Fonolo CEO Shares Customer Service Advice with Language I/O
April 19, 2018
One of our favorite customer service blogs comes from the folks at Fonolo, a cloud-based solution that hooks into existing call center infrastructures, so they can add advanced functions with little effort and low cost. We love the blog because it’s informative, not salesy and we always learn something new, which is why we asked Fonolo Co-Founder and CEO Shai Berger to spend a little q and a time with us.
Shai has a degree in Engineering Physics from Queen's University and a master's degree in Applied Science from the University of Toronto. Prior to launching Fonolo, Shai was the co-founder and CEO of Streamcheck, a globally distributed QA system for online video that was acquired by Keynote Systems in 2003. Today, he is one of the Top 10 Influencers in VoIP.
For more information about Fonolo, click here, otherwise, enjoy some time with Shai!
Q. Tell us about your transition from engineering to customer service. Some might suggest these fields require different skill sets.
A. Customer service is a fascinating field because it requires equal parts engineering and human skills. The way that consumers interact with companies has been undergoing massive change in the last two decades, fueled by changing technology: email, chat, smart phones, texting, social media. Interestingly, those technologies then change the way the next generation of consumers communicate with each other, which then impact the way they want to interact with companies, when they reach adulthood. So both worlds interact and influence each other.
Q. What did Streamcheck teach you about customer service and how did your experience with Streamcheck lead to the launch of Fonolo?
A. My approach with start-ups is to look at an industry as a whole, try to understand it as a large machine, and figure out what the missing piece is. Mentally, I picture it as a crafting a cog that’s going to slip into place and make everything work more smoothly. With Streamcheck, we saw a clear need for objective information about delivery quality and reliability of online video. With Fonolo, we saw that call centers were eager to add call-back solutions, but what was available on the market was too expensive or cumbersome to install.
Q. Tell us about what you originally wanted to do with Fonolo and then explain what it has become.
A. The original concept of Fonolo was to be a consumer-facing service. We wanted people to use our online or app-based service as a conduit to connect with companies. The challenge with that plan was that changing user behavior is very difficult, so we switched the model and made our technology embeddable by companies in their own website, mobile app, or call center.
Q. What are the top three pain points your customers are experiencing?
A. The typical Fonolo customer is a company that operates a mid-sized call center (50-500 agents). Their primary challenge is that consumers have very high expectations around customer service and they have to balance that against the cost of running a call center. This can be tricky. For example, they know that hiring more agents will lower hold times, but that extra cost is quantifiable and felt today, whereas the damage from frustrated customers will take some time to accumulate, and be hard to measure. (This is why call-backs are so appealing – they improve the customer experience with little cost.)
A second challenge is spikes in call center traffic. If you staff to the peak volume, you will have a lot of excess agent capacity at other times. Our scheduled call-back offering helps “smooth-out” those spikes by deferring calls (in a customer-friendly manner) till a time when there is excess agent capacity.
A third challenge comes from the changing mix of channels that customers like to use in contacting a company. Our Web Rescue and Mobile Rescue products help integrate those channels into the call center so customers don’t have to “start over” if they need to switch channels during a transaction.
Q. How have globalization and AI impacted these pain points?
A. In many ways, the call center world was way ahead of the game in globalization. Outsourcing call handling to countries with lower cost labor has been part of this industry for many decades.
One common impact of outsourcing is that the company gives up control of the call center technology. (The outsourcer company usually uses its own technology for managing calls.) In the past, this meant that adding functionality like call-backs wasn’t possible, but Fonolo’s cloud-based solution overcomes this limitation. We have many customers who have outsourced their call traffic, but are still able to utilize the benefits of call-back technology.
Q. What is on the Fonolo agenda this year (conferences, product rollouts, etc.)
A. We have a very full event and conference schedule. One event that I always look forward to is Call Center Week in June. It’s the largest event in the industry and a great place to catch up on the new trends. On the product front, we have a number of exciting things cooking, but you will have to stay tuned to get those details!
Q. Fonolo has an outstanding blog of great variety and downloadable materials. How do you choose your content?
A. We meet quarterly to plan out the blog using a shared calendar, assigning topics and titles to different members of the writing team. (And we stick to it!) We try to cycle through a variety of topics that we know are interesting to our audience. Occasionally we have a post that is a product pitch, but we spread those out with general interest topics. Being too “pitchy” or repetitive is an easy way to lose readership.
Q. What are your top five Fonolo blog picks?