Millennials are notoriously exacting when it comes to technology and their applications. They are a generation that has grown up with the Internet and barely experienced the period before smartphones and laptops.
Millennial opinions on matters such as customer service — where the model is still based on call centers and extended phone hold periods — are unsurprisingly negative. VividTech — an emerging startup for user-friendly customer service IVR — strives to redefine the antiquated customer service and chatbot model by catering to millennials while concurrently cutting costs for enterprises on the back-end.
Vivid has been part of the prestigious Google and Microsoft accelerators and has also raised over $300K in seed funding. We sat down with VividTech Founder and CEO Omer Khan, who provided some insights into the growing field of chatbots, digital customer service, and leading a startup in the tech space.
How did you get your start in the tech space?
I started working in the contact center engineering space back in 2003. I was particularly interested in this space because contact centers were the only place where the voice data converged. At the time, it was the early-stage for VoIP, and copper was still regarded as the enterprise-grade quality medium for contact center deployment.
My workplace was one of the largest contact center deployments in the country at the time, full of intricate engineering challenges and scaling issues. It allowed me to observe and learn from the finest in the industry. I later went on to join a consulting consortium and collaborated with Apple, AT&T, Barclays, BNYM, and other Fortune 200 companies.
When did you realize the vision for VividTech?
Observing Fortune 200 companies up close made me realize the contact center industry hadn’t really changed in the last four decades, there was little or no innovation. With the rise of cell phones, cloud infrastructure, and AI — there was a huge gap in the market.
I remember I had to change a flight and stayed on the phone with a well-known travel company and was waiting on the line for over 35 minutes before being told that I was transferred to the wrong department.
That was the moment when I realized the mobile phones in our pocket are more powerful than the Apollo 11 (landed on the moon), and that millions of us are still “waiting on the line.” There had to be a better solution that leverages innovation to remove friction and make the lives of millions of consumer easier than the status quo.
Sustainability in the tech space is difficult to achieve, yet your company has thrived for several years among the leaders in chatbots. What are some helpful strategies that you could impart to other tech leaders and managers?
Attention arbitrage is one of the most challenging ordeals of our time. I have found that engaging customers meaningfully has been the single most successful strategy every time. Any system or strategy that doesn’t center its focus on consumers cannot last very long. Chatbots not only focus on meaningful customer engagement but also learn from their interaction with the customers.
Smart consumers lead to smarter bots, and smarter bots lead to meaningful interaction. Tech leaders should enforce the strategy of meaningful interaction both internally and externally, encouraging contextually meaningful engagements.
What is an intriguing discovery you made throughout your experience in customer service and chatbots that you’re willing to share?
If everyone in California waited a minute on hold each month, the population of California would have waited 160 years on hold in an entire year, which is almost equivalent to taking 16 trips to Jupiter or missing out on the whole industrial revolution.
While being in the field of contact center engineering, I realized that not only are we surprisingly complacent with decades-old tech but we are also willing to keep up with staying on hold forever. I strongly believe this needs to change and be replaced by better, more friendly and efficient platforms.
What do you think is a common mistake tech leaders make and how would you provide a solution?
The biggest mistake tech leaders make is to fall in love with the technology and not the problem or solution fit. Tech leaders need to be market facing, grounded in the customer’s universe and commerce-oriented. In many ways, a tech leader is a business position more than a technical position.
Tech leaders should not only be engaged with market themselves but also encourage their engineers and other tech enablers on their teams to see the impact of their work in the market and be very connected to their customers.
What are some trends in the tech industry that you see emerging with exciting potential?
This is an amazing time in entrepreneurship and technology. Entrepreneurs are finding new markets and tech leaders are rapidly enabling these markets through innovation. The advent of AI, machine learning, Docker & Kubernetes, blockchain, self-governing social networks, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are fueling a new era for our civilization that is unprecedented.
What are three pieces of advice that you can give to entrepreneurs?
- Skip the startup events, conferences, and competitions. Focus on your market, talk to your customers, speak their language and laugh at their jokes.
- Motion trumps perfection. Do not be paralyzed with the fear of launching early and not being perfect, the sense of perfection stems from your ego, and the market doesn’t care about ego.
- Not all problems can be solved by throwing money at them. Be more thoughtful and mindful about what the problem is, many times the problem is different then what it appears to be.
Bonus – Be obsessed with your numbers, wake up to your google analytics email, slack bot alert or SMS push notifications (whatever channel do you have configured for analytics alert).
Moving forward, Omer and VividTech look to attract more enterprises and millennials as they tackle the evolving chatbot and digital IVR experience in an increasingly fast-paced world.