You’ve already made a considerable impact on how brands engage with their customers, what’s next for Freespee?
CH: We’re at a stage of international growth at Freespee – which can expose the team to significant challenges. That being said, the addition of scale-up experts like Anne de Kerckhove and Dominic Ely to the executive team – is a step towards contributing positive change to the multi-billion heavy communication tech stack.
Personally, I’m now able to do what I love and focus on the product more, especially regarding solutions to our customer’s problems two to three years in the future. Conversational user interfaces, like messaging apps, are growing quicker than social media interfaces. The impact is already considerable in private communication (friends and family) but has hardly started in B2C communication threads.
In 2017 we began to see some early trials on new ways to interact with businesses. Facebook wants their users to communicate with their bank through Messenger; Amazon took the chance to introduce voice-controlled shopping through Alexa for basic in-app purchases. Eventually, it means that the big three – Facebook, Amazon, and Google are investing in a future where consumers use their voice more frequently to interact with both machines and humans. This process is referred to as “conversational commerce.”
I believe Freespee is ahead of the curve, and we will accelerate our investments with the goal of embedding AI and machine learning into B2C communication.
How do you see the problem of connecting with customers, as compared to when you began Freespee?
CH: When we started Freespee, the first use case on our open communication platform that gained traction was our call analytics application. The perception in the market at the time was that consumers don’t want to talk to brands anymore, but that has changed with data-driven marketing. With the visibility that data tools introduced to marketers, they realised that digital consumers are more communication-intensive than in-store shoppers. The internet isn’t a tactile forum, so the number of questions you have before deciding to purchase is even higher than for in-store shopping.
But we’ve also got this paradox where, as consumers, we’re becoming less loyal to brands; the internet is influencing and enlightening us. A decade ago, my influencer was a friend, a family member. Now, influencers are more prolific. With less loyalty, the expectations from consumers increase. We’re never more than a click away from buying from someone else.
We need to help brands respond to that behavioural change by offering communication experiences that match the expectations of consumers tomorrow, not yesterday.
What is the most important lesson you learned through the years bringing Freespee to life?
CH: I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that success comes from focus and obsession. If you’re obsessed with customer satisfaction and building a great product that solves their problem, you will develop a great company. If you have an obsession with your core offering, and you build a team with the same passion, then you can endure pretty much anything the world throws at you.
Which Freespee breakthroughs are you most proud of?
CH: I’m most proud of our amazing team. Our offices have grown throughout Europe: London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, and Uppsala. It’s this team that global brands choose to trust. Our customer roster is unbelievable, for being a 70-people collective.
What do you think the future of customer communication looks like?
CH: I think the future is going to be increasingly consumer-centric, rather than brand-centric. It’s up to the consumer to decide how they want to speak to the brand; if I want to chat, talk or message. Brands are increasingly going to suffer if they are not available in the channel that the customer wants to speak in. You hear all the time that consumer expectations have changed and it’s no different in the communication space.
The enterprise communication software needs to be built like a consumer product – there’s two in the conversation, the consumer and the brand. Legacy contact centre platforms are built for the brand, not the consumer. This will change, and it will be a wake-up call for the tech industry.