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AiThority Interview with Dan O’Connell, Chief Strategy Officer at Dialpad

Hi Dan, please tell us about your journey into technology space and how you started at Dialpad?

I started my tech career at Google. I joined when the company was a few hundred employees and left some 9 years and 50,000 people later. I was always on the GTM (go-to-market) side of the house, and specifically for Google AdWords. I spent a lot of my time building out the Inside Sales organization for AdWords and helped run that business as the Head of New Business Sales. I then followed my boss from Google to an up-and-coming ad tech start-up called AdRoll where I was the VP of Sales and scaled the business to over $100M. After 4+ years there, I had an entrepreneurial itch and joined Atomic (an SF-based start-up studio) as an entrepreneur in residence. That’s where I met Jim Palmer and Etienne Manderscheid who were the founders of TalkIQ: a real-time, speech recognition and natural language processing start-up. After a number of conversations with them, I joined TalkIQ as CEO, and we were on our way. About 18 months later, TalkIQ was acquired by Dialpad, and we’ve since integrated the TalkIQ technology into the world’s first real-time AI-powered communications application. I’m currently our Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and a member of the board — which is a long way of saying I work on a lot of different aspects of the business.


What future do you see for AI-based voice technology frameworks? Which businesses would benefit the most from adoption of voice for their various functions?

AI-based voice technology is going to have a dramatic effect on the way people work, particularly by reducing mundane and time-consuming tasks. Currently, automated speech recognition and natural language processing are used by businesses to capture conversations, generate transcriptions, take notes, and capture action items. At Dialpad, our Voice Intelligence engine can even gauge the sentiment of a conversation to help participants understand the overall tone.

This focus on understanding the tone and mood of a conversation will continue to be enhanced in the future. AI models will be able to analyze a conversation (based on the transcription) in near real-time to directionally predict customer satisfaction, purchase intent, and other outcomes.

As you can imagine, this technology will be beneficial to almost all businesses, but will particularly impact contact centers and sales professionals. The ability to understand future customer actions and overall satisfaction (based on their spoken words in a call and intonation / tone) will drive significant efficiency. They will be able to identify pain points, underperforming or high-performing employees, and which keywords correlate with sales or satisfied customers.

More generally speaking, in the not-too-distant future, AI-powered omnipresent digital assistants will be used to revolutionize the way we work. Akin to Siri or Alexa, AI assistants will respond to verbal requests to dig up meeting notes, call a coworker, schedule a meeting, and so much more. As you can imagine, this will free up employees from time-consuming, burnout-inducing tasks and allow them to focus on more creative aspects of their jobs.

Also Read: AiThority Interview with Kyle Rand, CEO at Rendever

Please tell us about the biggest challenges and opportunities you met in 2021.

The biggest challenge for us this past year has been accelerating growth and adjusting to remote / hybrid work. Fortunately, we’re a cloud communication company so when we had to go fully remote, it was like a light switch and we were able to remain connected and run the business seamlessly. The biggest challenge during this time was that we doubled the size of the company, and everything we did in person (onboarding, training, you name it) we had to suddenly figure out how to manage and implement remotely. We learned a lot, and came out of it with even better processes in place (along with a few new tools)!

The other challenge we faced was how to remain a leader in innovation in such a hot market (UCaaS and CCaaS). I joined Dialpad through their first acquisition which was more than 3 years ago at this point. Over the past 18 months, we’ve managed three other acquisitions (Highfive, Kare, Koopid) —  vetting those businesses and people, handling onboarding, and implementing the tech all remotely. I think the typical company does an acquisition every few years — so I like to think of us as the atypical company that isn’t afraid of challenges, seeks opportunities to be disruptive, and is willing to forge new paths. Needless to say, it’s been a fun year.

Do you think Voice actually improves overall customer experience management benchmarks for Marketing and Sales? If yes, please elaborate further.

Certainly. The ability to transcribe conversations in real-time and analyze them is a game-changer for marketing and sales professionals. Voice Intelligence can tell sales professionals in near real-time what the sentiment of their calls is based on what the customer is saying.

At Dialpad, our AI model for speech recognition and transcription has been trained with over a billion minutes of voice data to understand what the tell-tale signs of a happy or unhappy customer are, and if they are willing to buy. The insights can help sales and marketing pros deftly pivot during calls to improve customer experiences if the tone of the call is skewing negative. Taking that a step further, imagine the advantage sales and marketing professionals have if they can anticipate customer needs and questions before they even ask them – this is where we are headed.

Beyond in-the-moment conversations, aggregating voice data will paint a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t within the customer experience, so that marketing and sales teams can constantly change their approach to drive the desired outcome.

We saw how the IT and healthcare industry became one of the biggest adoption centers for voice technology in the COVID era. Could you tell us about the future of Voice-based AI/ML product development practices for the healthcare industry? How is it different to serve the healthcare market compared to other B2B markets? Any examples from Dialpad’s own roadmap?

Now more than ever, healthcare providers need a safe and reliable way to communicate with their teams and patients and many use Dialpad as their platform of choice due to our simplicity – most healthcare workers aren’t IT-savvy or don’t have the time to read documentation and how-to’s, so ease of use and deployment is key. However, the biggest difference in working with healthcare companies is the level of security and compliance they require to adhere to regulations like HIPAA. However, all communications across Dialpad are always encrypted to meet HIPAA compliance standards. Plus, our Business Associate Agreements and 30-day retention policies ensure the highest level of security across any device.

Voice technology is a massive time-saver for healthcare workers, helping automate tasks that take time away from patient care. For example, we have customers that leverage Voice Intelligence to automatically capture consultation dialog with call transcriptions that clearly distinguish between speaker’s note action items (ex: “You’re confirmed for next Monday at 2 pm”). These transcriptions also help streamline workflows and provide more personalized care for patients – creating an overall better experience for patients and healthcare workers alike.

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Your predictions for the year 2022 – what does your product development roadmap look like for the coming year?

Funnily enough, my predictions for 2022 are focused on the rise of predictive technologies. We are currently working on a feature that uses historical data within Dialpad’s Voice Intelligence technology to help predict customer satisfaction, churn, and purchase intent. If a customer says “Thank you so much, you’re a lifesaver” but doesn’t fill out the survey sent post-call to solicit feedback, those thanks used to go uncaptured. Fortunately, our Voice Intelligence can capture those sentiments to provide a more comprehensive understanding of CSAT, even if a company doesn’t get as many explicit CSAT responses as they’d like (which is often the case). I believe we are headed towards a world in which these kinds of predictive analytics solutions will become the norm, and will create efficiencies that we didn’t even know were possible.

Also Read: Predictions Series 2022: Interview with Anders Lithner and Alessio Fattore

Your thoughts on leveraging AI, analytics and automation for voice technology adoption:

At this stage, companies that do not leverage these technologies already are at a severe disadvantage – especially in this new hybrid world we live in. While businesses understand the value of data fairly well today, there is still a lot of education to do around why capturing and analyzing voice data, specifically, is critical to better understand both your customers and employees. Voice data truly is the last offline dataset, but once captured, the opportunities are limitless.

Dialpad recently acquired a company called Koopid that orchestrates written conversations across all digital channels. Because Dialpad captures conversational data in real-time from calls and meetings, we have the opportunity to connect two disparate data sources that would not typically feed into each other. So, if a customer calls your contact center with a question, we can pull all the past touchpoints that the customer has had with your business regardless of channel (voice/text/email/etc.). Have they complained on social? What was the purpose of the past five calls they made to you?

Once you have a holistic view of a customer’s aggregate data, you can feed that data to different parts of the business and truly optimize your operations.

Thank you, Dan! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Dan is the Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, and a board member, at Dialpad. Previously, he was the CEO of TalkIQ, a real-time speech recognition and natural language processing start-up that Dialpad acquired in May of 2018. Prior to TalkIQ, he held various sales leadership positions at AdRoll and Google.

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Dialpad is a cloud-based business phone system that turns conversations into opportunities and helps global teams make smarter calls–anywhere, anytime. We bring simplicity to the professional phone experience and some of the world’s most innovative companies use our platform. Dialpad’s products span video meetings, cloud call centers, sales coaching and dialers and enterprise phone systems–and are all infused with the latest AI technologies to help every business make smarter calls. Customers include WeWork, Uber, Motorola Solutions, Domo and Xero. Investors include Amasia, Andreessen Horowitz, Felicis Ventures, GV, ICONIQ Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, Section 32, Softbank and Work-Bench.

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