Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start at Aivo?
My journey into technology started back when I was a teenager, as I worked fixing computers during my free time. When I went to college, I started studying Computer Software Engineering, but then I realized studying wasn’t for me so I dropped out.
After a few small entrepreneurship projects, in 2005 I founded a software agency for Contact Centers. Working with them, I discovered how much time was wasted in Customer Service, for both companies and their clients. I found it ridiculous that call centers had 5000 people looking at screens and answering phone calls.
First of all, because no matter how many agents companies had, it was never enough to provide a good quality Customer Service. Second, because of how expensive it was for companies to maintain that many employees. And third, and probably most important, because of how many deals were lost during that traditional Customer Service process. Customers were tired of having to wait minutes and minutes to get to an agent to answer their questions, which most of the time were FAQs that could be answered in less than 30 seconds.
That’s how I realized that something had to change in Customer Service to make the process simpler and more efficient for everybody involved. I think that will be (and already is) the extra value that will differentiate companies in the industry. That is what inspired me to start Aivo, combined with the digital revolution that took place during the last decade that gave us the right tools to create better solutions.
What is Aivo and how does it fit into a modern Marketing and Sales Technology stack?
Aivo is a Customer Service solution provider. Our mission is giving time back to people, both in companies and outside of them. To achieve this, we have a set of products powered by Artificial Intelligence that are made to interact with customers. These products are AgentBot (a chatbot), Live ( a live chat), Voice (telephone channel) and Help (a knowledge platform). Together, they help people in real time and with a 24/7 availability.
We strongly believe that an amazing Customer Experience doesn’t just benefit Customer Service, but it also has a direct impact on Marketing and Sales. On one hand, our solutions offer a personalized, omnichannel, immediate support to potential customers. In terms of Marketing, it generates leads, manages them, transfers them to the company’s CRM, and nurtures them through integration with Email Marketing platforms like MailChimp. And, finally, in terms of Sales, it is available to give information about the products or services, it applies cross-selling and up-selling techniques and, by offering real-time support, chatbots are always available to close a deal. In one set of solutions, companies can achieve goals for different areas. Technology doesn’t just reduce costs for these three departments, it also allows them to provide more efficient services, automate their work, integrate them into one single digital strategy and increase online sales.
What is the current state of automated Customer Service technology?
I think over the past decade automated Customer Service has grown exponentially, both in terms of technological innovation and shedding a light on the importance of providing an excellent experience.
With the hyperconnected user of 2019, always interacting on their phone, using different platforms, and accustomed to immediacy, companies cannot afford to keep offering a traditional Customer Service, therefore they are starting to innovate their strategies. According to Gartner, by 2022, two-thirds of all Customer Experience projects will make use of IT, up from 50% in 2017. As the number of digital channels expands, self-service or digital commerce interactions are increasing, as well as the move away from human face-to-face or voice-based interactions.
On the other hand, in a Forrester Survey, 40% of companies said Customer Support departments are leading the investment in the adoption of AI systems to improve their strategy. This shows that today consumers are demanding an improvement in Customer Service, companies are starting to take these demands into consideration, and that we’re heading towards a simpler, more efficient relationship between companies and consumers.
How can businesses benefit from leveraging your Omnichannel Customer Service solutions?
Like I mentioned before, today we see a digital customer that is hyperconnected, engaging and interacting with content through different channels and expecting the same experience on all of them. Social media, mobile apps, websites, and online stores created new opportunities for businesses to sell and communicate with their customers. Now potential customers come from different places but they expect the quality of the experience to be the same regardless of the sales or contact channel. By offering omnichannel customer service, companies are providing communication that is coherent and consistent on all digital channels.
The benefits are a clear improvement in the performance and revenue of the company. According to Zendesk, 73% of respondents use multiple channels during their shopping. What’s curious is that customers who choose multiple channels spend 10% more money shopping online than those who prefer a single channel. Moreover, they are more loyal to companies and recommend them more frequently, also increasing the sales opportunity of a company.
At the end of the day, omnichannel customer service is another essential aspect of providing an amazing experience, satisfying customers’ expectations, and adapting to their digital behaviors.
Which businesses have been the fastest to adopt Voice and Live Chat platforms for their Customer Service operations? Which markets are you currently focusing on?
The businesses that have been the fastest to adopt our Live Chat are the ones that opt to implement it integrated with AgentBot (our intelligent chatbot). It’s important to notice that Live is very easy to set up, it can be done in one or two days and it only implies setting up a script, enable the channels and taking a one-hour training class. In short, most of the clients that don’t find any issues regarding security in their networks implement it instantly.
Regarding Voice, it’s also often implemented with AgentBot. One of our clients, Movistar Mexico, uses it to remind their clients about the payments, but with the ability to respond to any inquiries the clients might have, in contrast to pre-recorded messages that cannot establish natural conversations.
On the other hand, we are currently focusing on the USA market, followed by Brazil and Mexico. In terms of industries, our main verticals are, in the first place, e-commerce/retail, followed by education and financial. We also work with the industries of product, software, telcos, and utilities.
Tell us more about your data-driven solutions? How can CMOs optimize their Digital Marketing and Advertising budget using your products, services, and solutions?
With a chatbot, companies can optimize time and money by doing multiple tasks and pursuing different goals from the same place. On one hand, our solutions provide complete reports and analytics to learn more about the virtual assistant’s behavior and the interaction with the customers. This will let companies know the number of inquiries efficiently solved by the chatbot, the most widely used contact channel, the customers’ feedback after they use the virtual assistant, and it will classify the content in tags to know what users what to know about, among other insights. This data is very useful when it comes to improving marketing strategies and thinking of new ways to communicate with customers.
On the other hand, our solutions can be a great source for managing leads. It generates leads, it classifies them and then it transfers them to the correct Sales department through an integration between the chatbot and a CRM. This way, Marketing departments don’t need extra resources that cost money. This makes Customer Management much easier, while it also optimizes budgets since a variety of tasks can be tackled from one single platform and multiple goals can be met automatically.
Which other Technology platforms like Website Analytics, Video, Contacts, Contracts, Email and Customer Service sync with your platform?
First of all, our partnerships with Zendesk and Salesforce allow our solutions to integrate with other major services in the industry that most of our clients use, so it’s a way to facilitate their work. On the other hand, more than 1000 web apps and platforms can be synced with our solutions! We recently announced our integration with Zapier, which allows our products to connect to commonly used apps like MailChimp, Slack, HubSpot, Typeform, Gmail, Google Calendar, and so on.
This automates so much time for employees since most of the information is transferred and managed automatically from one app to the other. For instance, companies can streamline customer management with AgentBot and HubSpot, designing a zap between the chatbot and the CRM with the goal of creating new contacts within the base. When users interact with the chatbot and offer their contact information, that’ll be automatically transferred to the HubSpot account.
Another great integration is to simplify the relationship with prospects with Mailchimp, configuring a trigger to automatically send welcome emails to a single user, create email campaigns, follow-up on contact, add new contacts or delete the ones who unsubscribe via chatbot.
Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?
Our Sales and Marketing departments are currently using HubSpot. We think it’s a great platform to manage the leads coming from the top of the funnel and keep nurturing them through the middle and bottom of the funnel, with both marketing and sales actions to close deals. We also use Databox to get full reports and insights regarding our performance based on our KPIs.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Machine Learning technology for Customer Service in 2019-2020?
I think the future is heading towards a better Customer Experience and AI will play a major role in this scenario. The more companies use AI software in their strategies, the more this software learns and evolves. Therefore as time goes by, we are seeing a constant improvement in the performance of AI technologies.
Specifically, the most impactful disruptions I think will have to do with a progressive evolution of natural language in the case of conversational software, and with better use of data through AI and Machine Learning. Research shows that we are only effectively using 1% of all the collected data. Machine Learning and AI can support high volumes of data traffic and are capable to process it faster. Therefore, by implementing these two technologies, I think we will see more investments towards improving the way we work with data to grow that 1% to 3% or 5% by 2020.
This will have a major impact on the Marketing, Sales and Customer Service departments. Getting to know the customers, understanding them, predicting their possible needs and therefore offering them a completely personalized experience, all with AI technologies, is the future of companies.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
I always follow AI startups because I think all of us together are really changing the future of human lives with this technology. Some of them are AppZen, Arterys, and FortressIQ.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?
There’s this myth or fear around AI regarding how it will impact the workforce and how many employees are going to be replaced by robots. As Business Leaders, I think we need to understand that implementing Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning shouldn’t take humans out of the equation. In contrast, I think it should empower them.
In this way, I think it’s essential for us to guide and prepare our workforce for this AI-centric future and upskill them in those areas that machines will never be able to replace humans. When it comes to empathy, human emotions, creativity, sensibility and nurturing, we can’t rely on machines. In this growing technological landscape, soft skills such as leadership, communication, problem-solving and interpersonal skills, become essential to deal with complex issues, human frustrations, and unexpected complications. And these skills are not just developed individually, they are encouraged through a corporate culture that is based on human connections.
So as Business Leaders, I think the best preparation is changing our mindsets regarding the roles that we want our employees to fulfill and preparing them for a future that will not require them to do repetitive or simple tasks, but that will demand more complex, empathic and human problem-solving capabilities.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
There’s a great power in technology to make our world better. At Aivo, we create solutions to give time back to people and to solve a problem that existed for decades in Customer Service, which was long delays, inefficiency, and un-personalized communications. I think the biggest inspiration is when your mission is somehow making people’s lives a little better. What we’re doing is impacting customers and companies all around the world, and I constantly remind this to our people at Aivo to inspire them and let them know their work is more than just developing software. It has to do with the Golden Circle, by Simon Sinek: it’s not about what we do or how we do it, it’s about why we’re doing it. The why is what makes us different, it’s our contribution to society. That’s how I try to inspire everyone at our company.
One word that best describes how you work.
If I had to pick one word I would say transparent. As a Manager, I like to share most of the information I have and get involved. I like people asking me questions, inspiring me and telling me where they want to go. I also like thinking big and inspiring the rest of the team to do so as well and take ownership of their responsibilities and goals.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I can’t live without Gmail, Hangouts, and Pocket.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I always tackle the must-do first, early in the morning. Then, once all the big things are out of the way, I focus on smaller tasks and I try to dedicate no more than two minutes to each one when the list is too full. Once the must-dos and the small, two-minute tasks are gone, I have time to focus on longer-term goals, on my team and on other areas that might need my support. The day definitely feels smoother checking items off my list early in the morning.
What are you currently reading?
In general, I read a variety of newsletters that I subscribe to. I don’t use social media a lot and I’m usually too busy to manually go on news sites, so when I have a few minutes off in between meetings or events, I check my email where I get the most relevant content based on what I subscribed to. For instance, I read the weekly New York Times newsletter with the most important news around the world, some local newspapers, and a bunch of tech blogs with the latest developments in AI, Machine Learning and so on.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
It’s probably mostly a life lesson rather than advice, but one that always stuck with me is “people may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” I think it has to do with the mentors you meet, with the opportunities you get, with humility, with sharing, with valuing the time the other person is giving you. Making people feel good doesn’t cost anything, it’s a life choice. It’s the first step to give back.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I think the secret of my success is Perseverance. I started two college careers and dropped out of both because they weren’t for me. Then I opened a cyber cafe, then a software company that went bankrupt and then a marketing agency before getting to Aivo. Throughout my journey I always kept looking for the right solution, believing that eventually, I was going to come up with something innovative that would change people’s lives. During those 10 years of experimenting on new things, I never got tired, frustrated or disappointed. I just kept trying to find something great that would have some impact on the world, and eventually, I found it.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you, Martin! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Martin is a self-made entrepreneur with over 14 years of experience at the forefront of Customer Service, Marketing, AI and Technology. He studied Computer System engineering and marketing but realized he wasn’t meant to be a student. In 2005 he founded Y2K Networks, a Digital Marketing and software company, which helped him find his calling: using AI technology to give back people’s time.
In 2012, Martin founded Aivo, which rapidly grew from startup to global enterprise with over 160 customers across 74 geographies. Martin has been an Endeavor entrepreneur since 2011 and in 2014 he was recognized by the MIT Technology Review (Innovators under 35).
Since 2012, Aivo solves companies’ main challenges in customer service and sales growth with omnichannel solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence. Focused on giving people back their time, the company supplies brands of all sizes and different industries, such as Visa, General Motors, Uber, LG, Movistar, Amadeus, BBVA and Bayer, with easy to use solutions that help improve customer experience. Its star product is AgentBot, an omnichannel and automated chatbot and customer service platform that uses AI to automatically interact with customers 24/7 by means of natural conversations.
Aivo operates globally with 7 offices in North America, South America and Europe, and presence in 22 countries.
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.