Learn about the evolution of Experience as a Service from Genesys' VP of Product Management, Jack Nichols. Jack discusses prototyping with regulatory constraints, ways Genesys hopes to apply AI to their product, and innovation within a large enterprise.
Throughout our conversation, Jack explains the growth of experience as a service. Many companies have customer touchpoints fragmented across multiple systems, leading to poor experiences for customers and employees alike. Jack believes that a single customer engagement system is the way to go, ensuring that all touchpoints with the customer are connected to provide a great experience. For example, as a leader in the customer engagement space, Genesys uses AI to route calls, creating customer and representative match-ups that are most likely to achieve positive results based on the attributes of each customer.
Jack shares about their growth from product discovery to finding product-market fit to scaling the product, to now - enterprise maturity. While it was a hard decision to make at the time, Jack explains that the team's decision to focus on the security and stability of the product before moving on to building new features allowed them to scale successfully.
We also get a glimpse into prototyping and scaling telephony products at an enterprise level within regulated environments. Jack shares the pros and cons of these challenges: the process of releasing new features is time-intensive, but it also leads to confidence that what's been released is rock-solid by the time it gets to users.
As we wrap up our talk, Jack shares the importance of listening to customers and Genesys' plans to gather in-depth user feedback on the product.
You can find more information about this podcast at sep.com/podcast and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!
Zac Darnell: Welcome to Behind The Product, a podcast by SEP. Where we believe it takes more than a great idea to make a great product. We've been around for over 30 years, building software that matters more. We've set out to explore the people, practices and philosophies to try and capture what's behind great software products. Join us on this journey of conversation with the folks that bring ideas to life. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Behind The Product. As always, I'm your host, Zac Darnell. Joining me as my co- host for the show, Matt Swanson. Matt, how are you my friend?
Matt Swanson: Doing good. How are you?
Zac Darnell: Doing very well. You helped kick off this show by doing our first episode with me, and I appreciate you coming back and joining me for another. We had Jack Nichols, the VP of Product over at Genesys as our guest. I'm curious, Matt, what were some of the highlights from our conversation with Jack that you found most interesting?
Matt Swanson: I came into this not really knowing much about telephony space or any of the work that Jack has done. It was really an interesting learning experience for me to take a look and see what parallels I could draw between something that I am more familiar with, like web development and how the thinking goes in his space. Things like how do they think about building APIs and platforms and how do they position their offering. Then what do they see the future being with things like machine learning and AI and what new integrations they're seeing?
Zac Darnell: I thought that was really interesting too, the way that they're thinking about applying AI into that vertical. The other thing that stuck out to me, I feel like we talk about this a lot with our clients, around testing, validating, prototyping new ideas. I feel like normally we don't have to deal with too terribly many constraints, especially on the prototyping side. I feel like you have spun up, click up the prototype or even just a codified prototype relatively quickly in a web browser and you can go out and have somebody poke at it. Jack talked a lot about how there are regulatory and telephony constraints in their industry, where they actually have to provision circuits and phone numbers and a lot of things that add more complexity to their ability to test and validate and prototype quickly. I don't know. Have you seen that in other areas? Was that surprising to you?
Matt Swanson: Yeah, and I think anytime you start dealing with the intersection between software and the real world, that's where I think you can run into these problems where there's just more consideration that needs to be done. It's not to say that you can't do any prototyping or limited rollouts or testing. It's just a little bit more involved.
Zac Darnell: That's a good point.
Matt Swanson: I'm thinking back to a project I worked on and the customer was interested in doing some feature where you could call a doctor and get a quick consult instead of scheduling a whole appointment. It was so onerous to really get that whole process set up, then what they actually did, a prototype it was when you click that feature, it would just pop up and it had the doctor's cell phone number on the screen there and you would just call them directly.
Zac Darnell: There was a way to make it easy and simple, right?
Matt Swanson: Yeah, I know. Now, obviously that's not the long- term solution and then once they validated that people were calling this or nobody was using it, then they can make a better decision whether that's integrating some platform like Genesys has or deciding that maybe the resources are best spent elsewhere. Zack, one of the things that you have maybe more experienced than I do is working in these bigger enterprise companies or at least seeing companies transition from startup to scale up to full- blown enterprise. Were there anything stood out to you?
Zac Darnell: Well, Jack and I worked together a few years ago when it was still interactive and I love that he's been there from the time that pure cloud was a very small idea, an opportunity inside of interactive to now it being the enterprise product suite and loved hearing about his journey through that I left a few years after this. I think it was great to hear some of the insights and things that he learned, challenges, et cetera, so I think that's a really fun part of this conversation.
Matt Swanson: It was probably nice to be able to catch up with a former coworker and see how things ended up.
Zac Darnell: It was like, " Oh, for once in not very often, I get to feel like I know what I'm talking about for just a few minutes." It was almost reminiscent for me, so it was nice. I guess with that, Matt, thank you so much for joining me again as our cohost, and I guess we'll get into the show. Hey everybody. Welcome to the show. Hey Matt, how you doing buddy?
Matt Swanson: Hey Zac. How's it going?
Zac Darnell: It's going well. Matt, thank you for joining me as a co- host again. I think it's been about 10 shows since you've been on here. You kicked us off earlier last year, so I'm really excited that you came back with us. Our guest today is Mr. Jack Nichols, VP of Product over at Genesys. How are you doing man?
Jack Nichols: Not too bad. How are you doing Zac, Matt? Good to chat today.
Zac Darnell: Doing well. Jack, really quick, you and I worked together a long time ago, so I know a little bit about you, but just to level set for anybody that doesn't know you or Genesys, tell us a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit about Genesys.
Jack Nichols: A little about me. Today I am the Vice President of Product with our Genesys Cloud business unit. My teams focus on what we call our composable CX platform, so everything from developer interfaces and ecosystem to our integrations, our strategic partnerships and then marketplace. We've built and manage our marketplace from end to end, so a lot of really cool fun stuff. I'm a startup guy at heart, so for those areas I love working with developers. I love working with these smaller companies that are getting into our marketplace and using us really catapult and build their business, so it's really fun to be able to do all those things. You mentioned a little bit about Genesys, so for those that aren't familiar with Genesys, Genesys we are the leader in the customer engagement space, so customer service, customer engagement and really establishing ourselves as what we see emerging, what we call experiences of service. Pretty much, if you've talked to a big brand in the world, you've emailed them, you've called them, you've chatted online with them, you're probably using our technology between us and that brand, so that's really... For me that's what we really excel at, is connecting consumers and brands together to help make that better experience. Because we've all had that horrible customer experience before and we try to make those things much better.
Zac Darnell: Very much so. I had one yesterday, so I'm looking forward to them getting whatever they have in there today and switch it out to you guys.
Jack Nichols: Absolutely.
Zac Darnell: Tell us really quick, when you talk about engagement as a service, pull maybe the top three to five things inside of that product suite to help people better understand when they think about engagement, it's more than just calling into a contact center.
Jack Nichols: When we think of it, we call it experience as a service is what we're seeing everything move towards. But within that, to your point, there's what we call customer engagement, which is how do you engage with your customers? Historically, it's always been reactive. If you think about history, you have a problem, you pick up the phone, you call. You have a problem, you send an email and it's still a lot of that. But what we're seeing is when it comes to customer engagement is it's not only reactive but how do you get proactive? Really now what we're starting to focus on with AI is how do you get more predictive on that? If for example, we released some new products around, if Zac's on my website and I know information about Zac. I know that maybe he was part of a campaign, maybe he called in recently and wasn't happy about something. How do I engage with Zac maybe on that web experience? Really turn them around from being a potentially a detractor from their brand to more of a positive experience on that. That's one of the areas we focus in with that experience as a service. The other part is we focus on the employee experience. We think this is a key element, is not just thinking about how does a brand interface with their customers, but how does that employee interface with their customers? If you think about when they're using online, they're logged in, they're handling a lot of times, maybe not so happy customers in a lot of cases, how do we build the tools to make them more successful? How do we make them be able to operate a little bit more effectively and handle the ever-growing load of volume of work that folks are having. We all see that the volume of work has gone up, especially with COVID. You've seen more and more customer interactions and we've seen these contact centers just explode with customers reaching in, how do I change my flight? What happens to the cruise I'd booked? So we build a lot of the tools to help how to train these agents, how to manage their day-to-day and how to make it a little bit less painful for them as they're navigating and making these customers happy to also make sure they don't have that issue of being just walking away exhausted every day.
Zac Darnell: Really quick more context, you've been at Interactive for what? About a little 10 years now? Give or take. Sorry, Genesys.
Jack Nichols: No, no. Yeah, because we were both that Interactive at the same time. I've been started with Interactive about almost nine years ago now, and then had been here through the acquisition of Genesys. Started with Interactive back in the days we call CaaS, or Communications as a Service, which is where Zac and I worked together. Came in their very early days. I joined CaaS when it was about$ 8 million business. It had gone through three iterations of life, I'd call it. It started off as a DR Solution and moved into a managed hosted solution and then it moved into more of what I call first- generation cloud solution, which is when I joined the team, so it was great to be part of that.
Zac Darnell: Then you've been there with the early days of PureCloud as well, all the way through to it now being the enterprise product suite.
Jack Nichols: Yeah, it's been really fun to see it go. I was lucky enough to be part of a SWAT group that was brought in by the CEO at the time, Don Brown, when he said, " I think we have something of this R and D project we've been working on that we could actually turn into a product." He brought a bunch of us that had been in CaaS and had made good and lots of bad decisions, so we had the battle scars of knowing what was going to work and what wasn't, and brought us over to be the initial team outside of development. We did pretty much anything and everything from product manuals to figure out how we should onboard customers to building pricing models, to actually doing field enabling. I spent a lot of time traveling the country early days, just talking with executives on why is this new platform going to be great? What are the problems they are having that we need to solve in it, and really exciting times.
Matt Swanson: I think it's interesting because telephones, I think a lot of nowadays think of them as an old school technology. I'm curious, what was the reception like in those early days when you were trying to internetfy phones and phone systems and bring software? I know software has been in forms probably for a lot longer than people think, but what was that environment like at the start?
Jack Nichols: It's funny because as much as I love all digital technologies, I like to connect on Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp and you're seeing that more and more with the younger group. There's also this core need for a lot of businesses still just to have that telephony presence, to have that telephone line. Now, I think that's morphing more and more because they're expected. It's not just a dumb PSTN line anymore. They're expecting when there's a call in that there's more contextual pieces and it's almost becoming a digital interaction in some ways because if I click to dial in my cell phone, companies expect certain information to be pulled over from what was I doing in the app and that happened? Those pieces. I think the criticality is interesting also, because if someone picks up the phone, you can imagine this as a consumer, someone picks up the phone and calls you, they expect, one, not to be waiting a long time, and two, for whoever gets on the phone to solve their problem. Because it's easy to send an email and you're a little bit more forgiving if you have to go back and forth because more of an asynchronous communication, I can send it, I can get to it later. But if I'm spending my time to be on the phone, I expect you to get someone that can solve my problem, so for me, we've seen the urgency and the value of the phone call go way up of what the expectation is versus when it was just, the only way to contact someone was to call them on the phone.
Matt Swanson: Do you find often that businesses, that telephony and the communications, is it one of the first things that they're trying to digitize or is it one of the last things?
Jack Nichols: I think what we're finding is it becomes the entry point for a lot of customers. They start off and say, " Look, we have to have a rock solid phone experience.: If someone calls into us, if I call into, you think about it, if you're trying to call into, we'll say your airline and change it, that phone experience has to be rock solid. There's a lot of effort put into that upfront to make sure that's good. I think a lot of companies as new technologies have come on, what they've ended up having, and this is where I think we have this great benefit, is they have this dysfunctional fragmented experience because ultimately, they had a telephony from an old legacy, Avaya system. Avaya is drowned up, but they had an old legacy Avaya. Then they bought a different solution to handle email. Then they bought a different web solution to handle web chat. Then they went and built their own mobile experience and those are all disjointed experiences. I think when they go to look and say, "How do I truly transform and harmonize?" They look and say, "Okay, well we need to make a rock solid voice experience. Now we need to layer those other pieces into that so that if Zac wants to send an email and need something that can basically change from being an email right to a phone call." We're seeing that need more and more where maybe there's certain things I could do, but I want to be able to have a phone call to finish up the piece, or I need to call Zac and get a very critical piece of information that maybe he doesn't want to put in a chat box. We're seeing that ability to switch between things come up more and more, and you have to have a single customer engagement system to really be able to accomplish some of those things.
Matt Swanson: I'm really curious, let's say that I either I have a business or I'm a product developer myself and we're trying to integrate some of these chat or phone or things that Genesys provides, how should I be thinking about Genesys? Should it be more like, this is the AWS of communication stuff? Or is it more like a no-code marketplace where we're dropping in chat widgets or all the above?
Jack Nichols: It's interesting, because we just actually went through a whole exercise with our marketing team at the end of last year. What we found was really our strength is we have... we as we joked, we have a leg in both camps. We see the need for customers to be able to consume things very quick and easy. You don't want to build the basics. I think that's where, if you look at some of the communications providers out there that just offer, I'll call it role, telephony, APIs and things like that, you have to build so much of it just to get the basics versus, with our platform, we give you all the core fundamentals. I always say, we give you the 80% of the box, and then we give you all the APIs, all the SDKs, all the pieces to be able to extend that 80% so you can create that 20% customized true great experience. Because we think about a lot of stuff. Your house, think about houses. A lot of times there's 80% of them. Hey, here's the five, I have those to choose from that Pulte gives you, then you do the 20% of customizing your paint colors and the pieces inside. That's what truly makes that house your home, which is I think a good analogy for how I think of it.
Matt Swanson: When I think about it, it's like our product maybe wants to send someone a notification via text message. I don't necessarily want to be dealing with provisioning phone numbers and doing all that stuff. I just want to send somebody a text message so it sounds like that's the abstraction that they're going for. While still having rock solid infrastructure underneath it all so that you don't have to worry about it as the developers consuming.
Jack Nichols: I'd say even where we see it a lot is you as a developer, we were talking about before we started this, you want to be able to send a notification out because you need to be able to do that within your application. The business wants to make sure that if you send a notification to Zac, when Zac calls in, that they're aware of that notification and I think that's where our platform exceeds. Because if you go with a CPaaS, Communications Platform as a Service where it's just, "Hey, here's a role API for SMS or API for a voice call." You lose that context and you lose that customer journey where we have found our value, where we think there's value is, "Hey, we want to give you the API so that you as a developer, you can send that SMS notification. But we want to make sure the business, when Zac calls in after he gets that, has the context of all the communications along with that SMS that came from you in their understanding of why he might be calling in to deal with that brand."
Zac Darnell: I'm thinking about the last nine years, and Jack, you talked about early on in the PureCloud days being added to the SWAT team. Was there a point in time where that group were recognized that PureCloud was the future? I would imagine that wasn't immediate. Sure, hey, we see an opportunity here. But we've got... At the time we were what, 15- ish years old as a company, almost 20 years old as a company. Been around, done a few things, two primary platforms with CIC and CaaS, two different main offerings there that have been proven. At what point in time do you feel like there was this recognition like yeah, you know what, PureCloud is the future?
Jack Nichols: It's come in so many different iterations because I think there was also, as Interactive got acquired by Genesys, we almost had to hit a reboot on that whole journey of saying, yeah, PureCloud is the future. I think Interactive was starting to see it at the time, and really it was phase one when we came in as a SWAT team. It was we started thinking, we think there's something here and we're investigating. We're still looking for that product market fit, I'll call it. Early, early days we had what we called the road to 25, which was how do we get our first 25 customers in six months? Which is comical today because we probably sign 25 customers in a week now. But it was, how do we get 25 customers? There's a lot of learning. How do we onboard them? What features are we missing? For me it was a lot of feature fit discovery to make sure we actually had the right features to take to market that we'd actually have a buyable product. I'd say we had that and when we GAID, I always go back to the LinkedIn quote of, if you're proud of your product when you GAID then you waited too long, and I look back now. Man, we were so not ready, but we had customers and we believe what we were doing was going to be the right way to go. I think it took a few more years from there to be honest, probably another two years for us to truly say, Hey, we've hit the mark. We're growing like weed. We brought on these customers. We're making them happy. Which was slowed down a little bit because of the acquisition at the time and I think that again, like I said, it hit reboot a little bit. When we came in, one of the best things that happened was when we got acquired, a gentleman named Dpocket Bonnie stepped in from, he was on the board, stepped in to say, " Hey, I want to protect this because we weren't quite there yet, to be honest. We believe we had something we were all drinking, the Kool- Aid that were part of that." But the larger organization was like, " I'm not sure if there's something there yet." He said, " No, I think there's something there yet. They just need a little bit more time." He came in and gave us the time we needed to really spend that first year after acquisition to really get our footing under the ground and really start to see that it was growing. Then I think the business started seeing, "Hey, we're seeing a change in the market of where customers are." I think that was a big piece of that for us, was all sudden when the customers started changing their stance, it wasn't just us trying to sell a product. Was the customer saying, "No, I like the attributes of what's going on over here. They're not quite there but I'm willing to buy into that vision because I believe they're going to be able to get me where I want to go." I think that was one of those moments where we started hearing these customers talk about, "You're still missing these key features, we still need this, but we believe in where you're going is the right place to go. We're willing to go on that journey with you." I think that's a true validation point where you're like, "We have something because customers are now believing in it also."
Zac Darnell: Do you feel like there were maybe some specific markers. I'm not necessarily thinking either metrics or KPIs, but maybe markers is the best description I can think of off the top of my head here. That you guys were having your finger on the pulse of to help influence some of that. You mentioned customers being bought into a vision, you mentioned shifts in the market. Do you remember what some of those specifics
Jack Nichols: If I think back, I can think of almost three main phases, maybe four if you want to break one of them up, where I see them as our maturity curve being at. If I want to look at it from that, it's almost the phases I think of them in a maturity level. That first phase, PureCloud, the earlier stage was just figuring out, do we have something here? Call it, say product discovery. Phase two, you're going to break that first phase into two, that do we have something here product discovery? Phase two was, how do we get to product market fit? Which was we're still reaching for every sale we could get, we're still pitching the vision and selling more on the vision that really what we could do and listening to customers to direct us. Then we moved into what I'll call phase three, which was really starting to scale. I say that because that's where we started seeing some early technical decisions as a product manager, that became an appeasement for us to scale. We had to figure that out. I can remember this the entire time when we actually, for a given time, we stopped our roadmap said, " You know what? We're only going to roll out a couple of key features. We're going to focus all on stability and how we scale this platform because we see people are starting to come here. We're starting to have to chase them less. They're coming to us. We've got to stop on some of the feature work and make sure we're ready for this next level of customer load that's going to come in." It was a hard decision at the time. Our GM at the time, Olivia Ju made that decision and it was hard to swallow even as a product manager, as you can imagine. Because half the fun of being a product manager is being able to get features out to customers and see them using what you thought they would use and all those pieces. But we really came together as a team to do that and it's paid off because it's a lot of our platform to scale just exponentially last year, as we brought on users. I'd say, we're just now this year moving into what I'd say, the fourth phase, which is really enterprise maturity. When you're working with customers of a certain size, they're willing to change some of their processes. They're wanting to work with you more. They have less compliance and regulatory oversight and needs. We've moved now into the enterprise side of the house and I think we're going through another maturity curve right now of, how do we mature to be able to handle these large contact centers, 30, 50, 000 agents? What features do they need from a product? What are the fit and finished items? What are the compliance regulatory, where the things before where you say that's great, but a lot of these companies have internal compliance and regulatory boards they have to report into. We've been learning a lot very quickly on how to service that. We hit that scale piece and now we had the main features. Now it's like, how do we come up with that fit and finish elements that we need to really truly make sure this thing can hum for those large customers?
Matt Swanson: Going through those phases is sounds like it's a fairly common practice among software products in general. I'd be curious, I know that when it comes to something like, let's say we were just making a web application, we've got tools like Google analytics and we can record user sessions and things like that. In a place where so much of the product has an interface with humans or the physical world, whether that's somebody getting a text message or somebody calling in, are there any challenges that you have that are unique to the industry when it comes to doing user testing or getting feedback or collecting metrics, or are there any metrics that maybe would surprise us as outsiders to the industry that are really key when it comes to determining whether or not a product offering is catching on?
Jack Nichols: It's definitely, we value the metrics and we look at a lot of different metrics to your point. We started off early days with Pendo using that to be able to track what customers and agents were doing. I think a unique situation we have is we are in customers, we have supervisors that have a certain expectation. You have contact center managers, sorry I couldn't get that out, that have a certain expectation. But then the challenge is I really need to get down to that agent level. While agents are all based upon utilization, they're usually paid by the hour. To get feedback from agents can be very challenging because you have to figure out, how do I find a customer that's willing to give me access to that agent and take them off, potentially taking revenue- generating calls, taking customer calls to be able to give me feedback. We've had to figure out lots of ways to start to, how do we track that better? How do we look at things from the UI? How do we use things, tools like New Relic to use, since we're all for a full API first shop, we can start to track at least API behavior and what are they clicking? What are they doing based upon that? What screen do they go from here to here on, and be able to use some of that a little bit more effectively? With that phase four maturity, we're actually getting ready to start up a sponsored user group to try to get more access to those individuals and find ways to get more feedback. We have great systematic feedback and I think that gets you so far. The next thing is we want to figure out more and more of shadowing a user and shadowing agents to make sure we can understand exactly what they're doing in that context.
Matt Swanson: That's interesting. I'm trying to imagine, how do you prototype some of these experiments when you're doing it? It feels like there's a lot more startup costs or set up that needs to be done to provision phone numbers and hook into systems. Whereas in just more of a pure software environment, we can do mock- ups or paper prototypes or make a clickable prototype, or we can throw crappy first draft up on a webpage. Especially since you deal with a lot more enterprise level customers, are there any particular techniques that you've used in the past?
Jack Nichols: No, it's definitely an interesting situation, because to your point, it's easy to do a UI mock- up and pass that across folks. But when you think about the fact, " Well they have to order the carrier." Zac can probably remember these from early CaaS days because crosstalk-
Zac Darnell: I do actually. You're bringing back some interesting memories, when we were trying this in the early days.
Jack Nichols: I can see flinching. One of the things that we actually instituted last year, which I think has actually been a big help, is we've brought on to more design thinking, RGM, again as we were hitting that phase three maturity, I said, " Okay, for us to really think about the next level and make sure we're thinking about that end- to- end customer experience from, ordering circus to ordering numbers, all those kinds of pieces." We started moving more and more towards design thinking frameworks and studying the customer journey, understanding things outside of our platform. Because to your point, think about employee experience is a big part of ours. Well, what's an employee experience. When I hire a new agent, how do I onboard them? How do I train them? What systems do they need access to? How do I teach them best scheduling? There's all these things that are involved with that journey that agent goes on before they can even take that first phone call or chat or message. I think that that design thinking framework has helped us start to really open up more thinking about things that happen, not only in our platform, how people interface, but what are things that are happening outside of our platform that we need to think about as it pertains to that journey.
Matt Swanson: I'm curious if you could talk a little bit, if it's at all interesting, on what's the process of actually provisioning a telephone number versus a website domain? Are there people that are squatting good telephone numbers? Do they sell at auction, if you have like 1800 pizza pies or something, is that worth millions of dollars like pizza. com would be in the web sense?
Jack Nichols: There are definitely a vanity numbers out there that are of value. You're correct. The good part is I'd say Telephony has gotten easier, more of the telephony providers and you go back 10 years ago when I was working a lot more directly with telephony providers, if I wanted to get a phone number, I had to get a workbook, I had to fill it out, I had to put all this information, I'd send it off to them and it would take weeks, sometimes months. Take forever to get those things provision. Now most of them are moved more towards APIs, so in our platform, we are a U. S. carrier, so we have what we call an interconnected voice providers. We actually have multiple carriers that we write on top of. Then we have number pools that we purchased or are available via APIs. That's part of the making life easier, getting rid of the need to have someone like a Zac sit there and order all your phone numbers, so you can actually go right inside of our UI now and type in any number. If you're looking for a any number, and you can click purchase it and have it activated in one minute or less.
Zac Darnell: Are we close to running out of phone numbers?
Jack Nichols: I don't know that one, to be honest. I think when you think about 800 numbers, that's where they've had to introduce 800, then 801 numbers and adding. There's different pieces but there is a finite amount of numbers. I think that if think about the portability that was created around cell phones, I think that's helped. Because now it's not like I have to go and get a new number. I can port that number everywhere I want. There's definitely a limit when some folks are wanting to get large, large amounts of numbers. I've talked to customers before that had 50, 000 phone numbers base and are holding onto them because they see that that potentially coming down the pipe.
Matt Swanson: It's interesting. I imagine you have to deal probably with similar to sending emails and email server like IP addresses, where you get a phone number that gets blocked because somebody was using it to send political donation message or a spam message or something and now that one goes back into the pool and then someone else picks it up later.
Jack Nichols: Yes. Regulatory and compliance is something we have to keep on top of for phone numbers. To your point, we also do a lot of email traffic on there, so you can imagine, since we have outbound capabilities where someone can start a campaign, we have to be able to be very careful on all those pieces and what they can do and we have to make sure our customers are very aware of the compliance and regulatory environment surrounding some of those pieces.
Matt Swanson: Do you have to take any special precautions when you're building new products and prototyping to keep them in a sandbox or something so that you stay in compliance with all that when you may be not ready to go full enterprise mode. I'm imagining that could be a burden if you're trying to prototype a new product line or do something like that.
Jack Nichols: For us actually, I have to go through all that even if I want to get it into more of a prototyping stage. We've integrated security and compliance in our feature development and release process. They are engaged from the early, early days on. When we go and have something we're going to prototype, they're looking at it, we have to go through architectural reviews. It goes through a compliance review and then we engage with them the entire time we develop that feature. Then it's part of our actual ability to release. Even if I want to go into beta on something in our production environment, because the way our CICD pipeline works, we have our development environment, our testing environment and then our production environment. For me to put something in that production environment where a customer can touch it, I have to go through all those pieces anyway, Since I am running a cloud platform, anything that's in that production environment is subject to our compliance and regulatory requirements. It can make it more challenging to be able to do some of those things, is the short answer.
Matt Swanson: It seems like it could be both a benefit and a detriment, in that it maybe is a little bit harder to get things up and running a from scratch. But at the same time, maybe that is providing you with a little bit of a moat that there's a lot of regulations that need to be dealt with and you all have years and years of handling it. What might be a huge issue for somebody that's just getting started is par for the course?
Jack Nichols: No definitely, we matured into a lot of this. We luckily set up a few things again, from our learnings in the early CaaS days. We set up a few of these pieces up front and then we continued to iterate and build on them, so to the point we get our process. Because when you're running a cloud with ours, where you've got hundreds of thousands of daily active users on it that are doing it for mission critical business, anything that goes in that production environment has to be just completely rock solid. Even if it's a beta feature that customers really, really want, we've got to make sure it's not going to cause any problems. Our mantra started by our Head of Product Mike Szilagyi, which is our watcher has always priority. Number one is security. Secondary is stability and third is features. That's how we prioritize all of our work across the platform.
Matt Swanson: It's interesting. It reminds me, it's almost like you're taking the stance of a utility company. It's most important to keep power on and the phones ringing versus maybe adding more bells and whistles.
Jack Nichols: Fastest, most nimble, agile utility company you've ever met.
Matt Swanson: Digital utilities for the modern world.
Zac Darnell: That's right. It's funny you were asking earlier, Matt, quick fun fact, you're talking about running out of numbers. I don't know if you know this, but four years ago, five years ago, Indianapolis has a new area code prefix 463. We started to run out of 317 area code number options here in the Indianapolis regional area, and then now you can get 463.
Matt Swanson: It's sad a little piece of the culture is being removed.
Jack Nichols: I don't know. I haven't seen any glasses that say 463. They all say 317 still.
Zac Darnell: That's true. Here maybe in 10 or 20 years, Matt, you could sell your 317 vanity number and make a little money off of it.
Matt Swanson: Yeah. Phone number, full thing instead of domain crosstalk-
Zac Darnell: Phone number, full thing. There you go.
Matt Swanson: Sure someone's doing it.
Zac Darnell: I sure.
Matt Swanson: I know we talked a little bit about AI and some of the futures, things that are coming there. I know I've seen some articles about software that can listen in and record sales calls and do analysis to say like, " Hey, we see that when you say these words or use these phrases, your close rate is going down." What are some other things that you're either seeing now or you're seeing customers are working on that will be released in the next year or two here, that people would be surprised that you can do that kind of stuff with a phone?
Jack Nichols: AI has been a big area. We've invested in many companies to be transparent. One of the coolest things I think we've actually are getting ready to release is what we call predictive routing. It's going to be our first release so it's going to have a few use cases. But really, it's saying, "How do I know about Zac as a consumer? How do I know about all my agents and I can use that to optimize my routing of who I Zac with to drive an outcome." For example, we have what's called, average handle time. How long someone is usually on the phone. If I want to optimize for how long my agent are on, I can say, look at all my agents, look at all their interactions, look at all the consumers they interacted with that had the same attributes as Zac, and then try to determine which one is going to have the best optimization there. That's just a single example, and we're working on a lot more. We've got three phases of new use cases there to optimize around, hey, Matt's called in. That looks like Matt. Should I connect with an agent and say, here's all the attributes of Matt. Here's the agent that usually closes customers that look like that the best, has that close rate and make sure I'm routing you to that person, not just who's too available.
Matt Swanson: It's almost like the urban legend that there's some magic phrase you can say when you call your internet provider to say, no, I'm a technical person. Can you please help me reset my Mac address or something instead of walking through plugging it in and turning it on again.
Jack Nichols: It's going to be interesting because there's also things, people are setting up more topic spotting and trying to model and say, okay, look for these three words in all these calls and figure out if there's a trend going on within your engagements. Say if you think about someone like a Microsoft of the world, they want to be watching all those calls and all those emails and look for trends because maybe there's a defect or there's a bug or there's a outage happening on the network and they will be able to monitor everything that's happening in that customer experience side to be able to identify those trends and those things happening quickly. There's lots of really cool things there.
Matt Swanson: That'd be awesome if I could imagine a future where I get an automated report and it's got attached, this many support calls came in and here's maybe a sample recording, so I can listen to the customer call and say, here's how they were reproducing this or something.
Jack Nichols: It sounds like you need to get that patented really quickly and sell it off to Atlassian.
Zac Darnell: If anyone from Atlassian is listening to the show, we set it first. All right, so Jack, just hearing about everything that you've got going on and especially over the last nine years, is there some practical advice? Because PureCloud and CaaS were really these internal startups inside of this time. I started, I think we were a little over 1, 000 people. Now I'm sure Genesis is what 5, 000 or so. A very large enterprise, that's not terribly uncommon in that there's fledgling products inside of these large well- established companies. But oftentimes I feel like I read about this all the time. They get absorbed into the business and get demolished or they get shelved or it just doesn't pan out. You've got a great success story here with the PureCloud offering. What are some of the wisdoms or advice that you would give that's embarking on that journey or involved in the machine?
Jack Nichols: Number one I get asked a lot of times, to be successful in product or how have you been successful. I always say there's two things that have always, actually probably three things that always made me successful. One, talking to customers and listening. Any good idea I've ever captured or my ever patent, it came from listening to customers and hearing what challenges they're solving, what keeps them up at night, what are the business problems that they need to truly solve. I think that there's still... You hear everyone talk about that, listen to customers, but I still see so many times where companies don't do that. They don't spend as much time talking and listening to customers because you get bogged down. You get caught up in the day-to-day, you get caught up in the escalations and trying to get product out the door, and you forget about just the true value and insight you get from just talking with customers. Not emailing with them, getting on a phone call or Zoom, I guess nowadays, and actually spending time with them. I think that's a key thing for everything. The other piece for me as growing my career, that my success has come from two places. For one, having great mentors and great coaches above me. It's easy to have a little bit of a hard head sometimes to say, "I'm amazing and I'm going to do this on my own." I've had so many great mentors that have helped grow me and give me ideas and widen my view of the world in a lot of ways. I think that's been a huge thing. Then on the flip side, I've always found that if I surround myself or my teams with people that are much smarter than me, that's always going to be beneficial. I have the most amazing Product team right now. It's not that Jack is super smart and amazing. It's that I have amazing people that are on the team and they tell me what we need to do. I help give them the runway, I open up the ways for them to be successful. I try to connect them in the right ways, but ultimately it's because they are so amazing. That has helped make our team amazing and actually deploy the things we've done and actually developed a new products within our to release.
Zac Darnell: I couldn't agree more with that philosophy and definitely share those feelings, man. Jack, I greatly appreciate your time with us. You have brought me back into a world that I've not been a part of for many years and I promise not all of it was traumatic. A lot of it was really, really good, so I appreciate you being here and telling us about what you've got going on and I'm sure fun things that are coming here soon. I'm sure it has not slowed down for you guys here recently.
Jack Nichols: No, it has not. It's been great to catch up with you. It brings back fond memories. We've always had great teams and great times as we built businesses.
Zac Darnell: I agree. Thank you my friend, so much.
Jack Nichols: Thanks for having me.
Zac Darnell: I'm Zac Darnell and this is Behind The Product, an original podcast by SEP. You can find more about us at sep. com/ podcast, and subscribe wherever you get your shows. Thank you so much for listening. See you next time.