency in years.

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

I listen to all my podcasts, audio books and YouTube videos at 1.25x speed; and sometimes at 1.5x. I can still hear and understand everything clearly, but get through significantly more content!

What are you currently reading?

I always tend to have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go at any one time; I’m currently reading “The Messy Middle” (a business book), and a sci-fi series by Kim Stanley Robinson. I read on my Kindle every night before I go to sleep. I also subscribe to a number of email newsletters, read as much of The Economist as I can every week, and read links shared by people I follow on Twitter.

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

Many years ago, when I was doing my first business, I sat down with numerous more experienced entrepreneurs and executives who pointed out all the mistakes I was making. I didn’t listen to any of them. After that business failed, I learned the value of learning from more experienced people. Since then, I’ve received a huge amount of advice from people in the industry (too much to share) — and I listen carefully!

Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?

Through a combination of how we’ve hired and the culture we encourage, we’ve created an amazing and extremely committed team. We have really high retention, and I constantly get feedback from clients and partners on how much they love our team.

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

Shane Mac, CEO of Assist.

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

Joshua March is the founder and CEO of Conversocial, a leading social customer service solution used by hundreds of the world’s biggest brands to deliver enterprise scale customer service through social media and mobile messaging platforms.

Conversocial is an official partner of Facebook, and has been recognized by Forrester, Gartner and Ovum as a leading vendor in the social customer care space.

Joshua previously founded leading social application company iPlatform, one of the world’s first Facebook Preferred Developers, which was acquired in 2012.

Joshua has been featured on Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business and the BBC. Additionally, he has written a book titled ‘Message Me’ which dives deep into how social media, mobile messaging and artificial intelligence are transforming the customer service landscape as we know it. Having started his career in London, Joshua now lives New York.

Conversocial Logo

Conversocial enables brands to deliver seamless customer service over social messaging channels. A strategic partner from day one, we have proven experience in transforming platform, processes and people to help our partners navigate the necessary complexities of digital customer care. Our award winning customer engagement platform has enabled hundreds of global brands, including Google, Tesco and Hertz, to deliver a unified approach to a new generation of customer interaction through social messaging and intelligent automation technology.

In 2018, Conversocial was recognized as ‘Best CRM Platform’ in the Digiday Technology Awards and ‘Leading Digital Customer Experience Solution’ by TechXLR8. Conversocial is an official Facebook Preferred Developer, Facebook Marketing Partner and Instagram Community Management Partner.

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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