The Automotive Industry’s New Road to Success; Sharing their Narrative for Change with Customers

Freespee diversity & technology in automotive industry

Findings from the Freespee and Fidelio roundtable during the Automotive in the Extinction Rebellion World: How Diversity and Innovation can Contribute to the Industry’s Response to Climate Change’. 

The automotive industry is going through a period of huge transformation where more innovation, new skill sets, and greater diversity will be essential for success. Automotive firms are required to listen to the customer voice, make this voice the epicentre of all their  strategies, their narratives, and future plans. 

Last month, a select number of leading C-level automotive industry professionals invited by Freespee CEO, Anne de Kerckhove, and Fidelio Co-Founder and Head of Chair & Board Practice, Gillian Karran-Cumberlege met at the ‘Automotive in the Extinction Rebellion World: How Diversity and Innovation can Contribute to the Industry’s Response to Climate Change’ event. 

The topic of the day revolved around climate change and how the industry can fit within that new narrative. It became apparent that each OEM must develop their new narratives by listening attentively to the customer voice — and always focusing on customers when making decisions.

Consumers and climate change: Are Electric Vehicles their only alternative?

The recent valuation of Tesla, now second most valuable brand behind Toyota, has confirmed the importance of a strong narrative in the automotive industry, despite Tesla selling just 0.4m cars last year compared to Toyota’s 10.7m. Several of the participants questioned the valuation and raised concerns about the steps taken by some governments who have brought forward plans to ban the sale of any vehicles other than electric vehicles (EV)s.  According to these participants, battery-powered cars are not the only way to reduce carbon footprint and other technologies, such as hydrogen should also be considered.  

Whilst the perceived valuation of native EV brands and their products paints the picture of a promising future, industry and governments have a huge challenge ahead to ensure wider adoption in the short term. Limitations on the EV charging infrastructure, high price tags, short battery life, the inconvenience of charging from home and unclear regulations are all blockers for mass adoption. It will be down to ‘Fast Follower’ OEMs’ and governments’ support that will transform the EV industry into a mass production business that caters for the remaining 99% of the population.

Finding a ‘New North Star’ – How ‘Fast Followers’ Will be Able to Innovate.

Whilst there are clear challenges to wider electric car adoption, it is undeniable that Tesla, the 17 year-old California-based company market disruptor, owes much of its success and mesmerising growth in value to their strong narrative. 

They are evangelists for climate change, deeply connected with their audience and can be seen as both, an automotive manufacturer and a tech company. Their customer experience sets a modern benchmark; knitting together personalisation at scale, speed, and convenience and has become an aspirational model appreciated by consumers around the world. However, Tesla is still perceived as elitist to some, and both the digital and automotive industries are still very much male-dominated businesses that lack diversity.

During the event, participants highlighted how the traditional automotive groups and brands lack this type of strong narrative, which is preventing them from innovating and turning them into ‘fast followers’. Defining a new narrative that can reflect the need for innovation will require new leadership, new skill sets, and new partnerships with cities, governments, and stakeholders across the value chain. Binding it all together is the voice of the customer, which will help each OEM find their market niche.

OEMs are not finding innovation easy because as an industry that has operated in the same way for over 50 years, they don’t know where to start. Some of the suggestions raised included creating a global consortium of professionals, from every part of the value chain, to help the industry navigate future challenges, requirements, and limitations and, also, identifying tools to collect customer data and harness insights to enrich their narratives and influence decision making, both internally but also externally, at government level. But above all OEM’s must focus on defining their new North Star and ambition.

How will greater diversity at the Workplace and among Stakeholders help?

The automotive customer landscape has changed dramatically. 30 years ago, the buyer profile was predominantly male. Today women make 85% of the buying decisions (Automotive News, 2018) and hold 51% of vehicle licenses in the UK.

Despite women’s decision-making power, the industry has ignored this new reality. Cars are still designed for men, putting women in a vulnerable situation. As a result of this, women are 73% more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in car accidents.

Diversity has not reached the workplace either. Initiatives like Automotive 30% are working hard to promote diversity across the automotive industry and some of the participants attested to this by proving some of the OEMs are already hitting these targets. However, much work remains to be done. In the US, only 19.2% of dealership workforce are female – 5% of the General Managers and 1% of service technicians (NADA Dealership Workforce, 2018). As a result, 75% of women who enter a dealership feel misunderstood (Bank of America) and leave without purchasing a car.

The effort to attract diversity should not stop at bringing women onboard. The industry needs to work on initiatives and changes that retain this talent – flexible work, fair promotions, equality in the treatment and overall appeal of the job should be considered too. To achieve this, work needs to start much earlier. Starting in the classrooms, educating girls, showing them professional opportunities in the industry and getting them closer to female automotive role models so this career path is normalised very early on.

Diversity needs to be extended to reach new generations. Preferences among millennials are changing from buying to leasing and sharing. Participants agreed that current decision making needs to expand to include the preferences of those that will need cars in 15 years. The industry needs to keep an open dialogue, and open mind, to understand emerging trends and customer preferences so they can devise strategies to accommodate the needs of future buyers. Not all commuters will want to buy a car, there are other options and it’s important that brands are open to listen. A strong brand narrative will revolve around the vehicle and how it fits the needs of their audience, regardless of how the car is used.

Sharing Customer Data With Government For Better Involvement

The automotive industry is desperately playing catch-up when it comes to addressing government-led restrictions and regulations to tackle climate change. Initiatives like the recent announcement by the UK government to push forward the ban on diesel and petrol car sales to 2035 have a huge impact on their bottom lines. OEMs need more support and closer alignment with governments to be better prepared in the future. The consensus is that by working together, industry and governments will be able to devise better future plans. 

The current low-carbon footprint vehicle market is filled with uncertainties and unknowns. Governments need customer data to understand future customer trends and be prepared for any changes that might happen. The EV market needs greater support from the government to create the infrastructure required to incentivise consumers to buy electric cars. Initiatives to set up wireless charging points are good first steps but more needs to be done.

Freespee – Learnings from the automotive sector 

During the event participants shared the challenges the industry is currently facing and the steps to be taken to reinvent themselves. 

  • OEMs need to work with technology companies, partners and governments to build future-proof business strategies that better prepare them for future challenges. The global assumption lies on the need to keep customers at the centre of the spider web of decisions. How effectively this is done across all communication channels (web, marketplace, phone and in-store) will boost their brand, engagement and ultimately position in the market . 
  • Strong new narratives closely aligned to the customers’ needs are essential. OEMs need to maximise reach consumer interaction, on-line, by phone and at the dealership to present their value to customers, today and in the future. Dealers must have within their immediate grasp much better knowledge of the customers’ journey in real time and address those needs on the spot.
  • To represent a changing customer base OEMs will need to embark on a complete transformation driving diversity to the workplace, attracting new leadership and skill sets. The transformation will impact their business model too, through a digital transformation that will make possible the delivery of a seamless omni-channel strategy that enables them to talk and engage with customers the way they want. 

OEMs need to focus their efforts on bringing this customer voice forward, and use the insights to redefine and develop their narratives successfully into the future, in partnership with their dealership and retail touchpoints. You can find out how OEMs and their dealerships can overcome these challenges together, here.

Freespee has a track record in helping OEMs and their dealers gain insights on customers’ intent, by tracking online and offline behaviour and their perception on the customer experience received. This data helps companies get closer to their customers and deliver a better, more personalised buying journey that accelerates sales. To learn more about Freespee please contact us here: hello@freespee.com

Predicting Caller Intent

Predicting Caller Intent

Written By Tim Wirth

Today and tomorrow, Paris is hosting VoiceTech — an annual event discussing ideas and innovations around voice technology. 

A key theme is brands can really gain insights from phone conversations to improve the customer experience and increase sales revenue.

This year, VoiceTech includes some great talks covering a wide range of topics covering all aspects of voice technology, including: AI, IVR routing, biometrics, sentiment analysis and voice bots. 

These are technologically sophisticated solutions that help companies identify people’s intent after they have spoken, and can be used during or after phone calls.


Understanding Phone Calls, Before They Even Start 

The words people speak, the way they say those words, the timing, the tone of voice… can all produce a mass of data to be digitised and analysed.

To gain a fuller, more complete picture of the caller’s intent, you can look at what each caller was doing beforehand, and what drove them to call you.

  1. If they have been on your international luxury holiday website searching for holiday locations and have spent the last few minutes looking at pictures for one specific location — they probably want to book a holiday there.
  2. If they have been looking at the FAQ pages on your website to see how they can switch from another energy supplier — they probably want you to become their energy supplier. 

Understanding the caller’s online behaviour before they call you, gives you a more complete picture of their intent and gives you the opportunity to improve the customer experience.

For instance, in the first example you could send that caller to an agent who speaks their language. And if they have started an online booking process you can pass that booking to the agent.

Similarly, if you are the energy supplier, you may decide that a new customer switching to you takes priority over a support call, so their call is answered next.

Club Med and Total Direct Energie

Two leading companies, Club Med and Total Direct Energie, are innovative customers proving how valuable it is to understand caller intent.

By combining data from website visits, CRM systems, marketing technologies, and phone calls they have both delivered superior customer experience and commercial results.

Speakers from Club Med and Total Direct Energie will be sharing their experiences at VoiceTech.


Reasons to Understand Intent Before the Call

  1. Training Machine Learning
  2. Call Routing
  3. Prepare Your Agent
  4. Marketing Attribution

1. Training Machine Learning

The technology for understanding speech is progressing rapidly, especially around machine learning. 

One of the key practical issues we are seeing with machine learning implementations is how to build high-quality training data that is specific to a client’s business context, terminology, and languages.

As our Head of Product, Jeremy Hamill-Keays explains in “Learn to Make Stew Before You Implement Machine Learning” machine learning for voice and speech, requires high quality training data that is:

  • Very specific for each client.
  • Collected easily.

The more holistic the data, the quicker the machine will learn. Companies are looking to implement new strategies quickly to improve customer experience.

Long waiting times, busy agents, and repeated questions all add effort and friction, driving customers to look elsewhere.

Capturing the caller’s intent and recording the calls is a practical, effective way to build a high-quality training dataset. There are multiple, scalable ways to digitally capture intent data for instance:

  • Predicting intent from the caller’s online journey.
  • Asking a sample of callers to choose their reason for calling from a call to action widget.
  • Asking agents to manually categorise calls.
  • Sending callers a post-call survey widget.

2. Call Routing

The traditional method for routing inbound calls involves an IVR (interactive voice response). This legacy technology is very unpopular with:

  • 98% of callers wanting to avoid an IVR.
  • 40% of callers abandoning a call within the first 60 seconds of an IVR call.

By predicting caller intent and using a modern cloud-based call routing, each call can be routed directly to the most appropriate agent or queue.

This gives you the flexibility to route calls:

  • To give highest priority to the calls that are highest value or most urgent.
  • To direct calls to people with the right skills to handle that call.
  • To give new agents calls that are easiest to answer.

3. Prepare Your Agent

Understanding why someone is calling means you can prepare your call center or sales agent before they even answer the phone.

Presenting agents with contextual information helps them to have better, more successful sales conversations. For instance, you can show your agents:

  • Details of the products they have been looking at.
  • Information from their previous calls or interaction with your company.
  • Where they are calling from and if they are using a mobile phone.

Providing agents with insights into intent can help close sales more quickly, and it can help provide a superior customer experience.

4. Marketing Attribution

Full visibility over the entire customer journey, from responding to a digital ad or billboard, to browsing your website, through to making a phone call and purchasing in a retail outlet allows you to attribute and optimise your marketing.

Marketing teams need to know:

  • Which campaigns, ads and keywords are driving calls?
  • Which calls result in a positive sales outcome?
  • The actual revenue generated.

By tying that data together, you can optimise your marketing campaigns by investing in the most effective channels, campaigns, and keywords.


Coming to VoiceTech 2019?

If you are coming to VoiceTech 2019, see how Total Direct Energie and Club Med are leveraging pre-call caller intent data to improve customer experience and commercial results.

“Looking for Growth? See How Total Direct Energie Benefits from Voice Data”François RommelHead of AnalyticsTotal Direct Energie
26 November 2019Salle Ateliers B15:30 – 16:00
“How Club Med’s Omnichannel Strategy is Driven by Voice”Amina ChaabaneHead of Digital Sales B2BClub Med
27 November 2019Salle Ateliers B14:00 – 14:30

Please stop by stand D03, and find out how you can understand more about the customers calling your business, and how you can improve customer experience and commercial results.

Real Estate Trends 2020

Property Portal Watch Team

Written by Martin Aarestad and Jakob Kolsmyr

Last week we attended the Property Portal Watch conference in Madrid. 400 real estate professionals from around the world came together to share ideas, trends, and best practices around some of the burning issues facing real estate today and in the future.

We also had the opportunity to have insightful conversations with some of our customers, like Paul Wicks (shown), EMEA CTO at JLL, and with a wide range of other real estate experts.

Key themes people were discussing for 2020 included:

  • The shift towards a hybrid model
  • The focus on iBuyers
  • Getting closer to the transaction


Digital Transformation Has Started. A Bumpy Ride for Some

For the last 5-10 years the real estate industry has predicted a digital transformation to cater for the ever-increasing needs of tech-savvy and informed consumers who want to take control over the buying/selling process, instead of relying solely on estate agents.

Startups are disrupting markets globally and are proving that a fully offline experience is no longer viable. These startups don’t have the legacy technology and process issues that established players have to contend with. This means they can deliver a digital customer experience to attract buyers and sellers to their websites and apps, provide all the property information required, and manage viewings — completely online.

But, a fully online experience is not an option either. The woes of purely digital real estate agencies here in the UK, such as Hatched and Emoov are well documented, and even PurpleBricks has seen their share price tumble.    


Hybrid Required — Digital and Human

As we heard during the event, the real estate industry is shifting towards a hybrid model. This model uses digital tools combined with human interaction.

Buying or selling a property is a high-value, complex purchase and people want to engage with a human. They need to talk to an agent face-to-face or over the phone, to proceed.

Both buyers and sellers value the trust and safety offered by a human real estate agent. The agencies having the most success are training their agents to be more like consultants. A good example is Swedish startup Norban, as founder Adrian Miller explained during his excellent presentation “How Hybrid Agencies are Disrupting the Traditional Real Estate Industry”.

By working in a closer relationship with agencies, portals will get closer to the transaction. This symbiotic relationship will open the door to a change in their business model and the possibility for portals to offer new additional services to customers.


iBuyers

One way for property portals to get closer to the transaction is to actually purchase properties as an ‘iBuyer’. In many markets around the world, iBuyers are challenging the traditional ways residential properties are bought and sold.

Using extensive data and technology iBuyers value your property and offer to buy it at a date you choose. They offer simpler, more convenient alternatives to traditional home selling.

  • Saving time and hassle — no viewings, decorating, repairs at the last minute.
  • More control over moving dates — reducing other costs like bridging loans.

The main challenge with this model is that is very cash demanding, since you are buying the properties yourself and turning them over.

iBuyers are taking risk and providing a valuable experience for sellers in return for a greater margin. This market is becoming increasingly competitive and uncertain, with more pressure on margins.

To be fully successful, iBuyers will need access to extensive data on properties, sales, liquidity, demand, and real insights into buyers’ profile, their behaviour and purchase journey. Success requires turning human and digital customer conversations into actionable data to sell properties quickly.


Closer to the Transaction

The common driver of the models listed above is that all real estate players want to get closer to the transaction. They want to offer more value-added services to provide a superior experience and improve their margins. Many real estate portals (marketplaces) may move from a subscription-based model to lead-based, moving closer and closer to managing a part of the transaction.

As new models emerge, they disrupt traditional, established business practices across different markets. Real estate market leaders are being challenged by fast moving startups that are getting closer to the transaction and generating more value for the agencies. The market players offering the clearest value will ultimately have the most control.


Improving the Customer Experience

The digital transformation taking place in the real estate industry is showing parallel trends we are seeing with marketplaces and portals in other industries, such as luxury and automotive.  Even though it will be difficult to move to a 100% online transaction, there is plenty of room to improve the overall experience for buyers and sellers.

Over the last 5 years, Freespee customers including some of the most successful real estate services firms have been leading this digital transformation. They have been supporting users throughout the entire buying journey, and providing agencies with full visibility from lead generation and media attribution, through to lead management and actual revenue.

Interested in digital transformation for your real estate services? Get in touch with us.


Learn To Make Stew Before You Implement Machine Learning

Machine-Learning-Call-Category

Written by our Head of Product, Jeremy Hamill-Keays

In the Rhondda Valley, in darkest deepest Wales, there are certain questions which have only one answer.  One of them is ‘Who makes the best cawl?’  The answer, of course, is “my Mam”.  As you’re probably wondering, cawl is a hearty stew beloved by the Welsh.

With winter drawing near here in Sweden, I started to long for a bowl, so I phoned her up and asked for the recipe.  It’s not a secret so here it is; I highly recommend.

  • Pot of water
  • Chopped up neck of lamb
  • Whatever root vegetables are in the cupboard
  • Parsley
  • Salt/pepper/herbs to taste

I was slightly confused; how could it be so vague?  Shouldn’t it be exact weights and measures?  My mother scoffed, and told me then it wouldn’t be cawl.

Making cawl before Wales’ next big game (World Cup 2019)

The Need for Training

At Freespee, we work heavily with providing a frictionless user experience including routing calls directly to a destination such as a high value sales queue. Freespee contains many services to optimise sales leads and one of these is predictive routing.  

Developments in machine learning are making large impacts and have huge potential to drive customer experience improvements; that gold member needs to be looked after.

While machine learning has many advantages over rules-based systems, it suffers from a couple of  major drawbacks. Before you can use a machine learning technique, the system needs to be taught, and obtaining training data can be difficult. It also requires that multiple sources of data are used to reach a level of sophistication required in the modern digital world.

There are generic machine learning engines which claim to do things like call categorisation “out-of-the-box”, however real-world testing often proves that to be inaccurate. They are not adapted to any one customers data set or business.

Good, accurate training set data is essential for commercial use and this is what holds back many machine learning projects. It is important to have multiple sources of data.


Your Recipe is Unique

So, what has this to do with Mam’s cawl?

Well, a little like her recipe, machine learning requires a mixture of ingredients all working in harmony; with the exact ratios changing from company to company, and over time. 

Get it right and it works really well, which can make a significant impact on your business.

At Freespee, we have concentrated on ensuring that the data needed for machine learning engine implementation can be easily collected in many ways.  

As an example, a speech analytics call categorization service can be trained with data derived from the pre-call Call To Action (CTA) widget, which asks a percentage of visitors what’s the reason for their call. 

The CTA improves the visitor experience and is a low friction method of data collection. It can then be combined with data from CRM, IVR, or from “outcome” fields, completed by agents using Freespee softphones such as Freespee Talk and mobile apps. 

Each company has unique needs, so we feel this holistic approach is better; technology adapts to people, not the other way around. 

So if you are offered a speech analytics solution, ask – how difficult will it be for a training set to be built and does it match your process? How many ingredients or data sets are used to optimise the engine and provide an ability to adapt to an ever changing environment? Or better yet, get in touch with us to find out more.

How We Can All Learn From Lost Luggage

Talk Web Version

Written by our Head of Product, Jeremy Hamill-Keays

A friend of mine posted a photo from a recent trip to our “lads” Facebook group. His airline took his, and just about everyone else’s, cabin bags and put them in the hold. The reason, they announced, was the lack of room in the cabin overhead bins. As you can see from the picture below, the flight took off with the cabin storage nearly empty. Needless to say, my friend made it to his destination, his bags didn’t, and the particular airline didn’t exactly get a high NPS from him.

But, is the poor customer experience in the example above confined to flights? If you look closely, you will see this situation replicated throughout your everyday life. 

Each day, millions of people visit websites looking for information or to make a purchase. Still, the majority of people buying something who have a question, prefer to call the relevant company. Data shows that 54% of visitors prefer to speak with an agent than type in a web chat, a figure that will keep on growing, especially as the mobile phone has become the main device used for web browsing.

The web visitor, becomes a caller, and is then routed through an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) menu system, an automated process that provides a never-ending list of destination options. IVR menus are unpopular with callers, causing many of them to abandon, and many reporting the dial-in options are unclear. After pressing the required digits, the caller is then connected to an agent, who starts the conversation with a long list of questions to understand the query and provide the required help. 

If this customer journey was a flight somewhere, it would be equivalent to having to take multiple flights, instead of a direct flight. We would be required to check-in our hand-luggage only to have it get lost at every flight transfer. Maybe this is the way forward to combat climate change, but as an experience is it not one any of us would aspire to. 

At Freespee, we like direct flights and we like to ensure the luggage arrives to the destination with you. Great service relies on quickly helping a customer finish a purchase or get the answer to a query. Many web chat systems now send the web visitors’ browsing session information, also referred to as online context, to the agent in the chat. However, when it comes to the phone channel, many people assume there is little that can be done. However, there is absolutely something that can be done and by taking some simple steps you can vastly improve the customer experience.

As an example, a person who has completed an order form but is stuck on the payment page is most likely calling to complete the order. Freespee uses the information from the web journey, the caller’s online context, to predict their intent and automatically route this particular call straight to the high-value sales queue, completely removing the need for an IVR. This seamless call experience removes friction for customers, while it helps agents exceed their sales targets and glow with success.

Here at Freespee, we have been helping our customers accelerate sales opportunities in this way for many years.

The functionality doesn’t just stop at removing the IVR. Agents can be shown, in real time, the caller’s online context, which helps turn painful interrogations into pleasant conversations. This personalisation promotes great customer service and delivers a highly individualized buying experience. Agents are also happier and far more engaged with the caller. Customers remain loyal and NPS scores benefit.  

The final upside is shorter average call handling times (AHT). Some of our customers have reduced AHT by almost 50% and have cut costs massively by no longer having to ask questions.

Freespee has several implementations to allow predictive routing and context to be shown to agents, so regardless if your current solution in old or new, or if you want a new softphone solution, our team will be happy to help you.

Want to learn more about our sales acceleration features? Take a look here. Happy landings all.

Speech Analytics

Freespee Speech Analytics captures keywords from phone conversations to help you attribute calls to marketing efforts and accurately predict callers’ intent.

Our speech analysis solution is easy to activate and will enable you to start tagging and attributing calls immediately.  Accurately anticipating your callers intent will help you create better call routing workflows, prioritise high-value leads and even attribute missed calls.

Some of the benefits of using Speech Analytics include:

• Validate intent prediction settings. Segment your audience based on their online journey behaviour, use speech insights to validate and improve your segmentation and lead management rules.

• Reach 100% correct attribution. Combine audience segmentation and call insights to attribute calls, including missed calls.

• Optimise your operational activities. Minimise low value calls by improving online marketing messaging to allow agents to focus on high value callers.

• Create improved lead management strategies. Use call insights that prioritise revenue driving leads by creating tailored workflows for sales and service calls.

Anne de Kerckhove: Celebrating my Anniversary as Freespee CEO on International Women’s Day

Anne de Kerckhove_Freespee CEO

As an active promoter of women in leadership roles, celebrating my work anniversary at Freespee is particularly meaningful as I started my tenure of CEO on International Women’s Day. What a year it turned out to be!

Freespee grew by over 58% in terms of top-line revenue with fantastic brands across Europe. We grew the team across Sweden and London hiring so many brilliant, interesting, quirky people. Each person who works at Freespee has a unique history, unique passions and unique talents. Some are great musicians, others body builders, some are ex-skiing champions, other great cooks. Most have travelled the world and explored different cultures. The more I get to know my teams, the more I discover their great unique stories and journeys. Two passions tend to bring us together: a love of discovery and innovation.

I tried to push the topic of diversity of gender, backgrounds and nationalities every day.  I push our Freespee teams to let go of their boundaries, their fears, their pre-conceived notions of other people to become one unified team, in love with its diversity. With over 15 nationalities across the company, we don’t shy away from discussing the particularities of each country. We talk about them openly and laugh about our differences.

Beyond my work at Freespee, I mentored 8 women towards the next step in their career through the INSEAD mentoring program, amongst others and I invested in 3 companies with female co-founders.

As a speaker at many conferences, I push audiences to explore their desire to take risk, to create change, to build new different teams. I often talk about the taboos most people shy away from.

As I reflect on the year gone past, I wonder: have I done enough? Am I having impact? Am I creating change?

Society still has so many stereotypes, so many pre-conceived notions about our roles as men and women in society, about what is acceptable.

One of the most telling moments for me this year took place in September. I was a guest speaker in Paris at a conference for Les Sommets du Digital. Half an hour before my speech, I broke the zipper of my trousers. It was annoying but I certainly was not going to let it ruin my night.

 I tried to hide the issue with a long flowing top but I am a very animated speaker and within 30 seconds of my speech starting, everybody in the room could tell my zipper was undone. A sea of panic hit the audience and I could feel it sweep across the room. As I finished the speech, I explained to the crowd that my zipper had broken, that I was aware of it and laughed about the joys of speaking on stage and managing the unexpected. The crowd immediately sighed of relief and joined me in laughing about how uncomfortable the situation had made them feel. Together, we had almost let a tiny piece of metal take over this conference and our shared experience!

We need to see past our differences and learn to let go! We must learn to see beyond appearances and learn to truly see the people that surround us. We must focus on positive impact in everything we do.

In a time of political uncertainty, of conflict and social media manipulation, it is more important than ever to take a deeper look and to see past the superficialities.

Despite some good progress it is frustrating that in 2019 we are still talking about the challenges of building equality in the workplace.

The truth is change won’t just happen because we want; tech leaders – men and women – must keep pushing for it on a daily basis.

Anne de Kerckhove: How I Maintain Balance In Business

hackathon 2018

Anne de Kerckhove_Freespee CEOOur CEO, Anne de Kerckhove, shares her thoughts on growing a business with multiple teams in different countries and striking a balance despite geographical distance.


Managing teams remotely across borders

This is an exciting time for team building. Thanks to the accessibility provided by modern technology, we as a global community feel closer than ever. In business, communication with multiple teams across borders is commonplace and has changed the way we share ideas. While the management of cross-cultural teams comes with its challenges, keeping our core values consistent across all continents maintains unity and a common sense of purpose.

Beyond this, it’s important to remember that every office has its own culture and way of operating and these differences should be embraced and celebrated.

One way to bring it all together across locations is weekly touchpoints, on top of all the emails, Slack channels and other virtual tools. At Freespee we hold weekly video conference calls called “All Hands” where each European office dials in and share their achievements, successes and plans for the future and have a good laugh.

A love for travel and openness to movement is also essential to managing outside of email and chat. Team-facing meetings are great for morale and at times key decisions are better made and understood 1:1. We meet in person often and that will never be compromised.

Diversity

Gender and background diversity has been a major driving force throughout my career to date and I hope to continue to actively encourage women to join boards, and help both men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments.

As a leader in tech, I believe that to make things change, you must start from within and lead by example. Only then can you really make an impact.

Maintaining a north star

Enterprises like ours are made of moving parts. In the technology ecosystem, development is lightning fast and ideas are constantly exchanged and implemented. Maintaining a north star amid this change is how we keep our feet on the ground.

The north star metric, first established in Silicon Valley, is essential to our long-term growth and is arguably the single most important aspect of any business’ growth model. For Freespee, our north star is “powering great conversations.”

Every aspect of what we do is in reverence to this common goal. How do we make every moment of a conversation valuable for both brand and consumer? This focus on value is what drives the creation of new features, the rejuvenation of our product and the care for our clients, both present and future.

Creating connection cross borders

When making deals internationally, I’m well aware that not all strategies translate. Creating connections with clients across borders boils down to adaptation and an empathy for pain points. If you’re serving international clientele, make sure your team reflects this diversity, translate your website and get to know the culture of business in every region you cater to.

Learn more about Anne’s vision for Freespee here.

Anne de Kerckhove: Freespee’s new CEO joins us on International Women’s Day

international women's day

I am incredibly excited to be joining Freespee as CEO.

It’s always wonderful to lead a very talented team of many backgrounds and nationalities.

What perfect timing: I join on International Women’s Day. I have worked hard over the last few years to promote diversity at all levels of organisations: mentoring and financing female entrepreneurs, coaching women to join boards and helping men and women from all backgrounds and skills succeed in fair and equal environments.  Diversity is an essential success factor of any company. And anybody with common sense finally recognises that. But we still have a long road to equality of gender, ethnicity, backgrounds, particularly in the Tech and startup world.

I have a confession to make: I am a tech startup addict.

Over the last 15 years, I have helped lead 5 tech start-ups to profitability and IPO.

I don’t have a pension plan or big savings: I reinvest all my money into the next generation of talent and innovation. I have personally invested in over 25 new tech companies and set up and invested in 3 tech early-stage funds. I mentor over 10 founders a year, as a way of giving back to our startup community. I am one of the few female executives in the UK to sit on 2 public company boards in the tech and gaming space.

I love it.

It’s as exhilarating today as it was when I started. In fact, it’s more exciting these days. AI, Bots, big data, UI/UX, virtual reality all enable us to create amazing new immersive and personalised experiences for customers in B2B and B2C.

I did not start up as a natural candidate for tech startups. Both my parents were diplomats and far removed from tech businesses. But my brother was a child model and with his earnings at 8 years old, he bought our first Apple computer. We played every game possible for weeks and then we took the computer apart out of curiosity. I was hooked from that day onwards. Our household was littered with decomposed computers and games over the years.

My mother always worked and made it to the top of her profession, having come from a very modest background where her schooling was stopped at age 14. My sister and I had a natural role model at home. We never questioned whether we could be leaders. We thought all women were naturally designed to lead. My sister was fearless and left the house at age 7 to pursue her career as a dancer. She became a prima ballerina and choreographer by the time she was 19.  Role models are so important. They drive our behaviour.

At 17, I set up my first company: a travelling theatre troupe whilst studying at McGill University. That’s how I made money to travel around the world and live my passion for discovery and new cultures.

Then I became a banker…Can you believe it? In fairness, it was a fantastic learning experience and I was surrounded by great mentors. One, in particular, noticed that I was always asking too many questions. He realised I was not fascinated by finance but by what we were financing. He transferred me to a new project and innovation financing division. It was amazing. Our role was only to finance things that had never been done or created before. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and innovators in small and large companies.

I quit banking with his blessing and support and joined the camp of the MAKERS.

I have never looked back. It is very important to understand your true nature and your passions and to work in an environment where you can embrace them every day.

At Freespee, we are at the Inflection Point: when a company has found its market fit with a unique and superior product and is facing double-digit growth. It’s such an exciting time for us.

Our challenges will be to manage this hyper growth effectively:

We must stay true to our company DNA.

We must continue to recruit only the best.

We must continue to innovate to stay ahead of the curve.

We must continue to have our clients at the centre of everything we deliver.

We must empower our clients to have greater conversations with their customers.

We must continue to foster a culture of integrity and impact, of innovation and risk-taking and a culture obsessed with our clients and their businesses.

We must continue to grow the diversity within our business and promote young talent from all backgrounds.

We must push forward the best engineers, the best salespeople, the best customer service teams through constant training and empowerment.

We must drive a culture of joy and success amongst our teams and our clients.

We must create a culture where extraordinary things happen.

This is one of the biggest trends in tech currently across the world, pushing the boundaries to deliver the unimaginable. It’s not about a specific continent or country leading the startup scene.

From Elon Musk taking us to Mars, to Xavier Niel creating the world’ largest incubator in Paris: great people are making extraordinary things happen.

They refuse to believe in barriers and limitations. That’s the next generation of tech start ups and Freespee will be part of that.

Extraordinary requires risk. Risk requires diversity. Surrounding yourself as an executive or founder by people who think like you, who look like you, who come from the same school and neighbourhood as you, who share the same skin colour means you will never push the boundaries.

Worse – you will probably create a culture of exclusion and inequality, whether you wish to or not.

Creating true equality in Tech firms will require us to be courageous and bold, to stand up for what’s right, to make our common voices heard. Change won’t just happen. We men and women leading the tech world will make it happen.


Learn more about Anne on her blog here. 

Your local offices aren’t getting their leads correctly… here’s how you can solve this.

sales and marketing

Spoiler… it’s by making sure your customers get to them quickly, with the best experience possible.

We’ve mentioned the expectation economy before and the new reality of seamless experiences across touchpoints, so I’m not going to go into that again. 

But were you aware that your mobile audience – out-and-about; want answers now, not next week – are the most likely to abandon?

I’m sure that now you’ve seen it written down, it makes sense.
We know that 98% of callers use a mobile device to connect with brands. 
We also know, from our own data, that mobile browsers and callers are less likely to wait in a call queue (than those browsing from a desktop).

As browsing preferences move increasingly towards mobile devices, have you thought about how your strategy nurtures these customers?

In a previous blog post we discussed how you can use your customer’s digital profile to prioritise calls based on the device they are using to browse and call.

This week, I want to show you how the granularity of our segmentation feature can isolate specific device holders down to their precise geolocation and automatically route their call to your closest location.

Many companies with multiple local offices choose to advertise a generic switchboard number to visitors. Callers then have to self-qualify themselves in an IVR to be routed to the right (closest) office. However, we’ve seen that the fact that their call isn’t instantly connected causes mobile callers to abandon in high numbers.

Ten years ago, routing calls was easy – most visitors used landlines, which included the caller’s area code prefix, automatically providing their location. But times have changed and now most calls are made from mobile devices, meaning this is no longer possible.

Freespee uses the caller’s IP address to identify their geolocation and automatically route their call to the correct location.

This use case helps you to make the most of those customers who are making an instantaneous call and so want an instant answer. We want to help your customers get the answers they want, fast, before they abandon.

There are multiple ways of arranging geolocation data depending on the continent, country, region or area. Freespee logs this data to make it simple to adapt to the requirements each country or company might have.

    • Continent code,
    • Country code (2 digit),
    • Country code (3 digit),
    • Country name,
    • Region,
    • City,
    • Postal code,
    • Latitude,
    • Longitude,
    • DMA code
  • Area code.

To learn more about routing calls based on your visitor’s digital profile (this includes more than just geolocation!) click here.

Follow the steps below to route calls from a specific region to the nearest office:

1. Create the segment. We want to assign calls from specific Postal Codes to the same Region. The easiest way to do this is by using the advanced ‘Matches Regex’ comparator.

2. Now, define the workflow that these calls will be taken through.  Within Recipes select Advanced Assignment rule.

3. Create a new rule (workflow) for the ‘Region 2- Germany’ callers segment. Click on ‘Edit’ and then ‘Add Rule’. Define what office/team the call we be routed to and specify distribution method (cascading vs broadcasting).

Calls from postal codes matching this segment will be routed to the Sales team of that region automatically, and they will be broadcasted (sent to all team members at the same time) to remove the risk of missed calls.

In some customer regions, the IP address information might not be accurate enough. To address this problem, we can configure the Freespee Javascript to collect the caller’s GPS position, which provides an accurate reading of their location.


As always, if you’re interested in trying these new features, please get in touch with your Customer Success Manager. If you are unsure who that is, please email henrietta.lawrence@freespee.com

If you are not a Freespee customer yet, please email sales@freespee.com to book a demo.