MarTech Interview with Tiago Paiva, CEO at Talkdesk

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“The era of an unintelligent contact center is over and, for that reason, AI must be the core of a contact center operation.”

Tiago, tell us about your role and journey into technology.

I started Talkdesk right after college. I was 24-years-old and had just completed my Master’s in Engineering. My life eight years ago in Portugal was much different than it is now; I was working from my parents’ house, trying to find a way to make money to support myself. One day, I heard of a San Francisco-based company giving away Macbook Pros if people built something – a new app or product – using telephony. I knew I had to do it.

I created a list of 10 ideas I thought could win, and one of them was to create a call center in the browser in five minutes. I did it in 10 days, and officially entered it into the contest. I won! I couldn’t believe it. I was invited to go to San Francisco to formally pitch the idea of Talkdesk. At the conference, I was approached by investors who loved the concept and offered me $50,000 to stay in the United States to officially kick-start the company. It was the opportunity I had been looking for!

Eight years later, here we are: nearly 900 employees in seven offices around the world. All because I took a chance at a hackathon.

In the beginning, we had no experience in the contact center space. That inexperience turned out to be a huge advantage for us because we were able to build a product – from scratch – we thought people would love. We knew it had to be simple to use and easy to set up, and at the same time, it needed to have all the functionality customers required.

It took us a while to figure out what we were doing and what the right pitch was. We had to really understand more about the market we were in and also decide if we wanted to be in the unified communications market, the contact center market, or both. We had to make decisions about our target customer segment, meaning were we going after SMBs or enterprise or both? It took some time, but after a lot of practice and some failure, we nailed the pitch, and then it was a matter of doing that perfectly again and again.

There was a tremendous amount of learning for us all in those first two years, and I don’t regret any of it, even the times we failed, because it helped us create the company we are today.

How big are your Marketing and Sales teams? Give us a sense of your organization structure?

Talkdesk is in the middle of an explosive growth period right now, but it wasn’t like this during the first three years. We used those early years to really understand our market and define the product we wanted to build. We had many, many conversations with customers and prospects in those early days, to help us create a product that would deliver an exceptional customer experience.

In the last four and a half years, we’ve grown from a 15-person company with one office in Portugal and me working remotely from home in San Francisco to now nearly 900  employees in seven offices around the world.

In terms of Sales and Marketing specifically, we have rapidly growing teams in North America and EMEA. Our Americas Sales team is comprised of close to 150 Talkdeskers, inclusive of Account executives, Sales development reps, regional Vice Presidents, Sales Engineers and so forth. We have close to 50 Sales team members in the EMEA region, with the same mix of roles.

We are building a world-class Talkdesk Marketing program, adding to the team of professionals who have deep expertise in areas such as Demand Generation, Product Marketing, Events, Public Relations, Analyst Relations, etc.

In fact, we recently announced the appointment of Kathie Johnson as our first Chief Marketing Officer. Kathie was a great hire for us because of the deep corporate communications and funnel Marketing expertise she brings to Talkdesk; she was with Salesforce prior. Kathie oversees our global Corporate Marketing, Product Marketing and Corporate Communications to strengthen and raise awareness of the Talkdesk brand, and ultimately drive new revenue opportunities for us.

Something unique about our approach to Marketing, too, is that we have a 30+-person dedicated creative team to help us bring all these big, innovative ideas to life. One of the Talkdesk values is “move fast,” and having an in-house design team allows us to do just that.

What makes me proud is the speed at which the Talkdesk Marketing engine has accelerated. I see it at work when I walk into a customer meeting and he or she says, “Talkdesk is everywhere these days – at events, in trade and business magazines, on social media.” Get ready, it’s just the beginning.

You recently became a part of Zoom’s Contact Center ecosystem. How would it benefit your customers and tech partners?

Zoom integration through Talkdesk Enterprise Cloud Contact Center brings organizational unity and fosters seamless, cross-department collaboration by expanding the pool of available employees to include departments and expertise outside of the traditional contact center. This cross-department collaboration is pivotal to increasing operational efficiency and improving a contact center’s focus on the customer.

Direct integration between Talkdesk and Zoom allows our customers to combine Zoom Phone for Voice and Video communications with the power of Talkdesk in a seamless experience, enabling them to make and receive calls through a single voice channel throughout their organization.

Additionally, Talkdesk Zoom customers maintain a consistent, single telephony provider and avoid the additional expense of routing calls between multiple carriers. This adds value to communication efforts by providing quick and efficient SIP trunking and intuitive call routing for consistent user experience.

The integration of disparate systems through Talkdesk and Zoom reduces costs and frustrations by easily connecting between contact center operations and unified communications. Talkdesk Zoom offers a unified and seamless experience between contact centers and unified communications (UC) platforms, unlike solutions that rely on traditional approaches where premises-based UC and contact center platforms are by nature separate.

The bottom line – an increase in productivity through a more efficient experience that contributes to the overall improvement of the customer journey.

How can Sales teams improve customer communications and overall Sales productivity using Talkdesk Enterprise Cloud Contact Center? What are your most distinct offerings to high-paced Sales and Marketing teams?

Reliability and connectivity is #1. If your people can’t reach your clients or prospects, then nothing else matters.  This is why we stand behind our product with an available 100% Uptime SLA. At Talkdesk, we recognize that uptime is the most critical component to customer service success, and by making a 100% uptime SLA available – a first for our industry — we are putting our money where our mouth is.

We are not satisfied with simply being a leader in the Cloud contact center space, we intend to be the leader and are willing to step forward and do what’s never been done. Our 100% Uptime SLA shows the confidence we have in Talkdesk Enterprise Contact Center platform and solidifies our commitment to the success of our customers.

Talkdesk Mobile supports and empowers customer service agents to make and take calls from anywhere on an iOS or Android device. This native mobile contact center application revolutionizes the customer service industry by moving the contact center out of the cubicle farms and into the real world. Companies can leverage the overhead cost-savings Talkdesk Mobile offers, while incentivizing their agents with work-from-anywhere flexibility.

Talkdesk Mobile bridge interactions seamlessly with the Talkdesk for Salesforce integration, allowing for CRM automations based on call activity. Additionally, all mobile call data flows into Talkdesk Explore and Talkdesk Live, so supervisors maintain real-time, detailed insight into agent performance — regardless of the agent’s location.

Talkdesk Agent Assist offers contact centers an innovative tool to reduce agent effort and improve customer experience quality through Artificial Intelligence by minimizing search and data entry tasks. Talkdesk Agent Assist is natively built and fully unified within the agent interface while keeping all data internally protected from third-party sharing.

Talkdesk Agent Assist is powered by Talkdesk iQ native AI, a pivotal enabler of all Talkdesk’s products, providing real-time guidance for frontline employees to respond to customer needs quickly and accurately. As a customer states their need, agents are provided answers or supporting information immediately to expedite the conversation and simplify tasks. Talkdesk Agent Assist intelligently positions information from a knowledge base or CRM as a suggested action in real-time, contributing to a significant reduction in handle time and improving customer experience.

Additionally, information captured within the agent interface can be automatically added to account profiles or work item tickets, within the CRM, without any additional agent effort.

Tell us more about the Future of Enterprise Video and Voice collaboration platforms. Which new markets and industries are you currently targeting?

Video and Voice collaboration are becoming de facto in industries of all types as digital-native organizations have come to expect and demand these tools for convenience and ease-of-use. And, organizations with increasingly diverse and distributed teams are seeing the benefits: improved employee engagement, increased productivity, and more opportunities for innovation.

Video streaming use cases are especially interesting in industries that support field workers or service technicians. But, as the way we work continues to shift, we see a greater dissolution between roles and departments, and a growing need for immersive team-based applications that help people get everything done in a single place.

To improve the team experience, collaboration platforms will need to evolve into a UC&C-driven work hub that combines voice and video with interactive whiteboards, real-time document authoring, screen capture, and recording — and then converges even further to include all aspects of the communication environment, from project management to training to contact center support and beyond.

How do you leverage AI, Data Science and Automation to stay competitive and relevant to the current Contact Center industry?

Artificial Intelligence is infused throughout our contact center solution with Talkdesk iQ. AI and Machine Learning (ML) are near and dear to our hearts. We have pushed AI as a layer in Talkdesk architecture where it empowers all Talkdesk products. We apply advanced Machine Learning to address practical problems in contact centers on a daily basis and try new ideas without any fear. Our philosophy is “Go Big or Go Home”.

We think big and, similar to other giant tech companies, we have turned Talkdesk into a data company and keep AI at the heart of our operation. There are many intelligent technology products in which AI is so embedded, you do not even realize this since it behaves very naturally. We believe an intelligent contact center should be like that. Intelligent is the new natural, is the new norm.

The era of an unintelligent contact center is over and, for that reason, AI must be the core of a contact center operation as it improves routing, agent coaching, agent assist, supervisor assist, customer assist, speech science, workforce optimization, workforce management, workforce engagement, omnichannel optimization and virtually all aspects in a contact center.

Talkdesk went “all-in” on AI with the announcement of Talkdesk iQ in November of 2018. Infused throughout the Talkdesk Enterprise Contact Center Platform, Talkdesk iQ mines billions of interactions to reveal customer insights and trends and drive predictive recommendations to optimize agent and contact center efficiency. This platform innovation delivers visible results leading to better customer/agent engagement, contact center operations, and decisions.

Talkdesk has hidden the complexity of AI; meaning customers don’t need an army of data scientists to navigate and analyze the data produced. All they see are the benefits in the form of better customer/agent engagement and more efficient contact center operations.

Which Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support technologies do you leverage at Talkdesk?

Salesforce, Discover Org, Outreach, Gong, Learncore (LMS) and CCS (Customer-Centric Selling) as our Sales methodology, Adobe Sign, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Klue, Zuora

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

I’d like to think we already have by infusing an AI layer throughout Talkdesk Enterprise Cloud Contact Center, but since technology never slows down; neither do we. The Talkdesk culture is built on innovation, and we never stop.

We are always taking input from our customers and putting them into play as new products or features.  Talkdesk offers more than 40 product integrations, including Salesforce, Microsoft, Slack, Zendesk and Zoom, of course. And, we also offer over 100 feature add-ons through our AppConnect store. But, it does all come back to innovation and can point to the 600+ features we have released since 2018 as proof.

This Is How I Work

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

As a tech company, our people are self-inspired to work with technology. The people that join Talkdesk have a passion for technology – how it can affect a person’s life (in both large and small ways), change an industry or even create a new industry, and at times can change the world.

Now, is Talkdesk going to change the world?  Maybe not, but we could change the world of customer service by enabling companies to make customer experience a competitive advantage.

One word that best describes how you work.

Constantly – I can’t turn my brain off.

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

iPhone and Google Drive

Which superhero character/movie do you most profoundly relate to:

Neo from The Matrix. Before he became “The One” who could Kung-Fu his way through bad guys, he was a computer code wizard. I can’t Kung-Fu, but I can code!

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

Listening. I spend a lot of time visiting our customers’ contact centers and listening to their frustrations and wish lists. Many of Talkdesk’s best innovations have come directly from these wish lists.

What are you currently reading?

I don’t have a lot of time to spend reading, so I typically keep up on industry and tech news on my phone and through social media.

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

Facebook’s (former) mantra of “Move fast, break stuff” has always stuck with me and I apply it to Talkdesk, as much as I can. After only 8 years – which is a very short time, in our industry – we have broken the mold of what contact center solutions can be. Disrupting the industry, making others uncomfortable, and consistently raising the bar.

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

I’d like to think there is more than one thing, or one secret to our success, but our willingness to listen to our customers and turn their wish lists into reality – we’ve released more than 600 features in the past 18 months – is a big differentiator for us. And, our customers love us, our technology and are happy to share the news.

We have dozens of customer case studies and the highest ratings in the industry on Gartner Peer Insights, Salesforce AppExchange and G2 Crowd. A typical contact center provider could give you a couple of reference customers. Right now we have hundreds of referenceable customers.

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

Everyone that called us “ankle-biters” in 2016.  A lot of them are now on crutches!

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

Tiago is CEO and Founder of Talkdesk. Over the past seven years, he has scaled Talkdesk from 10 employees to almost 1000 and has crossed major industry milestones including reaching 100 million calls. Tiago received a MSc in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Instituto Superior Técnico.

talkdesk logo

Talkdesk is an enterprise cloud contact center that helps IBM, Trivago and 1,800+ other enterprises improve customer satisfaction and agent productivity. Talkdesk empowers companies to continuously improve customer experience. It is easy to set up, use and adapt. A “leader” in Gartner’s Contact Center as a Service Magic Quadrant, Talkdesk offers ongoing innovation, superior call quality and instant integration to the most popular business applications.

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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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