Gregg Johnson, CEO of Invoca, and Kenneth Kinney, VP of Marketing and Digital Strategy at Ai Media Group, discuss some best practices in call intelligence platforms, performance marketing, data privacy, and customer experience on Ai Media Group’s “Advanced Intelligence” show.

0:14
Kenneth: Gregg, welcome to the “Advanced Intelligence” show.  I’ve been a longtime customer both on the brand side previously and now at an agency.  I’d love if you’d explain what Invoca’s technology is and how it helps performance for both brands and agencies.

0:29
Gregg: Great, well, first of all, thanks for having me.  It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.  We love working with Ai Media and personally I really enjoy your podcast and always enjoy when we  can catch up.  So Invoca is a conversation intelligence platform that’s really focused on helping revenue teams acquire customers and drive sales and revenue for their company more efficiently.  What that means is in a lot of industries where you have relatively complex goods, consumers will go Google search for something.  They’ll come on the website.  They’ll read and learn a little bit more.  Then oftentimes, as part of the buying process, if you think about a complex product, like getting a mortgage, or in healthcare, or sometimes telecommunications, a lot of consumers are looking for advice on what’s the best product or service to buy because it’s either expensive or it’s a multi-year relationship.  They’ll have a conversation with somebody in the contact center from that company.  Ultimately, that is the path to purchase.  So with Invoca, we’re really trying to help optimize that entire buying experience and help brands and agencies understand which digital marketing dollars are having the most impact on those conversation-oriented sales.  Where are there hiccups or problems in the buying experience that you can optimize so that ultimately, whether you’re a brand marketer, performance marketer, or an agency, you know with confidence that you’re spending your dollars in the most effective way to ultimately help drive results.

1:55
Kenneth: I’ve always been a big fan of texting and chatting and any other kind of way as well that we can use….whether it’s Twitter or email.  I think people forget how easy it is to have a complex sale for any kind of product or service.  What is it that a brand or an agency needs to do to really take advantage to get more out of the technology?  We have a patented attribution technology so it’s a little easier for us because we’re very technology-centered as well, technology-enabled if you will, and we’re able to plug in the technology to help us do even greater things.  Not all agencies are created alike so how does a brand or an agency really take advantage of getting the most out of the technology for paid media performance whether it’s on social or search or whatever?

2:46
Gregg: The great thing about our technology is, for most marketers that we work with, they already have some form of attribution system in place.  The weak point/the missing gap is usually just these conversions that happen offline.  Typically, when we work with marketers, if they’ve got a digital conversion path, they’re already getting that digital conversion data.  They’re already feeding that into like a Google Analytics or an Adobe analytics.  They’re already feeding that into the algorithms that they use to drive their paid media, paid social, paid search type of spend.  Really, what our technology does is it helps take this black hole of conversationally driven conversions and converts.  That transforms that into data that sort of fits into the digital-oriented models that most people have.  The nice thing about it is you don’t have to start from scratch with kind of redoing your whole conversion attribution methodology.  What the technology does is it really digitizes conversational interactions.  So, if you have an e-commerce checkout flow, you’ve got a bunch of conversion data you’re looking at from there.  If you’re a b2b company, you’ve got lead forms.  You’ve got conversion data from there.  Really what Invoca helps you do is take those conversational conversions, put those into a structure in a format where your agency /performance marketing team can leverage that data in the same way that they leverage digital conversion data.  It sort of fits into an existing paradigm and just helps broaden the scope of what a lot of agencies and performance marketers are already doing.

4:19
Kenneth: Well, we think about this so much I know with ad spend, with trying to increase conversions, but really want to focus a little bit here now on experience and how important this has become How can technology like yours and what you’re seeing and evolving with not just optimized ad spend, but also enhance the customers experience?

4:38
Gregg: Especially in the areas that we tend to focus, improving the customer experience, contributes to the business in the same way that improving ad spend performance does.  It drives revenue and sales for a company.  What a lot of our customers do is they’ll start off really focused on attribution and optimization on the media and marketing side.  Kind of get that under their belt and then one of the next things they start looking at is suddenly they’ve got much better insight into what the buyer journey is between that initial research and discovery phase and ultimately signing on the bottom line and buying something.  To give you a couple examples, oftentimes our customers are trying to understand why people abandon a digital experience and actually escalate to engaging with an agent in the contact center.  They might have some funnel analysis set up.  For example, if they have an e-commerce checkout flow, they’ll understand that if you’ve got a three-step checkout flow, they get much this much abandoned minute in step one; this much abandonment in step two; this much abandonment in step three.  What they don’t realize is probably half of that abandonment is not abandonment.  It’s escalation and it’s people stepping outside of the checkout commerce flow reaching out for help, but they don’t know why.  They don’t have that feedback loop to improve the digital experience in the digital conversions.

Another example that we see a lot is oftentimes, you end up with a consumer who will call in to have a conversation with someone.  They get transferred multiple times between various different teams.  They might go to the customer service team first. And then they go to a general sales team second.  If you’re in a multi-product company, for example, like financial services, where you’re selling mortgages, retirement products, all sorts of different things, then they get transferred another time to a product specialist team.  The more times they get bounced around, the more times they repeat their information.  There’s pretty much a direct correlation with how likely they are to buy from you.

Teams will use a lot of this information to really understand where are the gaps in our buying flow and what do we need to do to improve those, whether those in the digital world or the contact center world.

Oftentimes, another one is we work with a lot of companies that have physical presences out in the world.  So, like an automotive, it’s dealerships, or for example.  It’s banks with local retail branches.  They’re trying to understand staffing levels.  They look at the number of times that people come into the physical store to help determine staffing, but they also want to look at their call volume because they don’t have a centralized contact center taking those calls.  It’s the same person that would need a Kenneth Kinney or a Greg Johnson at the front door.  All these things are really focused on customer experience, but I like to think of the customer experience as a very broad term.  I think for us we are particularly focused on the buyer experience and how the buyer is engaging with you as a brand in the initial part of that relationship, which sort of sets the tone for the long-term relationship ultimately.  It’s a really important moment of truth.

7:44
Kenneth: (Kenneth picks up phone and puts it to his ear as if he were on a call) Can you hold on a second?  I’ve got a call a call center that keeps transferring me around. (laughter)

7:49
Gregg: (laughter) Exactly.

7:51
Kenneth: What are the challenges that you’re facing currently?  There’s so much going on in the world with data….everything with data privacy, whether it’s GDPR, CCPA, and everything else.  Call intelligence magnifies that even that much more.  What are you sort of dealing with and how are you handling all these changes?

8:09
Gregg: It’s actually I think, for us, we sit at one of the most personal interactions between the consumer and a brand.  I think we’re very fortunate in our business in the way that we serve customers is very much in the first-party data world.  We’ve been really trying to emphasize the importance of leveraging your first-party data for the past few years.  I think it’s interesting, given everything that’s happened with Google’s announcement over the past week and everything that’s going on with iOS 14.  Marketers are really having to embrace first-party data.  The thing that I find that’s funny about it is many marketers have had access to this data for years.  The third party data providers….I don’t think it was necessarily the quality of that data in of itself that was so appealing to marketers, but that was part of it.

What was actually I think, really part of that was, there were third parties outside of the agency, outside of the brand that did all the hard work to make that data ready to use and ready to activate.  It was sort of like I would come up to you, ‘Kenneth, hey, here’s an audience that you want to go by people interested in X, Y, Z, and Kenneth you don’t need to do any work.  All you need to do is like go spend some money and you can go activate against this audience.’  Whereas, I feel like on the first party data side, at least the traditional impression has been that in-house teams actually need to do a lot of the legwork around scrubbing data, organizing data, and all those sort of things.  I personally think that a lot of the challenges are not just around privacy.  Those are certainly there.  Those have certainly been discussed.  I think what gets in the way for a lot of brands, and maybe to a lesser degree agencies, is that first party data just requires a little bit more work in order to get ready to use because of the way the value chain in the industry has been, which is the third party world.  You had outside vendors who really did a lot of that work for you, but I think for us we’ve been very focused on how we work with a lot of banks.  We work with a lot of healthcare companies. We’ve been very focused on sort of the technology elements of data security and privacy.  I think the benefit for us where we happen to sit in the ecosystem is we’re very much at the touchpoint, an opt in touchpoint, between a consumer to brand and so that data is very privacy friendly.  It’s just about how you structure it and use it in a compelling way.

10:30
Kenneth: That’s a great point because I know even when I worked on the brand side and with Invoca it’s having to educate internally, the teams, this is actual first party data that you’re getting just by them being on the phone.  If you can figure out that you actually have that and how to optimize it, then it can do a world of good from a customer service and experience standpoint as well as performance.

Over the last year, it’s obviously been pretty nuts with COVID.  How have you and the team pivoted?  I know that you’ve got a great story about what happened with what you discovered when your office was vacated for a little while.  How have you sort of pivoted?  I know you’ve grown with a virtual team as well.

11:09
Gregg: Yeah, it’s certainly been a challenging year.  It’s been a hard year I think for everybody on a on a personal level and a professional level.  I’m a glass half full.  I’m an optimist by nature.  I’m trying to look to the bright side feeling more hopeful as we go into 2021 and we will all come out of this in a better way.

It’s funny.  We have three physical offices; one in Santa Barbara, one in San Francisco, and in Denver.  We basically sent everybody home mid-March of last year (2020).  Long story short, ended up finding that we had had 20,000 bees decide to find a new home inside of our building in Santa Barbara.  One of our people in culture team members periodically was coming in to check in on the office and discovered this.  We ended up having to get some professional aviary folks who know everything there is to know about how to safely remove the hive and transfer the queen.  It’s kind of like bee movies.  I didn’t really get that the bee movies were actually true.  They talk about the impact that smoke has on bees.  They were able to use some smoke and safely get the bees all set and move them out.  So, this is one of the funnier stories.  We never imagined that we would be dealing with a beehive inside of our office because nobody was in the office.  It’s been a good thing for us.  We were a multi-office company beforehand.   

We had started hiring remotely a couple years ago.  That’s accelerated.  I was really amazed Kenneth to find the other day, a third of our employees are now remote. I thought it was about 15 or 20%, but as usual the CEO is not often very right.  I think the good thing for us, the muscle that we’ve really built, is we were a very collaborative company before, but we’ve just doubled down on that.  We really tried to communicate a lot more frequently, a lot more explicitly.  I would say my biggest lesson in being a CEO that I knew beforehand but I didn’t fully appreciate is you’ve got to tell people something 3 or 4 times before they absorb it.  We’ve really doubled down on communication and collaboration and just try to be flexible.  Especially, there are certain populations, parents with young children, folks that are living with roommates.  It’s really trying to find ways to let them have as much flexibility as they can in order to get their work done in sort of challenging situations at home.

13:26
Kenneth: And you got to be authentic.  You’ve got to “bee” yourself.

13:30
Gregg: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely true.

13:32
Kenneth: That was a beehive joke. (laughter)

13:34
Gregg: (laughter)  I’m sort of surprised you haven’t seen my 7-year-old, or 12, or 14-year-old run in here in their underwear at this point because it’s early in the morning.  , but yeah, exactly. You know, he just you definit ely

I think it’s helped us realize as well, you know, that as much as we take work seriously. Like we’re all human beings.

13:51
Kenneth: Exactly. Exactly.

13:52
Gregg: I think you know, with customers, you’re trying to be all formal and buttoned up and then a cat walks by in the background and it just reminds you we’re all just human beings. (laughter)

14:01
Kenneth: (laughter) I’m looking for a shark to swim by in my ocean.

14:03
Gregg: Exactly.

14:04
Kenneth: Exactly.  Well, Gregg, thank you so much for being with us today on the “Advanced Intelligence” show.

14:08
Gregg: Oh, it’s always a pleasure.  It’s great to catch up.  I look forward to seeing you in person sometime soon.  It’s going to happen in 2021.  I’m faithful on that friend.  

14:16
Kenneth: Amen.