Episode: 286 |
Venkat Nagaswamy:
Contact Centers during COVID:


Venkat Nagaswamy

Contact Centers during COVID

Show Notes

McKinsey alum Venkat Nagaswamy is the Group VP of Marketing at 8×8, a leading Software-as-a-Service provider of voice, video, chat, contact center and enterprise-class API solutions.

In today’s episode, Venkat discusses how contact centers have kept functioning during the pandemic by rapidly shifting from on premises operations to working remotely. He shares one example in which 8×8 got a call from a call center on Saturday morning and had the client ready to work remotely by Monday.

To learn more about 8×8 visit: https://www.8×8.com/

To follow up with Venkat, visit his LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/venkatnagaswamy/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m Will Bachman and I’m here today with our guest Venkat Naga Swami. Who is the group Vice President of Marketing at eight by eight, eight by eight is a global communications firm that Venkat will explain a little bit more what they do, but their business is way up. They have video chat and remote contact centers is going to tell us what they do. And Venkat Welcome to the show.

Venkat Nagaswamy 00:36
Thank you for having me. Super excited to be here.

Will Bachman 00:40
So. So you, folks, everyone has heard of zoom and a solutions, eight byte is not as much of a household name, give us a quick overview of the services that eight byte provides, including one you know, jitsi, which is, you know, getting much better now.

Venkat Nagaswamy 01:00
Yeah, we are not yet as far as knowing the name of zoom, and we will get there if I do my job, right. So anyway, so eight by eight is a communications provider, as you mentioned, communications in the cloud provider, we provide video meetings, phone service, contact center and chat in the cloud. What essentially means is that you can work from anywhere, get your work done, get your sales done, get your contact center done anywhere in the world. You mentioned jitsi jitsi. It’s an open source version of our video meetings product, it is the core technology that underlies our video meeting solution. And that product has used to see 120,000 monthly active users before COVID crisis started. And now we’ve seen 20 million in monthly active users. Some cool things about jitsi are, you know, when the when the whole thing started COVID COVID shutdown started in Lombardi in Italy, that users called us and now something like 25% of this, of teachers in Italy, are using jitsi to do provide me with classes to their students. So that’s a cool thing. So these things that that we’re doing for the community and the overall market will get us more well known in the future and really looking forward to

Will Bachman 02:34
it. Yeah, that’s amazing. And for listeners who haven’t used it before, that’s j i t dot s ii jitsi. Or I think it’s also at jitsi. j itsi.org. include those links in the show notes. That’s amazing. 120,000 to 20 million monthly users. That’s incredible growth. And you were telling me a story that about how a contact center that was an in person contact center, they got shut down in Spain, but you know, with the with the lockdown, tell me what happened next, and how you were able to get them get them set up to work remotely?

Venkat Nagaswamy 03:16
Yeah, so our relationship with this particular customer actually started off as then being a vendor for us the day our outsourced BDR team that we use, that we in marketing used to generate our own pipeline, a company called the IMS. Now these guys were using a regular on prem solution in Barcelona, and come early March, on a Friday, government announced that will go they’re going to lock down. And as you probably know, the shutdown in Spain was a lot more strict, a lot stricter than what we’re doing here. And people are not even allowed to go outside their apartments. So anyway, so this happened on a Friday night. On Saturday, they reached out to us saying, Hey, we need your help. And we turned in a proposal Saturday night, Sunday, they signed the contract on Sunday night, the deployment started. And on Monday morning, the team was able to work without missing a beat. And what excites me really is that this company of great partner for us, was able to, as I mentioned, you’re doing on prem, and if you cannot be on premises, you clearly cannot run the business. And with being able to move to cloud with us, they were able to serve that customers and more importantly, stay in business. Because of because of us. So that is to me. Super exciting and and you know, heartwarming at the same time.

Will Bachman 04:51
Yeah. That is an amazing story. I mean to think about how and this is you hear a lot about the panda About how it’s accelerating the future, and also accelerating the way things get implemented. Just I mean, just sort of intuition. How long would it take if under normal situation, a context center had made an executive decision, okay, we’re going to move to cloud and work remotely, it probably would have been a six month transition with change management consultants and planning for it and mapping out process and stuff. And you did it in a week, weekend. A weekend on a Sunday, what was involved? Tell me a little bit about what it actually took to set that up so that everyone could work remotely? And then was there? I mean, I imagine there might have been some ketchup processes afterwards, on something I don’t know, just the billing or the you know, giving people the access codes or something like what, what did you have to do to shift a contact center from everybody reporting to a, you know, football stadium kind of sized room on Friday to then on Monday, everybody’s working from home, what happened to get from Friday to Monday?

Venkat Nagaswamy 06:10
Yeah, so I keep moving the future. That’s a great way to put it. You know, I saw a cartoon somewhere recently, which is talking about like, at the top, it says, like, digital, our digital transformation was driven by, and there is on the left, there’s a cartoon with a CEO. And there’s a strike Mark through that. And then there’s a box in the middle that says, cio, and there’s a slight Mark through that. And then the third box that says COVID and, and the right mark next to that. So COVID has really driving digital transformation on a on a much more rapid scale than what you’d see elsewhere. And before I come to this particular case, there’s also other cases, there’s a big financial services provider within the US. And they were going to deploy our solutions on a more measured basis. And I think they started off with like, I don’t know, 5000 lines or something like that. And once COVID head, they immediately called us and said, Hey, we need to do 15,000 lines more can you make that happen? And we did that, I don’t know, within a week or so, in that timeframe. So, this kind of transformation, the what was happening at a more measured place earlier, is being rapidly accelerated because of what we are seeing today. Now going to this particular example, the immediate deployment itself, because everything happens in the cloud, because we ourselves do the everything in our deployment from the cloud, the initial deployment itself was pretty easy. Because the provisioning and everything happened from the cloud. Now, the piece it earlier, you would have had to rewire all the phone, not phone, phones, physical phones, and maybe have different headsets, and so on and so forth. That completely got eliminated because people were working from home. And so all they needed to do was to download a soft phone onto that onto that laptop, and lo and behold, you’re ready to ready, you’re in business. So all the call routing, all the call center, everything could be easily deployed from the cloud. Now, there was some amount of change management that needed to happen in terms of how people did, for instance, track their Salesforce reports and so on. But again, because we, our product comes with out of the box integrations with Salesforce, a lot of those kind of setups were completely obviated as well. It was more around change management of training, all the all the call center folks to do things differently. That probably took another week or so before we could settle things down. But in terms of actual deployment, actual things that we needed to do 90 personal thing goes got eliminated, right? The physical phones, the physical, the, the software, connections, the routing software, all of these things, either eliminated or could be deployed from the cloud. And so we were able to, that’s the reason why we’re able to do it over the weekend. This is this is when people talk about cloud, we always we often talk about the cost effectiveness of a cloud, which is of course true, but something that’s equally important and more important, arguably, is the flexibility. How quickly can you do these kinds of things that you couldn’t do elsewhere. And I’d love to point out yet another case, this is a a bank, a credit union, out on East Coast. About a year or two ago, I want to say a year and a half ago, there was a there was a hurricane which hit North Carolina, and this bank, which is based out of North Carolina, they had to tell their call center employees to just work go up and down, save yourself and go wherever you need to go. To avoid the storm, and again, these guys went up another goes to, to shelter away from the store. And again, they were able to open up their laptops and work from wherever they needed to. And this is a case where it’s a credit union, it’s a bank, after the storm people are calling in, do I understand that? Because people, homes were destroyed, their livelihoods are destroyed. And they were able to call into their banks to make sure that financial security is assured. And we are able to support it because of this power of cloud, right? And again, so that net net to answer your question, a lot of the because of this move to cloud, the, the burden of a bunch of burdens that needed to happen with a bunch of effort that you would need to do in terms of moving to the cloud, either got eliminated simply because of the circumstances, or because of cloud, we’re able to deploy it at scale, remotely, over the weekends.

Will Bachman 11:01
That’s amazing. Now, I have a friend of ours, we’ve actually stayed it stayed at her place, has is a representative for one of the airlines. And she works from home. So which you know, doing doing the calls, taking calls from home, she has the laptop. So I’ve kind of seen that. In practice. I’ve also visited some contact centers, tell us a little bit about what it how it actually works to have call center reps working remotely. Be curious to hear about. And maybe you could start with just kind of the the the monitoring of call. So when you’re when you’re a consumer, and you could call in sometimes as the I needed to talk to my manager about this or whatever. So how, what if anything is different when when reps are working remotely? And what does it physically look like in terms of how they do their work?

Venkat Nagaswamy 11:59
Yeah. So first, let’s talk about a quote unquote, normal usual contact center right, a usual contact center, you have rows and rows of people sitting now they typically have a physical phone, and a computer screen. And they receive calls, right and a call comes in through normal PSTN, or you know, just plain old telephone network. And then it gets it goes to the switchboard and then the PBX will routed to the call center, on prem equipment that you would have would routed to the available rep, right, and then the available rep answers the phone and then they do things on the computer as the as the things might happen. In this case, in our case, essentially, that piece of place where a phone line comes in, and our phone connection comes in, our call comes in, and then it goes to goes and gets routed by an on premise equipment, all of that goes away, or it goes into the cloud. So when a number comes in, we as the provider would then look at the available, we’ll look at presence or what we call it presence, essentially, availability of call center labs, and then automatically route the call to an available Rep. And now that available Rep. They can either have a physical phone, or more typically, equally, typically, they have an app on the laptop. So this app is is similar to what you would do, let’s say, a normal zoom on any of the other apps. So similar to that when it goes into an app, the phone call gets routed similar to what you would do, let’s say with a Skype call or any of those things where you can call a computer. So the app, essentially this points to that call that we get routed. And then you just talk like what you do normally. And now, that’s your question around. So when these calls are coming in, because these are software packets, you can automatically record them based on whatever local laws and laws that apply. You can also have cases where you can automatically conference people in one of the powers of using cloud and especially the integrated one platform that that eBay has, is that you can also have people automatically call other people internally. So let me give you an example. Right? If you have a normal, quote unquote normal on prem contact center, somebody calls in and let’s say the call center that needs to contact contact a product manager as for instance right now the product manager is not going to be on on the same contact center. on prem equipment So they probably go through a separate phone line, go talk to them. And that’s why people often put you on hold to go talk to somebody else, and come back right? With our integrated platform, you can get a call through a contact center software. And then using the same software, this call center can contact the product manager who might be on that normal internal phone system, right. So when you do things in the cloud, we need to do things in software, it opens up a whole bunch of possibilities that you cannot do normally. And yet another example of this is, is tracking things on on Salesforce, right? Normally, the call center rep will have to enter all of the details into Salesforce or some CRM tool manually, but with software, and with call center software and other things we provide, it automatically can up integrates into Salesforce integrates with Zendesk and other pieces, so that the call center that does not have to manually create the record, they can go and update that record. And over time, we’d be able to do things like transcription and issue identification, and so on, that can help them populate this automatically. So to make a long story short by when we go from old PSTN connection, where you have your old phone network, and by moving into software, it allows you to do a whole bunch of things that you couldn’t do otherwise, and to make a call center reps life easier, and the experience that that customers get far better what than what they could do otherwise.

Will Bachman 16:38
How do you manage issues, such as security of data, particularly for reps that might be handling health information that falls under HIPAA laws or financial information? How do you how do companies typically deal with those security matters.

Venkat Nagaswamy 16:58
So security is a super, very, very important consideration for us communicate, communications is, you know, the bedrock of any business. And we take security extremely seriously. And so that the, whether or not, we’re talking about our you know, video product, or just a normal voice product, our call center product, all of this relies on an overall platform, the one platform that we have that underlies this whole infrastructure, and that underlies these different infrastructure underlies these, these offerings that we have. That is, we’ve spent, you know, we’ve been in business, a long enough time that we spent a lot of time and effort in making that extremely secure from all kinds of activities that you can think of, from normal fraud, and those kinds of activities to digital denial of service attacks, all of those things are extremely secure. And again, a leap. And because of, again, the fact that we provide a one platform, we can assure encryption and security all the way to the phone service that I’m sorry, the soft phone that you’re using on your laptop. And so the fact that our bed platform is totally buttoned up insecure. And because we provide all the salt, because we are an integrated provider of software, for all of these systems, we can assure you security all the way up to the cell phone or the physical phone that you’re using. To to that the call center person is using.

Will Bachman 18:54
What have you found, you know, sort of seeing a lot of these virtual contact centers have clients of yours? What have you seen any difference in the behavior of the reps over time such as does retention of reps change? If you go from a in person to remote context center, do people stay longer? They stay less time? Does it attract a different pot, different type of population? Do people work? You know, is it maybe more feasible that people only work for say, plug in work for two hours and then you know, take four hours off and plug in two hours in the evening. Tell me about some of the ways that it changes the work and about how maybe how reps respond to that?

Venkat Nagaswamy 19:40
Absolutely. So the key thing around in any call center is workforce management. And do all the things the points that you just raise right, based on call volumes, time of the year, time of day, time of week, the capacity, that’s a Quiet in a call center goes up and down. Now, and these things, you know, as you can imagine, right, a retailer is going to have lot more call volumes or customers that they do know in May or something like that. And so typically people need to in a normal contact center, you’d need to have complex workforce scheduling software and other pieces to make sure that you have enough capacity to be able to answer phones and so on, right. And often it if you need part timers, it, it makes it harder because you, you might need it only for an hour or two. So having a physical location and doing all of these things, makes it much, much harder. On the other hand, and by the way, from a physical equipment perspective, you’re going to have to gear up the physical equipment to make sure that it can handle the maximum amount of volume that you’re going to handle. On the other hand, because of moving to cloud, two or three things happen, right, you can have a more flexible workforce. And we’ve seen things like you know, women who’ve just given birth or who who want to have who need to have more flexible scheduling, they can work from home, or the peaks and valleys that you see, during the week, during the quarter during the year that a call center would have all of those things become much easier to manage simply because you don’t need to bring everybody into a single on prem equate on, on in one location, they can work from wherever they can work from in whatever fashion that they need to do. And because again, a lot of these things happened to the cloud. It’s, it’s perfectly elastic, you can go up and down. In terms of the capacity requirements that you need, without having to pay for the maximum that you will have, you’re going to have to ever need, right. So it gives the it gives the provider flexibility in going up and down. It, it makes it it allows people with who have more demands in their lives where they they need to be more flexible, it allows them to have a career in this. So it essentially brings a digital transformation into a situation that so far has been a far more rigid, working environment,

Will Bachman 22:29
right. So in a traditional call center, and I’ve spent time in a few of them doing some projects, you have this issue that you loot that you mentioned, of when you bring people in to physical place, you kind of have to give him I guess at least four hours, right? So and you’re trying to predict in advance, and you can never get it exactly right. So either you have too many people at some point. So you’re paying for people to sit around, or you you you missed the mark, and you don’t have enough people. So people have really long wait times and they get frustrated. So you can never get it perfectly right. And you’re always trying to optimize this balance. So with where I’m curious, so with these virtual contact centers, some people probably want to have a steady, you know, number of hours, and they want to work eight hours per shift, you know, first stop. But some people are probably more flexible. So it has arisen things like, hey, you’re kind of an on call, and we’ll send you a text message if we need to eat or hop on for an hour or two. And then when their demand drops off, then we’ll kind of cut you off. So those people might, you know, be willing to just hop on whenever So does that kind of thing arise where people will hop in, you know, just sort of get out of alert and just jump a jump on the call. Or maybe whoever gets there first is going to get, you know, get a shift, you know, half a shift or two hours or something. Absolutely. How are companies doing that?

Venkat Nagaswamy 23:57
Yeah, so I’ve seen people come in and go for you in like half hour shifts, right? It’s your point. If you have a call center, you need to get them if they come in, you need to have them or at least half a day. But with this, we’ve seen cases where people will turn on their availability for half hour and then turn it off. In some cases, think of it as like, like Uber like Uber, I’m sure many, many drivers in Uber spend all day driving, and there are yet others who are students and so on, who might turn on the president for some time, and the calls and Uber routes. request them and not yet yet are the cases when Uber sees a huge demand in one particular neighborhood. They send an alert to the drivers to say hey go to this place and because there’s a huge demand, right, similar to that. We see people do Right, both from a provider from the contact center provider perspective, and from an employee perspective, some people work full hours. Some others, they want flexible time. So they don’t on that presence for a certain period based on their own needs. And yet yet other cases, the provider themselves being the army of people that they have to say, hey, that is a need Now, can you log on to, to the, to the software, so that calls getting routed to you? So we see all of these things. And as I was mentioning earlier, you could hypothetically, you could go in and even a minute if that’s what you want, which I suspected won’t happen, but like people can go down to sub hours if, as the needs needs arise,

Will Bachman 25:42
and how does does it typically work that do companies pay a premium for someone to just jump in for half an hour? Or an hour? Or is it the same rate? Or is it less? I mean, is there a standard of how, you know, do companies pay a bit of a premium for that flexibility? I’m curious about that.

Venkat Nagaswamy 26:03
So I’ve seen, I don’t think I can make a blanket statement for most people, we’ve seen things everywhere from you know, get the same hourly rate versus different rate and higher rate and so on, it’s, it’s hard for me to make a blanket statement around that.

Will Bachman 26:21
It also occurs to me that, you know, reps could much more easily work for multiple companies, right. So if you’re only doing sort of peak demand, maybe you can’t get a full time job, maybe they’re not hiring for full time, but they only hiring for peak, you might be, you know, willing to work for five or six different companies, you know, as they own you for, do you see that happening? Where reps will sort of, you know, hop on on different different companies as a as a to take calls,

Venkat Nagaswamy 26:52
I think that would be an interesting thing for us to look at to see, because it for us, each of these instances that get deployed for different companies are maintained separately, there’s a separation, I don’t know if there’s a way that we can figure that out. But I’m sure that happens, just as Uber drivers drive for Lyft as well. But it’s difficult for us to determine it because of identity and protections between different contact center providers. So even if you’re even if you’re, if you as an individual work for two different contracted providers, we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to determine that in a privacy preserving fashion.

Will Bachman 27:36
I gotcha. All right. Cool. So tell me a little bit. So we talked about contact center some, how do whenever you didn’t touch is how does the monitoring work? So a lot of times have in person contacts. And I’ve seen the managers will walk up and down the row, and they’ll kind of stare over the person’s shoulder and they’ll plug in in a separate headphones to monitor a call in the virtual world, do they people managers just kind of jump in on a call and sort of watch what’s going on in the screen? Kind of?

Venkat Nagaswamy 28:11
Absolutely. I mean, so you, there are multiple, it’s the amount of interaction that management can have with rep goes up in these situations, right? All of these things that you mentioned, around, looking at, looking at listening into call, live calls, listening into recorded calls, listening to transcripts of calls, all of these things happened in a in a, in a seamless fashion. And especially with everything being in the cloud, the amount of analytics that you get, are all things that you wouldn’t be able to, you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. So giving you an example, right? There’s often so people will have physical presence in an office. So let’s, let’s see, that’s an example. We have an office in capital that nobody goes to today. But if W COVID Bri COVID days will show up, right. And that has a switchboard number. Now we get a bunch of calls of people looking for support, who call on who call our front desk, and then the front desk will route the call to call center and people get supported from there right now in a normal, quote unquote, normal situation, you will never be able to try you’ll never be able to track situations where we say hey, what percentage of inbound calls that come in to the front desk get routed to customer support or vice versa, what kind of customer support calls get come from the front desk as opposed to people calling in directly this kind of analytics At an aggregate level at a rep level at a group level, you won’t be able to get in a typical PSTN situation, right. And to add to it, because of things in the cloud, and just being in software, the integration that you can get with other software like Zendesk or, or, or Salesforce or any, any other thing that you have, those integrations also go up. So ability for a manager to help the rep goes up a ability to coach them goes up, abilities to, to, to monitor and, and look for job satisfaction and so on. All of these things go up significantly, because of because of software. Yeah, because it’s all in software.

Will Bachman 30:46
I mean, I can imagine that you’re probably already working on things like artificial intelligence to be kind of listening into the call real time transcribing. And then being you know, the computer could probably provide to the rep, the answers real time to some of the most basic questions. So they don’t even have to navigate, right.

Venkat Nagaswamy 31:08
In fact, some of the things that we demoed earlier, where you can have virtual assistants, and actually do a bunch of call interception, right. So something like I don’t remember the exact numbers, but something like 30% of the calls that we get an eight by eight are about resetting password, right? And so when a call comes in, even before it goes to a rep, we can interact with AI with the customer and have them say, What is your problem today? And they say, I need to reset the password. And then we can automatically intercept the call and play back a message to them that says, How do you do that? Right. So that level of we demonstrated that there are multiple ways in which you can use virtual assistants like that. And so AI is one of the most exciting things to to, to come into the contact center world. In fact, I came into eight by eight as a result of my company money and IQ being acquired Bade by and we were an AI for marketing company, and the team and the technology that we had now underlies a bunch of the AI offerings that are going into our Contact Center, a contact center product, or chat product, or phone product, and so on what one instance, example of this is, you know, when you have, let’s say, a phone app on your internal phone app, and you’re trying to call people, often the directory is alphabetical late. On the other hand, there are only some set subset of people that I keep calling all the time. And so instead of it so when I start searching on my, on my virtual office app on my phone, it doesn’t do it alphabetically, it does it based on budget alphabetically, but it also say, if I wanted to talk to James, Jim, let’s say and it’s Dave, J, because I’ve interacted with Jim a lot. Jim’s name will show up before James’s name shows up because of how frequently I interact, right? So So these are all things that based on behavior patterns, based on the call patterns and other things that you see, we can bring intelligence into the app in every interaction that people have to make the experience better. And AI is one of the coolest thing they’ll come in. And with the AI, we believe that it was just early days of AI being used in contact center and video meetings and so on. And and there was just only gonna go up another instance of AI is automatic transcription of video meetings, right? And over time, automatic translation of meetings with live translations happening as you speak. So these are all things that AI enables.

Will Bachman 34:06
Yeah, that’s amazing. I imagine that and is that happening now transcription of the meetings of the that it would go into Salesforce, not just the reps notes, but then the actual transcript of the whole call

Venkat Nagaswamy 34:19
the video meetings product that we have does automatic transcription and record it when it comes to the contact center product, actually, that I’m not entirely sure how, how that enters. It’s probably it depends on the configurations.

Will Bachman 34:37
Okay, can you tell us a bit about eight by eight and sort of, you know, what you’re able to share in terms of your kind of marketing approach and how you think about the market you know, if you’re allowed to share sort of how you think about segmenting the the business market and what are the primary segments that that are the best fit for a bite and just kind of how you’re going Going to market.

Venkat Nagaswamy 35:01
Yeah, so we just, we’re a public company, we have 444 $50 million in revenue. And over the past year or two, we’ve been growing at 25 30% in bookings 30 books about 30% bookings, in terms of historically, wipe on wipe in the cloud front service in the cloud was a small business, kind of, kind of product over time. And essentially small business because they were, they saw it, essentially with a lower value, lower cost value proposition. That’s historically what they would see. But what we’ve been noticing in the past three years, four years or so is that our mid market and enterprise customers, I think, to the street, we report them as above $1 billion in revenues, I think the enterprise and mid market is like, I don’t remember the exact number, how we report the street. But our growth in mid market and enterprise is significantly greater than our commercial business, and commercial or small business. And, and what you’re noticing in the marketplace over the past few years, is that in mid market, and enterprise, people are more excited about the flexibility, the possibilities that digital transformation can do for you. And that’s what we’re seeing increasingly, in in that space. And the way we look at it, like for very small companies, Soho, small business, we you can buy the product online, that is a low end express service that you can buy completely with zero touch, zero touch approach. And for commercial, typically, it’s a, it’s an inside sales kind of operation. And for Midmark, and enterprise, it’s more of a fields layers, and to support these different activities. Marketing is online in those in those three buckets. Ecommerce is owned by marketing, inside sales, we plug commercial, we have a different approach of marketing, which is more broad based approach to marketing, whereas for bit back in enterprise, we are heavily partner oriented and heavily field oriented to provide pipeline to those guys.

Will Bachman 37:44
What’s that mean to be partner oriented and field oriented.

Venkat Nagaswamy 37:48
So one thing that I should have pointed out is that what the biggest growth that we’ve been getting over the past few years, as I mentioned, it’s coming from Midmark, and enterprise. But a lot of significant portion of that growth comes from our partners. So in the telco world, that are a whole bunch of NASA regions and sub agents, who have been historically, people who have relationships with the end customers, and it’s these partners who have been bringing us a lot of business. And these are trusted providers, they’ve had relationships with the end customers going over decades, and truly people who take the end customers perspective, and these partners have started seeing the value that a buyer provides. And, and, and therefore, we are a partner first organization, in in in taking. What that means is that when there is contention between partner and collect the deal, it’s it’s partners, Bill Gates, presidents do that, right. And so, from that perspective, partners bring us a lot of deals, our growth is driven by partners. And and therefore we, we put partners first.

Will Bachman 39:11
That’s interesting, so So is that like larger fortune 1000 type companies will have what would you call that kind of firm? It’s not exactly a management consulting firm, but it’s someone who’s their telco, kind of,

Venkat Nagaswamy 39:27
they’re called telco channel partner. So to me, if you just do a Google search for it, you will find it Telecom, telco, telecommunications, channel partners is is what they would call them. And they typically are people who, whose service anybody pretty much like you know, below above 100 employee company, typically they have these relationships with them, right. And in the some of them might be msps, like managed service providers. Some of them could be referral partners, some of them could be doing other value added, reselling. So for instance, you might take pieces of our. So you might take pieces of the solution that we have, add other software to it to have an end more integrated solution for end customer. So those are all the different types of partners that we have. But if typically, they are called technology, I’m sorry, telecommunications channel partners. And some of the big, massive agents are people like avant, and avant, is a big one, for instance.

Will Bachman 40:40
Interesting, I didn’t know about that world, that’s pretty interesting to hear.

Venkat Nagaswamy 40:44
You just, I myself didn’t know about this until I came paid by it, quite honestly, that world is a very different world from the what, in technology that I was used to historically, we just like, you know, distributor of our world, in the physical hardware, or you had like, you know, management consultants and in the software world, like people like let’s say, Deloitte or Accenture, those are the kinds of partners that I was used to. And this channel world in telco is a different kind of a different world.

Will Bachman 41:18
Yeah. Now you were an associate partner at McKinsey. And then you had a startup to talk a little bit about your own journey. And you’re going to what you did before eight by?

Venkat Nagaswamy 41:31
Yeah, so I, I guess I did, before anybody died. As I mentioned, I can read by it as a result of my company being acquired by a by an AI for marketing company, I got the idea to start the company, when I ran integration marketing for a Juniper, which meant I was head of marketing for like a $1.82 billion business there. And, and that’s when I got the idea to start my own IQ. Prior to Juniper Networks, I was an associate partner with McKinsey, the Silicon Valley offers, I served high tech clients up and down the coast, and primarily in all kinds of areas, online services, and sales and marketing, those are some of the areas that I was focused on. Prior to that, I started another company, which is a mobile payments company, you know, if you go to Starbucks and get a barcode in your phone to pay, that was our idea, except we did that in feature phones, before the arrival of iPhones. And as I always say, that’s where I learned the lesson of being at the right place at the right type, by not being at the right places. And prior to that, I used to sell plastics for GE, in the automotive industry. And I used to work in Ford as well, by background, I’m an engineer, I’ve actually done by cleaning, I’m an engineer, earring fly by practice. And I also have a business degree from Michigan.

Will Bachman 43:03
All right. So what do you see? Kind of as the future, you know, particularly around contact centers. I’m curious, do you envision that companies having, you know, experimented with this remote model? We’ll just stick with it. Are you hearing that companies are planning to pull their people back to the, to the in person on premises type type thing? What do you see as the future? how it evolves?

Venkat Nagaswamy 43:33
Yeah, I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to the pre COVID days. The degree to which we do will vary, but we’re never going to go back to doing the pre COVID days. One of the things that we are seeing is that, or one of the things that we believe will happen, and we’re seeing this connection right now, is that remote work, business continuity, all of these kinds of activities are going to be topics for boards to consider, right? You know, 1213 years ago, you had everyone talking about Sox, and how Sox compliance was a big deal for boards to focus on. Similarly, boards are going to start focusing on business continuity, and making sure that the that companies are best positioned to ride out a future such eventuality you’ll see more and more focus on that. And from that perspective, we don’t I mean, even and you’re seeing this event today, that is there’s going to be a new normal in terms of people working from home, versus people are working from anywhere. Versus centralizing everything in one location. One, and you’ve seen this in a lot of things that are happening in the valley, right? Even though technology historically has enabled people from working from wherever we ourselves, we technology Good companies ourselves, have all, to some extent have had a culture of everyone showing up to physical offices to work. And that’s been the case until now. But now you’re seeing people like Facebook announcing that you don’t have to come to work till the end of the year, irrespective of what sheltering in place laws are. And in addition to that, Facebook has even said, Hey, you can move to wherever you need to and work from wherever. And you’re going to see, and you’re seeing this trend with Google with Microsoft with Twitter square, and so on and so forth. And my own company, and I, in fact, yesterday, I had an email from our we sent an email or we got an email from HR saying, Hey, we are not going to go back to our physical office in the foreseeable future. And so it’s both from a knowledge workers perspective, context and perspective or anything for that matter, we’re never going to go back to the pre COVID days, and we are going to see more and more of people working remotely. And and technology like ours, enabling that to happen.

Will Bachman 46:14
Looking around corners do use, what other new developments do you see happening in terms to sort of facilitate this remote work.

Venkat Nagaswamy 46:26
So the technology itself is there, it’s more of companies needing to change their practices, what I see happening, one analogy I would give is, you know, introduction of electric motors into manufacturing, right? Historically, before electric motors came in, you would have these water wheels or windmills, and therefore the whole, and because what we also have only one side, you had these factories, which are more vertical, because you have to have these belts that go up and down, and so on. When electric motors initially came, they just substituted one for one. And then over only later did they realize that, hey, if you put the end, which happened in Chicago with meat Packers, said, Hey, if you take that assembly line and make it flatter with electric motors, you can make it run and make it happen, etc, etc, etc. The model itself was the same, right, nothing changed. But there was a huge improvement in productivity simply because of having assembly lines in a horizontal way. The reason I bring that up is similar to that. I think the core technologies are already here. And as Arthur C, Clarke said, the future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed. The future is here, the technology is there. It’s how do we have other supporting processes and supporting human things that we need to do to make enable that that’s basically what we need to work on?

Will Bachman 48:05
Yeah, you know, there’s one, what’s going to happen, if there’s one thing, which I don’t think video conference can do yet. And I’m hoping that it nails it soon, because there’s a big need, which is, it’s great for kind of a formal meeting, where you have one person talking at a time to a group that’s very attentive, it’s, it’s pretty good for that, I’d say almost as good as real life, what video conferencing doesn’t seem to be as good at yet is, if you have more a sort of a cocktail party mangling kind of thing, where what I love is some kind of tool where you could be in a big group, but I mean, you know, zoom, you know, or other ones have breakout rooms that are formal, I’m now putting you in a breakout room, but nothing that I’ve seen yet allows you to be in a space and kind of wander around and walk up next to some people and just enter the conversation and move to another group, that that’s what I’m hoping come soon, that being able to have a large group with with multiple conversations going on. It’s more fluid.

Venkat Nagaswamy 49:07
Yeah. So that that are I suspect that certain things like when those kind of human interactions that need to happen, that we are not going to be able to solve with technology, like this kind of things that you’re talking about, right? Maybe it’s that 30 seconds that you need to talk to people before you go into a into a into a conference room, right? Those kinds of human interactions. It’s a lot more luck, harder to do right now. And maybe there’s a business idea, therefore, for someone to do something in that direction.

Will Bachman 49:36
It seems doable, especially if you had almost like virtual reality glasses on you could imagine. Yeah, you know, being able to look around and simulate real life and be able to walk. So I’m hoping that someone out there maybe a listener will will work with me. Maybe it already exists. And I’m it’s Eve unevenly distributed and I just haven’t been invited to that particular. So anyway, Venkat this has been a really fantastic discussion on any links that you want to share your Twitter handle or or anything else so people could, you know, follow what you’re doing and if they if they’re interested after this show.

Venkat Nagaswamy 50:13
Absolutely. My Twitter handle is at Venkat Naga Swami VNK t. n an ag, a SW, NY, please give me a follow and send me following you back.

Will Bachman 50:25
Great and we’ll include that in the show notes. Venkat. Thank you so much for joining today. Thank you. This was a lot of fun. Take care.

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