Interview with Umesh Sachdev, CEO and co-founder at Uniphore

“Working together with the Tech Mahindra team, we’ll be able to combine the power of AI, automation and analytics to help businesses around the world reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and – especially important for the work from home era – improve security using advanced biometrics capabilities.”

Hi Umesh, please tell us about the role you handle and how you arrived at Uniphore.

Umesh Sachdev: I am the CEO and co-founder at Uniphore. My cofounder Ravi and I worked together during our time as students at the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida. We both had a passion for building innovative technologies that have the potential for massive societal impact. After coming up with one idea together that never really took off, we saw a huge need to bridge the communication gapsin the customer journey using voice and speech and came up with the idea for Uniphore. Since founding the company in 2008, we’ve grown into an international organization with almost 300 employees worldwide.

How has your role as a CEO evolved in the last 8 months, owing to the COVID-19 crisis?

Umesh Sachdev: The two biggest shift that’s happened for my team with the onset of the pandemic is definitely the shift to working remotely while maintaining a positive company culture and managing the strong demand for our solutions. We’ve always been a global team, but we also have a very strong in-person culture that I believe all of our employees treasure and an approach that our customers appreciate. As a CEO, it’s my job to be in tune with my team, how they’re doing and the challenges they’re facing. Before COVID-19, we could catch up in a meeting or maybe get an update as we pass each other in the halls. Now, I have to be much more intentional about my time, as does the rest of Uniphore’s leadership team. We need to actively check in with teams on not only deliverables, but overall morale because it’s much harder to get a feel for that behind a computer screen. While I’m certainly still looking forward to the day that I can welcome the Uniphore team back to our global offices and see everyone in person, I’m proud of how well we’ve managed this shift.

The second challenge was meeting the demands of a rapidly growing business.  At the outset of the pandemic, we did some research and found that during every pandemic and every economic downturn, contact center traffic exploded and CX becomes more important than ever. We needed to ramp fast to be able to meet our existing customers and then onboard new ones who can benefit from our technology. With the recent security challenges brought on by the shift to WFH contact center personnel, we’ve actually seen increased demand and many new opportunities. I’m so proud of this team for the way they have focused on scaling the team with bright, motivated people, but for their continued focus on innovation and customer success. We remain on track with our aggressive goals and have grown 300% y/y.

Tell us about your work from home technology stack. Which tools and platforms would you personally recommend to every CEO / Decision-maker in the company?

Umesh Sachdev: We are all about choice. Because we are still relatively small and nimble, we use products and services from many collaboration vendors including Microsoft and Zoom,

Tell us about the DNA of your Conversational Service Automation (CSA) solution.

Umesh Sachdev: When Ravi and I founded Uniphore in 2008, the technology demanded a certain level of literacy for consumers to use a smartphone and browse the Internet. The challenge was that more than half of India’s population was functionally illiterate. This made mosttext-based applications pretty useless. With that in mind, we set out to create technology that allows people to use their voice to communicates in many different languages and dialects and provide accessibility to services that were previously unavailable. We believe that voice is a powerful tool and that every voice should be heard.This is where the idea of Conversational Service Automation (CSA) was born. From there, we’ve continued to build our platform to include NLP technology. This allows us to provide an intelligent solution that caters to the conversation no matter where it takes place, whether it’s a chatbot or a phone call.

What are the core foundations of your partnership with Tech Mahindra? How would this partnership drive Digital transformation using IT infrastructure and AIOps?

Umesh Sachdev: The foundation of our partnership with Tech Mahindra is the idea of a next-generation customer experience. We will offer joint customers access to both Uniphore’s cutting-edge CSA platform and Tech Mahindra’s data and analytics expertise across multiple industries and verticals.

Working together with the Tech Mahindra team, we’ll be able to combine the power of AI, automation and analytics to help businesses around the world reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and – especially important for the work from home era – improve security using advanced biometrics capabilities to ensure the correct agents are logging in and protect the personal data of all involved. By working together, we’ll be able to facilitate the accelerated digital transformation call centers are facing as a result of the pandemic.

About Persona and Technology Insights

What is Uniphore and how does it improve marketing team’s efficiency in working with Conversational AI tools? What kind of market do you currently service?

Umesh Sachdev: Uniphore is the global leader in Conversational Service Automation (CSA). The company’s vision is to disrupt an outdated customer service model by bridging the gap between human and machine using voice, AI and automation to ensure that every communication on every call is truly heard. Through real-time customer analytics driven by AI and natural language processing (NLP), Uniphore’s CSA platform provides contextualized insights to help better address the needs of customers. More specifically, these analytics and insights helps businesses easily identify potential opportunities to market additional products/services that might be useful to customers based on their most recent interaction.

Uniphore serves a variety of industries including the telecommunications, health insurance and financial services markets as well as third party companies such as NTT Data, Tech Mahindra, and FirstSource.

What is the correlation between Conversational AI, CRM and Call analytics? How does Uniphore provide a balance / integration between these solutions?

Umesh Sachdev: All three areas must work together in order to provide customers with the best experience possible. CRMs are critical to providing agents with a history of interactions with a particular customer and may help to indicate why a person might be reaching out. Conversational AI helps to understand the emotion and intent of a call through real time analytics of voice – thereby providing agents with critical information they need to solve an issue and post call analytics and automation. Additionally, this ensures that all of the necessary follow ups are taken. All three of these areas are crucial to enabling the experiences that customers expect of today’s brands.

Uniphore’s products and solutions seamlessly integrate with Customer Engagement providers to connect and transfer data between customer interaction channels and the Uniphore’s CSA Platform. With the integration, organizations can leverage Uniphore’s AI and automation capabilities to deliver conversational front-end experiences to their customers on existing platforms.

Could you tell us more about the consumer expectations around working with a Voice / NLP based Martech tool? How do you solve the various data privacy related issues and challenges?

Umesh Sachdev: Call centers and customer experiences are a bellwether for consumer confidence and have become increasingly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as providing opportunities to build customer connections. In fact, according to a recent Uniphore survey, 76 percent of consumers plan to speak with a live agent when dealing with an issue and 59 percent of consumers are likely to recommend a company based on a positive contact center experience. The results also showed customers are growing more comfortable with the use of AI and automation technologies, especially if the technologies are used to assist a human agent.

Data privacy has always been a top priority for Uniphore. As more agents are working from home (WFH) due to the pandemic, data security and privacy are more important now than ever before. Voice prints are as unique to individuals as fingerprints, making them the best option for high-level identification for WFH agents. Uniphore’samVoice solution gives organizations an innovative option for WFH agent authentication, using voice biometrics. It works by identifying an agents’ unique voice patterns, including behavioral and physiological ones, to automatically authenticate them on an ongoing basis during the call and helping to ensure that a customer is sharing their information with a trusted agent.

Hear it from the pro: How do you see the role of AI and Machine Learning evolving in the Voice-based retail and Mobile marketing space:

Umesh Sachdev: AI, machine learning and NLP are playing critical roles in assisting call center agents to provide the best customer experience possible and with higher productivitythrough understanding the intent and emotion of voice and automation. As evidenced by the rapid adoption of Uniphore’s technology, consumers are becoming more comfortable with interacting with AI in conversations with call center agents and we can expect to see this trend continue in voice-based retail and mobile marketing.

What background / skills are you looking in candidates that apply for your IM product development / marketing teams?

Umesh Sachdev: Across all of our positions, Uniphore is looking for candidates who are proven analytical thinkers, problem solvers, have the ability to see the big picture and believe in the vision that the company has outlined. In particular as it relates to product development, experience in building SaaS based products that implement AImachine learning and NLP are a plus as well as working with Agile methodologies. On the personal side, we look for individuals who embody our cultural values. We put people, including customers and employees, first, and we expect those who join our team to have that same mentality. We’re looking for employees who are collaborative, empathetic and who have an innovation mindset.

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