Interview with Yoav Degani, Founder and CEO, VoiceSense
By Sudipto Ghosh
February 19, 2018
Tell us a little bit about your role at VoiceSense. What lead you to found a speech analytics firm?
Prior to founding VoiceSense, I spent many years working in the defense and intelligence industries. During this time, I gained extensive experience working with signal processing technologies. At the same, I am a clinical psychologist and spent over a decade managing my own private practice. For me, creating VoiceSense has been a fusion of these two areas of my professional and academic background, connecting signal processing with analyzing characteristics of personality, emotions and interpersonal communications.
As the CEO of the company, I am obviously occupied with the daily management of VoiceSense and leading the business growth of the company. However, I remain strongly involved in the research and development activities of our speech and behavioral analysis technologies. I very much enjoy the challenge of in applying our technologies and products to new vertical markets.
What are the core competencies of SEAL?
VoiceSense’s SEAL solution brings an innovative new approach to predictive analytics by focusing on the behavior tendencies of customers rather than their demographic and historical information. Through the analysis of prosodic (non-content) speech patterns of a customer, such as intonation, pace, stress and more, SEAL can accurately predict future consumer behavior of a customer.
SEAL provides a fully automated process that can be used to analyze both recorded voice files and live audio streams. We use predictive models and signal processing techniques to accurately assess over 200 prosodic speech parameters. It is important to highlight that our technology is completely independent of language and content.
Based on this analysis, SEAL then evaluates the characteristics of the speaker and builds a behavioral profile, such as levels of risk affinity or aversion, tendencies for impulsive behavior and rule abidance, personal integrity, conscientiousness, sociability, wellbeing and so on. The outcome of SEAL’s analysis is a prediction score for a specific consumer behavior that is then automatically integrated into an enterprise’s decision-making processes and CRM data.
SEAL significantly shortens and improves decision-making processes and can be applied by an enterprise to a range of voice-based customer interaction scenarios to improve risk assessment, expand sales and increase customer retention. The solution also has additional applications for health and wellness monitoring as well as providing human resources personal profiles of candidates and staff.
How does VoiceSense’s predictive speech analytics help drive the ROI of marketing campaigns?
Our technology supports the marketing campaigns of an enterprise in two main ways.
First, when an enterprise is building a marketing campaign, SEAL can be used to better segment customers and define target markets. For example, a bank that is launching a new smartphone app might start by accessing demographic information stored in its CRM database. In this example, the bank’s Marketing Team might segment its customers according to age groups with the understanding that a young customer might be more attracted to the bank’s app. This is a good start, although this approach, that relies only on demographic information would miss out on customers in the older age groups who are open to using a smartphone app for payment transfers.
In SEAL, we build a behavioral profile for each customer that can be stored in the enterprise’s CRM system, which can include personality traits such as early adaptors, online buying tendency, brand loyal tendency, price/value consciousness, technological openness, and low tolerance for risk. In this example, the bank’s CMO leading this marketing campaign could target all the customers with the personality trait of being early adaptors. At the same time, this marketing campaign could be defined to avoid customers that are determined by SEAL to have a low tolerance for risk.
The second way that SEAL can improve a marketing campaign is with online decision-making guidance to the sales representatives. The system analyzes customer interactions in real-time and provides a go/no-go upsell indication to the salesperson – also in real-time – based on the behavioral match of the customer to the running campaign. This way the representatives can focus mainly on customers with high purchase probability, meaning those that are identified by our technology as having personality traits of being early adopters, online shoppers or similar tendencies, while avoiding those with low purchase probability. Moreover, the system would provide the representative with a sales approach recommendation during the call, based on the expected buying style of the customer – price, brand and so on – all through analysis of the customer’s speech patterns.
What industry verticals does your product find the most resonance in and why?
We are getting a lot of traction in the financial services sector. Our customers in this sector include banks, insurance companies, lending organizations and investment companies. These customers in the financial services sector are mostly using our technology to improve their risk assessment activities. For instance, we have a mortgage bank that is using our system during its presales processes to determine the likelihood that potential customers will not default on their loans. For this mortgage bank, SEAL alerts for potential customers that have personality traits, such as high-risk takers, low tendencies to abide by rules, impulsive and low personal integrity.
In reality, any enterprise that wants to increase its sales and strengthen its customer loyalty can benefit from our technology. We can anticipate consumer behaviors by pointing to customers buying and loyalty styles, such as brand loyalty, online shopping tendency, specific buying patterns and interests – price focus, innovation, conservative and so on.
How do you see CMOs integrating VoiceSense into their martech stack?
In addition to the scenarios that have already been described above, our technology can also be used in live operations to improve customer retention. Here, our system can provide customer service agents with real-time feedback for different types of go/no-go decisions. In this scenario, SEAL can provide real-time guidance and give an indication to the customer service representative during a routine call whether it is advised to take a retention approach with the customer, based on the predicted loyalty pattern of the customer. This can be taken a step further and we can even provide an indication of the retention approach that should be taken to address the customer, such as offering long term deals for customers that are identified as long term loyal, offering price discounts to customers that are predicted at risk of churn and so on.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
Since we are an Artificial Intelligence vendor ourselves, we certainly understand and facilitate AI adaption. Predictive analytics is an integral part of AI. Within AI, we bring the unique aspect of speech-based predictive analysis. Being able to analyze every customer interaction, profile the customer’s behavioral tendencies, predict his/her future consumer activity, recommend a line of action and doing all that automatically in real-time is certainly a good example of how enterprises can incorporate and benefit from artificial intelligence.
One word that best describes how you work.
I would say that the one word that best describes my work is determination. By this, I mean that I am thorough, forward-thinking and mainly very persistent in reaching the targets. Determination combined with strong creativity and innovation are reflected throughout every level of our company.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
There is not one critical app or software tool that I am using on a regular basis. I rely heavily on Excel and use a lot of its advanced features, although this may not be a popular or cool thing to say today.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
To be honest, I do not believe in shortcuts. As the CEO of an innovative technology company, you cannot rely on such things. To build and grow a technological company and execute on business plan requires a very systematic approach, a lot of patience and as already mentioned strong determination.
What are you currently reading?
Lately, I mainly enjoy reading economic and technology journals. I still enjoy reading feature articles in printed magazines, but they have to have some relevance – practical or theoretical – to the areas I am involved in to keep my interest.
What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Stay focused! I think my tennis coach first told me that when I was a kid, and since then I found it relevant in countless life situations, both professional and personal. Being able to distinguish between what is really important and all the background around, and focus only on the heart of the matter is really a good and important life guideline.
What is the secret to your success?
It is not easy to articulate a career full of experiences in a sentence or two. However, I would say that the main key that have helped achieve success throughout my professional life is a combination of vision and dedication. Setting exciting goals and then persistently driving to reach them keeps me motivated, enthusiastic and determined. These characteristics along with the ability to learn from past experiences have helped me grow as a manager and entrepreneur.
Thank you Yoav! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
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