SalesTechStar Interview with Jafar Syed, Chief Growth Officer at Uniphore
Sales and marketing in 2021 will have to be more virtual, targeted and engaging and if it becomes all of these things, it will be much more rewarding for everyone shares Jafar Syed, Chief Growth Officer at Uniphore while having a chat with SalesTechStar in this recent interview. Catch the complete QnA where Jafar discusses trends in B2B sales and marketing while throwing light on the recent partnership between Uniphore and WNS.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Jafar? What’s a typical day at work like at Uniphore?
As the Chief Growth Officer at Uniphore, I drive the company’s growth initiatives including partnerships and alliances. Before joining Uniphore in May 2019, I led the Global BPOs Customer Experience (CX) business at NTT Data and led Dell Services’ European and Australian BPO business. I have been in the CX and contact center space for over 20 years and enjoy the challenges of creating better customer experiences. I have lived and worked in the US, UK, Dubai, Philippines, China and India. On the personal side, I love history and have quite a passion for food history. When not working, I love photography, reading and traveling.
My day at Uniphore consists of checking in with my global team, ensuring our initiatives are on track, meeting with my executive counterparts inside Uniphore and discussing business opportunities with current and prospective strategic alliance partners and our sales teams. Right now, business is robust with the global need for contact centers continuing to grow. No day is ever like the one before and that’s one of the things I love about the fast-paced world of tech.
We’d love to hear about the recent partnership with WNS and how this benefits customers?
The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has a massive opportunity in front of it and needs to be equipped with the latest AI and automation technology in order to thrive in today’s unique, “digital-first” environment. WNS is one of Uniphore’s largest deals so far in 2020 and is a multiyear, multimillion-dollar agreement. WNS Global Services is a leading Business Process Management (BPM) company that provides services to renowned brands such as T-Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Coca-Cola, British Gas, amongst others. Uniphore will provide our advanced Conversational Service Automation (CSA) platform for WNS’ recently-launched digital CX solution, EXPIRIUS. EXPIRIUS is a unique CX solution that integrates human-assisted design and domain expertise with AI-driven conversational insights and consulting-led CX strategies to create a holistic digital customer experience. Through this partnership, we will offer our CSA platform that enables WNS’ agents to deliver the best possible experience for their customers.
Earlier this year, we also signed a multiyear deal with Sitel, who is a large multinational BPM that handles over 3.5 million interactions every day for notable brands. With a shared goal of delivering exceptional CX, the two companies bring together deep skills in business and technology strategy, technology development and deployment, and organizational change management to support clients through successful CX transformations.
How have you seen the conversational AI / conversational service automation niche evolve over the years and what are your top predictions for the future?
Several factors are driving the need for AI, automation, machine learning, data analytics and natural language technologies (NLT), including Natural Language Processing/Understanding/Generation. Up until fairly recently, each aspect of the customer experience was addressed individually and somewhat independently of other systems. For example, if you wanted people to be routed more efficiently, you installed an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. This approach did not take into account the bigger picture, such as in this case, understanding why they are calling in the first place and how the organization can provide enough information to avoid them needing to call. Since our voice is one of the most fundamental and natural interfaces we have, it’s natural that technology and systems adapt to that medium. Thus, conversational AI, voice analytics, speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies have really been ramping up the past decade. However, with customer expectations sky high and support costs rising as you add multi-medium contact centers, a new category has begun to emerge and is taking shape: Conversational Service Automation (CSA). Essentially, CSA builds upon existing technology and brings together advanced capabilities in AI, Robotic Processing Automation (RPA), machine learning and NLT and puts them together with new processes and systems to deliver completely new and transformative customer experiences.
Imagine never being put on hold. Imagine only needing to state your problem one time before it is solved correctly – no follow up needed! That’s all possible today and my prediction for the future is that we will see more companies adopting CSA platforms, and not just for the customer benefits. It will also be much more efficient and will have a massive impact on operational costs, agent retention and training, system integration and maintenance. Conversational Service Automation is starting to gain momentum, which will likely continue to accelerate as companies drive digital transformation initiatives, which will always have conversations (digital and voice) at the core.
How according to you has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic reshaped the sales tech / contact center / conversational automation industry? What new capabilities from tech will users now need more of in an attempt to adjust to the new normal?
One of the major shifts for sales and marketing is the complete shift to remote working environments which has quite a few important ramifications. This impacts the ability to market, sell to and support customers. From the vantage point of supporting outbound sales and supporting customers through contact centers, the majority of agents are now working from home as are the people they are connecting with. The need to verify and validate both the caller and the agent has never been higher. As a consumer, you want to know you are speaking with a real agent from the company. As an organization, you want to be able to support and maintain trust with the customer, especially given the sensitive information and other data that is shared in open environments. Companies that are successful at closing that gap while supporting flexible work environments, along with effectively using digital assistants, will ultimately emerge as winners.
How are you seeing the overall Sales and Marketing marketplace recover from the Covid19 pandemic – what are some companies you’ve been talking to doing to pivot / innovate during this time?
The sales and marketing functions have had to adapt quickly to the new COVID centered world. Gone are the days of face-to-face meetings. Gone are the weeks on the road, meeting customers and prospects at their offices. Gone are the business meals, hospitality and in-person experiences that build relationships to then sell through. Even with this, I believe the industry has transformed quickly, and business continues to grow and expand. For instance, the marketing I’m seeing targeted at my role is very focused, personalized and relevant. Companies are leveraging all the data and analytics that can be had in a digital-first model and finding ways to connect with me as a potential customer. And honestly, because I’m not spending so much time on the road, in airports, waiting for schedules to open up because in-person meetings are much harder to execute, I am able to look at and consider digital offers and engagements. I am able to meet with potential vendors, partners and customers from all over the world in a single day, and all participants are comfortable with that. Yes, I do look forward to when we can re-introduce the concept of in-person meetings and face-to-face interactions, but for now, I believe our industry has shown remarkable resilience and continues to innovate.
When it comes to the choice of tech stack to support customer experience / customer initiatives: what would you advise sales/marketing teams to invest in and deploy as part of their regular tools?
In terms of sales and marketing tools for forward thinking companies to invest in, I would recommend doubling down on those technologies that will deliver the personalization, customization, accuracy of info and speed of response that all customers, no matter the industry, have increasingly grown to expect. This includes the latest AI, automation, machine learning, CRM applications and NLTs. All the better if these technologies can all be combined effectively to show a full 360-degree customer profile that helps pre-determine the next best action. Think about a time in the not-too-distant future when you arrive home and your Intelligent Virtual Assistant greets you when you open your door. It then tells you about an electronic notice you just received from your insurance company that your rates will go up because you recently were cited for speeding. Imagine your digital assistant asking, “Would you like me to contact the company and try to reverse that action?” Of course, you would say yes and then let them go to work. Your assistant would then go through your insurance company’s customer service process, either with a bot or with a live agent, to solve the problem. Regardless, you know your request is being considered, and you can focus on other more important and fulfilling things. The reality is, all of these technologies and capabilities already exist, and this scenario is possible today. It’s simply a matter of companies deploying the right platform to enable it and other experiences like it that will spark unheard levels of brand loyalty.
As a tech leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you are enabling a balanced remote work culture while maintaining motivation levels?!
Even from early the early days of COVID, Uniphore has embraced the remote working and physical distance requirements. Further, we also supported many customers around the world as they shifted to support more agents working from home. This was not an easy transition for them, given compliance issues, management requirements and the fact that the majority of business processes were built around in-person teams and work flows. Still, with the right tools and technology, we’ve helped thousands successfully make that transformation happen and still be able to deliver excellent customer experiences. Equally important to enabling remote work, Uniphore has also moved rapidly forward on initiatives geared toward high employee engagement. Our Chief Marketing Officer and Head of People often says “We need to create the ‘inner wow’ so our employees can create the ‘outer wow.’“ And she’s right. Thus, Uniphore makes it a point to hold regular company-wide all hands meetings along with regular email and small team updates. We have also onboarded more than 50 people around the globe who have never met face to face with their teams. Yet, all are engaged and feel that they are truly part of the team. While not universal across every team, I am aware that some teams have delivered customized welcome videos to new hires, which have been appreciated. Uniphore also holds employee gatherings for things like virtual happy hour, family get-to-know you sessions, online trivia competitions, surprise birthday celebrations, yoga classes and even a few cooking demonstrations. We work hard here at Uniphore, but also find ways to connect with our Uniphore family.
Catch some of our conversations on the State of Sales, Marketing and Working In Tech from these episodes of The SalesStar Podcast –Featuring leaders from Acoustic, CloudShare, Qumulo and more. Listen Now!
As Chief Growth officer, Jafar leads growth initiatives for Uniphore including partnerships and alliances. Prior to Uniphore, Jafar led the Global BPO’s CX business at NTT Data. Previously, he led Dell Services’ European and Australian BPO business based in Peterborough, UK. Jafar has over 20 years of experience in CX and Contact Centers.