SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Andrew Stevens, VP of Technology at Vivantio

Andrew Stevens, VP of Technology at Vivantio highlights the key features of their newly launched integration suite – FLEXBRIDGE while discussing a few key data trends impacting B2B marketing and sales.

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Hi Andrew, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years…tell us more Vivantio and the recently launched FLEXBridge?

I’ve been with Vivantio for 13 years now, starting off in our UK office, and working my west to San Diego via Boston. A lot has changed during that time – inside Vivantio, within the Service Management industry, in technology, and indeed in the world at large. As the provider of the first true SaaS Service Management solution in the UK, back in 2003, Vivantio has been at the forefront of the technology evolution for almost 20 years now, and I’m glad to have been a part of that! Our position – working closely with a varied mix of internal IT teams, B2C support teams, and B2B service providers – has helped keep us on the edge. It might sound an odd thing to say, but “what we do” isn’t about “what we do” – it’s about “what our customers do”.

Our role isn’t to dictate strategy, it’s to understand our customers’ strategies, and to provide them with tools that enable their success, and bring their vision to life. And what we’ve seen recently is a focus on Customer Experience, the Customer Experience Ecosystem, and Value Chain Mapping. Which brings me on to FLEXBridge – our new integration suite, which forms the core of our Unified Service Platform. We designed FLEXBridge in response to the growing customer trend of wanting to build a Customer Experience Ecosystem, but being restricted by tools which are some combination of too expensive, too difficult to maintain, and taking too long to implement

How are you seeing sales and marketing platforms and their enhancements change the CX game, for end users and from the providers point of view?

Data is everything right now. The more your sales and marketing teams know about their audience, the better equipped they are to communicate with them – but crucially, on their terms, and using their language.

Buyers are now 75% of the way through their decision making process before they’ll engage with your sales teams. So your marketing team need to be at the top of their game – it’s not just a case of getting your name out there, but offering value beyond your products and services, thus making your name synonymous with the specific value proposition you offer. So, what does that mean for sales and marketing platforms? Well, it means a lot.

Your marketing team has shifted from being guys who knew how to hack SEO, to a focused team that’s an expert in your industry. And that means two things: first that they are continually producing content, and second that they aren’t necessarily technical experts. Those two things have led to a big rise in codeless platforms for automation, allowing these non-technical industry experts to get content out there quickly and efficiently, without leaning on outdated technology.

Sales, on the other hand is a bit of a different story. Marketing platforms are helping you get data out to your prospective customers; sales platforms are going the other way – they’re putting data about prospective customers into the hands of your sales team, allowing for more engaging conversation.

And what these two trends really add up to is a vastly different Customer Experience – where the customer is at the center, and the vendor is just a “means to an end”.

What are some predictions you have for the future of CX and especially, the impact of AI on this evolution?

AI is always a complicated one. For a lot of people, the first thing that comes to mind when you say the words “artificial intelligence” are chatbots – due in part to a huge focus on chatbots over the past few years from some big players in the customer service space and beyond. But in reality, chatbots are only one of the first rungs on the AI ladder. They can be easy to implement, with a swathe of tools available – both standalone and part of other solutions. But from a CX point of view, it’s not always obvious how to get the most out of a chatbot.

Putting too much focus on a chatbot, and thinking about it as the full solution, can have negative results – especially if you’re a B2B organization dealing with more complicated requests. For the 10% of questions that a chatbot can answer, it does provide a good experience, but for the other 90%, it can lead to wasted time, frustration, and overall customer dissatisfaction – if you don’t do it right.

The key is to use chatbots as a smaller part of an overall AI strategy. You also need to include AI-driven analytics, which can give you deep insights into your customers behavior and the journeys they go on. There are many ways you can take advantage of these insights, to improve retention, increase ROI, and improve customer service/satisfaction.

But one of the great ways you can use this data in chatbots is to know exactly when a customer is about to become frustrated. Based on prior interactions with your customers, you can predict those moments when you know an agent is going to need to step in, or something needs to be escalated. And so you end up getting the best of both worlds – automating what you can, without sacrificing the high standard of customer service you need to offer when you can’t. More broadly though, understanding how your customers use your products, and what makes them happy – and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t! – allows you to really capitalize on what you’re doing right, and avoid what you’re doing wrong. AI based analytics can reveal new ways of working that your customers have developed – and let you then market those to other customers.

Can you talk about some of the CX tech trends and tech capabilities that you feel will dominate what marketers and sales people want from their tech stack in future?

It all comes down to data. If you want to offer a good customer experience, it comes down to knowing your customers. Knowing what makes them tick, what challenges they’re facing, what successes they’ve had, what issues they’re running into. And so technology is going to need to keep pace with that, and put data in the hands of the people who need it, when they need it.

We’d love to hear more on the road map for FLEXBridge and a few upcoming innovations to look forward to?

We’re adding new connectors to FLEXBridge all the time, to make it as easy as possible for you to get your data where it needs to be. That’s a continued work-in-progress though – the only time we’ll stop making new connectors, is when we run out of tools to connect to! The next big thing on our roadmap is – and you might guess this, based on my prior answers – all about data. Not just making it easier to surface the facts you are looking for, but to tell you the facts you didn’t know you needed. Stay tuned!

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales and marketing leaders need to do differently to help them stand out from the crowd?

Always put your customer at the center of everything!! People aren’t out there buying products or services, they’re buying solutions to problems. And they’re definitely not trying to make your product successful – they’re trying to make their companies – and very often themselves! – successful.

Your sales and marketing leaders need to get onboard with that change in mentality, and provide their teams with the support/coaching they need to enable them to have those conversations with the customer in the right language. For technology? It’s simple. You need to find vendors who understand that, and will put you at the center, the same you do for your customer.

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Vivantio is a leading provider of customer service optimization software and solutions for demanding B2B service teams.

Andrew Stevens is the VP of Technology at Vivantio.

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