Opinions that matter: VOZIQ’s Co-founder Vasudeva Akula, PhD, on the potential of Artificial Intelligence

By February 17, 2020February 21st, 2020News, Trends and Research

VOZIQ’s Co-founder and Chief Data Scientist, Vasudeva Akula, was recently interviewed by Lynn Fosse, Chief Editor of CEOCFO Magazine. In this interview, Mr. Akula answered several questions pertaining to how the power of artificial intelligence can deliver breakthrough customer retention intelligence with a 500% ROI.

Lynn Fosse: Dr. Akula, what is the idea behind VOZIQ?

Dr. Akula: At VOZIQ, we use predictive intelligence to help recurring revenue businesses retain their customers effectively. Our intelligence helps these businesses take preventative actions across their entire customer base which can range from a hundred thousand customers to upwards of a million customers. It does this by predicting who is at risk of cancellation before they choose to do so, leaving enough time for businesses to develop necessary intervention strategies in the form of proactive care or targeted marketing.

Lynn Fosse: How does VOZIQ work?

Dr. Akula: We put our predictive analytics technology into the cloud to create a unified view of the customer. This unified view indicates what the customers are saying, who they are, where they live, how long they have been with the company, and so on.

When you think of companies with a million customers, you are looking at the huge volume of data that contains information about experiences of individual customers, their preferences, and expectations, when not met properly, result in elevated cancellation risk.

Our analytics crunches this unified data to create predictive intelligence, which is refreshed daily for every customer. We are able to identify who is at risk, why they are at risk, when they might cancel, and what would prevent the customer from canceling. We thereby enable companies to understand the moving parts, not only at the macro levels but also at the individual customer level.

We then integrate this predictive intelligence back into our clients’ CRM systems to enable them to drive proactive interventions before it’s too late.

Lynn Fosse: How do you implement? How do you start with a company? How do various interactions or various pieces of interactions?

Dr. Akula: We use Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud infrastructure to deploy this technology. We manage the servers. We develop predictive models. We provide APIs (what is an api?) to make it easy for our clients to take the predictive intelligence and put it back into their existing operations and systems.

VOZIQ’s deployment requires very little effort from our client’s IT resources. We deploy a lightweight data collection engine in the client network that extracts and delivers daily feeds of identified data sources into our machine learning application, which does the rest of the predictive modeling and scoring.

Lynn Fosse: What might you look at from a customer call that would surprise people?

Dr. Akula: Let’s look at a scenario that is very common. A customer, Ms. Lynn, called her service provider (out of nowhere) three times in the last week. Now, if the company has implemented VOZIQ, we would tell them that Lynn is trying to solve a problem. With VOZIQ, Lynn will be scored high on cancellation risk and various proactive interventions will be triggered automatically. So, when she calls next, she will be automatically transferred to an agent who is an expert in proactive resolution, as well as someone empowered to make offers to that customer.

Now imagine what would happen if VOZIQ is not in play. Let’s say Lynn is looking for an offer that she saw on the company’s website to lower her monthly bill. Imagine how her call with your regular call center agent would go: Lynn would say, “Hey, I see an offer on the website and I would like to take it,” and the agent – who is not aware that Lynn is an at-risk customer – would respond, “Oh, that is only available for new customers, not existing customers.” Lynn would likely settle for a competitor whose salesperson might have offered her a better package. This happens all the time.

Without an advanced analytics solution like VOZIQ, there is no way for these companies to know that Lynn is a price-sensitive customer, being at risk if not engaged immediately.

Lynn Fosse: Are you able to measure how long it takes to get to a representative, how hard it is to get to a representative before the call even starts?

Dr. Akula: No, we do not do that type of assessment. There are many systems that are in place to provide estimated wait times and similar call center metrics. We are highly focused on solving one critical problem our clients have. We do this by helping them understand the risk and satisfaction profiles of their customers along with the necessary intelligence to engage and retain them.

Lynn Fosse: Are there some variables that are more important than others that will jump out from a call?

Dr. Akula: From our work over the years, we definitely know that relying on only a few variables to understand customer attrition risk is a mistake. Customer attrition risk is very complex and to have a full understanding, companies should look for patterns that are different at various stages of the customer life cycle. They cannot simply look at a handful of variables that might’ve worked in the past.

To identify the complex risk patterns, VOZIQ leverages multiple data sources, both structured and unstructured. We analyze these with not one, but more than ten predictive models that extract insights about churn risk, price sensitivity, NPS, offer acceptance, and so on. Part of predictive modeling also gives us access to which variables are important so the business can optimize those variables.

In that sense, our portfolio of predictive models is unparalleled in the market.

Lynn Fosse: Do you find that your customers take action on what you find or do they sometimes sit on the information?

Dr. Akula: I myself have spent 25+ years in the industry, and the number one thing that I advise our customers is that all the intelligence is useless unless they act on it. To that end, actions are embedded within the solution we provide. It is meant to trigger very specific actions through customer care and marketing channels. On top of it, we also offer consulting services to ensure real business impact and outcomes.

Lynn Fosse: What, if anything, has changed in your approach over time?

Dr. Akula: When we started, we had a simplistic solution that relied on an algorithm to identify at-risk customers. Over the years, after analyzing hundreds of millions of data points, we understand that risk can arise at any point during the life cycle. For effective retention, you need multiple models to look at the risk and to understand which action will be effective.

Today, we have the capability to read data every single day and uncover every opportunity to create a happy customer, retain an at-risk customer, know what the best offer is, and even win back a lost customer.

Lynn Fosse: What is the competitive landscape? Are there any companies that provide similar services?

Dr. Akula: The competitive landscape for VOZIQ is fragmented. There are multiple players targeting parts of what we do but not the whole. So, there are business intelligence (BI) companies, custom data-science solution companies, dashboards and reporting tools, and so on. There are multiple solutions catering to call-center operations and analytics needs.

Similarly, many customer analytics players analyze customer data to tell you about customer experience or customer journey. We bring all these individual features together under one platform with a singular focus on providing the most comprehensive customer retention solution.

Lynn Fosse: How do you reach out to prospective customers?

Dr. Akula: Referrals by our existing customers has been the main channel for us. We also reach out to retention leaders with our insights through Forbes, email marketing, and LinkedIn.

Lynn Fosse: Why choose VOZIQ?

Dr. Akula: I would say, three reasons make VOZIQ an unbeatable choice for customer retention:

One, unlike many solutions in the market, VOZIQ’s solution is the least disruptive, has the shortest time to value, and can drive new retention actions within just 6-8 weeks.

Two, with cloud-based strategy and ready-to-go retention models, we make it possible to realize the full benefit of AI-driven customer retention, without breaking the bank.

Three, the solution was developed by professionals who have spent 100+ combined years in delivering successful customer analytics solutions for top recurring revenue businesses. In addition to making this expertise available to our clients, we provide unlimited data-science support, which is unique in the industry, to ensure our clients maximize their ROI.

If a subscription revenue business is looking for the most sophisticated customer-retention solution in the market today, and need a proven solution that can deliver upwards of 500% ROI on their investment, they don’t need to look any further.

This interview was originally published on CEOCFO Magazine.

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