In this Leadership Insights video interview, Mike Vizard speaks with Ivan Ostojic, chief business officer of Infobip about the role of the communications platform in the digital age.
Michael Vizard: Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insight series. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today we’re with Ivan Ostojic, who is chief business officer for Infobip, and they’re a provider of a communications platform as a service platform. I guess that’s a platform as a platform there. It’s a little double double, but that’s just the way the industry rolls. Ivan, welcome to the show.
Ivan Ostojic: Thank you, Michael. Great being with you.
Michael Vizard: Ivan, we have seen that everybody and his brother is doing some sort of digital business communications play. I mean, it’s part of their overall strategy, but I wonder if we underestimate the importance of this capability because it seems to me we’re all focused on building some great new application without figuring out how to engage folks. So what is the role of communications platform in the digital age as they say?
Ivan Ostojic: Early in my career I learned that every digital transformation encompasses three layers. Infrastructure, application, and customer experience layer. And with the exception of selected few in IT and tech, most of people get excited with customer experience layer. So your assertion is a hundred percent right in my view. People usually ignore what’s under the hood and go for a shiny object, but our industry and our platform is essential to enable digital transformation because we power many B2B2C platforms like MarTech platforms, marketing automation platforms with ability to tap into communication world because we connect world of infrastructure telco data centers through our platform and application layer with the world of CX. And as I said, we power many B2B2C platforms with various channels that enable companies to communicate with their customers and many B2CM enterprises with ability to boost their conversational transformation where they can move their support into conversational channels or their marketing into conversational channels.
Michael Vizard: Do you think organizations are still living in this world where they think that the customer only communicates on one channel at a time? Seems to me everybody I know is much more omnichannel oriented. They’re using text and email and various messaging apps and they expect to be able to communicate with somebody on the other side no matter what the medium is and have them know what they’re talking about regardless of what medium the previous conversation was used for. So are we living in a world where the vendors that are trying to drive these processes need to have a little more dexterity in their communication?
Ivan Ostojic: Yeah. I think depending on the geography, of course, email is still very dominant channel and people have large customer bases lists in their emails. And so even if you have very small conversion rate, you still get something out of it. But actually what we are seeing increasingly around the globe, including United States, is that people really kind of are moving away from email and the effectiveness of the channel is dropping and they’re much more responsive. In an appropriate way, businesses reach out to them through messaging channels.
So we are seeing 4, 8, 10 times conversion rates on messaging channels like WhatsApp in certain geographies than on email. And so I agree with you, people are really omnichannel and they will use various channels based on their preferences. So some of the things they’d still want to have an email, some they would rather do on the web while they’re shopping. And then the other use cases would be best served through rich communication channels such as WhatsApp, Apple messages for business or Google RBM, so Google rich messages for business. So those are just some examples and we are very excited with this trend ability, what we can do in these rich channels and ability to drive impact in marketing support or conversational commerce.
Michael Vizard: How much do you think that these digital transformation efforts just fell? Because we didn’t get the communications part of this, right? The customer experience was suboptimal and everybody focused too much on, I built this great new app and it runs up in the cloud, but they didn’t really think through how they were going to get people excited about using it.
Ivan Ostojic: Very good question. I cannot give you an exact percentage, but I would think many because companies suffer from two things. One is so-called pilotitis disease where they pilot something small and then it never scales in an appropriate way. And the other one is myopic focus on, as you said, one channel thinking about the app and the cloud and not thinking through the whole journey, the entry points, the onboarding flows into the app, and then appropriate follow-ups. And I think quite a few digital transformation failed, maybe to say it was not a complete disaster, but they were not as effective as they could be if they really used all magnitude of channels that they could approach, so full palette, and if they even kind of personalize those channels to different consumers. So you might like to chat with the business, I might like to call, the third person might like to email and over time they could build big databases with those preferences and send to customers communication on their preferred channels at the right moment and try to reinforce that message to other channels. Very few businesses actually do that.
Just to conclude the answer with one insight, we recently done together with IDC omnichannel research in Europe and we found that only up to 20 to 25% of companies are truly omnichannel with integration and data exchange around it. Around 50% are a bit stronger multi-channels, they use maybe two, three channels, but without real integration. If you call a call center, they won’t know that you spoke to a business via text and that’s in this 50. And then around 13 to 25% are really kind of dominant one channel and other is just ad hoc. So that just tells you we are talking a lot for ages about omnichannel, but actually when it comes to practice it’s not really materializing.
Michael Vizard: We hear a lot about all things artificial intelligence these days. How do you think that might impact the whole customer experience and when I’m using a platform like yours or something similar?
Ivan Ostojic: I think actually we are seeing in consumer research that it already has impact on perception and that’s the first step in a big impact because in the past, just until six months ago or maybe a bit more, consumers thought of bots as something stupid where they will get stuck and not solve their problem. And consumer sentiments in our research that we are doing have dramatically changed in the last few months. They really think now bots are intelligent thing which they can have conversation. So I gave this pretext to my answer just to understand that now we are at a unique time of history where finally ChatGPT has teased up the imagination of people what you can do with bots, and I think this will have a huge impact on customer experience, especially at the, let’s call it level one colloquially so that they can get instant answers to their questions, that they can do instant exploration of the product and have a feeling like they’re conversing with a human. When in fact, on the other side there is a linguistically capable machine that can connect various data pieces and serve it to a customer.
And our platform is quite interesting. We already did some first deployments at scale for customer support. That worked magnificently. MPS went up for more than 10 folds, response time went down, resolution time went down because a lot of queries are just basic queries. Also for marketing gamification, it also kind of boosted this. So we are just at the start of this. But the other truth with platforms like ours, you need to expose these spots through some sort of a channel to a customer. So it’s an AI solution plus the right channel at the right time that will drive this change in the experience. And that’s why we are very excited with the opportunity that this gives to us and company like ours of what you can do to transform customer experience. But I think the impact will be immense.
Michael Vizard: Do you think organizations think through the processes well enough? I mean, if I look back in time, so many of the so-called new processes are really just the digital version of the previous paper-based process or whatever they had in place and they didn’t really go through and say, how do we tune this for the actual experience or the end device that somebody might be using? So as we look at AI and all these capabilities, will that start driving re-engineering efforts of these workflows?
Ivan Ostojic: I mean, I have to say they’re good and bad. Of course there’s some glorious examples how people have driven digital or AI transformation that led to real productivity and customer experience increases. And then there are just people who do what you say. So transcribe existing processes in a digital world and that rarely works. So I think the real recipe is process reimagination or transformation and then digitization of that transform process. And this reimagination happens with deep understanding. How can technology help you reimagine?
So I think we have some really good examples of people doing this and we have some very bad examples and a lot of people are just doing it to jump on a bandwagon without thinking it through. So I think what we typically see, if you do proper customer experience research, co-creation and design, and then work back from that blueprint to use technology just as a mean to achieve that transformation, that actually leads to spectacular results. If you just give to companies like ours, here is a blueprint of my existing bot or whatever other process, just digitize it, yes, you’re right. It sort of does something but it’s punching much below the weight.
Michael Vizard: There are a lot of communications platforms out there these days. What ultimately differentiates one from the other from your perspective?
Ivan Ostojic: I think Infobip has a specific view on this. We think infrastructure is immensely important because your communication needs to be secure and needs to be uninterrupted 24/7. So you need high availability, high redundancy, everything else. So there is no hiccups. So I think number one is the infrastructure, power of communication platforms. Many of them are just relying on other people’s infrastructure and so forth. Number two is the true integration of multiple channels such that you have one-stop shop to streamline all the activities. So magnitude of all possible channels natively integrated into one platform because that also enables you to extract the data. So that integration of the channels. The third one is platform capabilities. So just as an example, we recently launched [inaudible 00:12:42] X that help our platform customers or other customers automate their processes when working with us, reduce engineering times, get onboarded faster.
And then the fourth thing at the moment is really the engagement tools. Do you have all the engagement tools that you need to either partner with us if you’re a platform or deploy in the communication channels to drive further your conversational transformation. And in the near future, because at the moment we are just experimenting, the fifth element will be AI products and capabilities embedded in the platform. At the moment, these are just announcement and beta pilots like we have many as well, but actually very soon this will become products and that’ll be the fifth point of differentiation.
Michael Vizard: What is that one thing or a few things that you see customers still doing that makes you shake your head and go, folks, I think we’re better than this. We can do better, we can be smarter.
Ivan Ostojic: Oh, I give you an example that was a big eye-opening moment to me. And it comes back to earlier point of our conversation around omnichannel. So we were with the retail customer and they were telling us how they’re running their WhatsApp campaigns and they said, hey, we actually send them kind of a survey question with a menu and ask people, hey, do you like this product? They would click yes, and after two or three clicks, we give them a voucher or QR code, not actually even a QR code, but just a voucher code with letters delivered to their WhatsApp. So that comes back to both great question you ask about omnichannel and about the customer experience. So that means putting yourself in a customer’s shoes that you then need to go from this platform into another platform, copy the code with a simple copy, put it somewhere and then buy. And then they’re saying they see a big drop-off and big conversion, a big drop in conversions there. And I’m like, well, no wonder.
What you should have is a true omnichannel integration. So when somebody clicks yes in your WhatsApp, it’ll be automatically updated in their cart in your app, and at the end of the flow you should have a seamless handover from one channel to another, i.e from messaging channel to your app. So what I really think, going back to your questions to wrap up this, I think people really have to become on an end level of detail omnichannel, really thinking through the experience and then it’s a lot of seamless integration work across multiple channels into one data platform so they could have end-to-end visibility of the customer journey.
Michael Vizard: All right, folks, well, you heard it here. There’s too much friction in the communications that’s going on. We have a failure to communicate because of that friction. So you need to take a giant step back and figure out how to make this a lot easier for folks. Ivan, thanks for being on the show,
Ivan Ostojic: Michael, thank you so much for hosting me.
Michael Vizard: All right, and thank you all for watching the latest edition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insight series. You can find this interview and others on our site. We invite you to check them all out. And until then, we’ll see you all next time.