That’s not an easy thing to achieve, is it? Well, Jonathan Anguelov and the other co-founders of Aircall have made it easy for you. As a sneak-peak to his talk during the E-Commerce Berlin Expo 2018, we’re releasing an interview where Jonathan explains how Aircall products can make your customers happier and your business more profitable.
Paulina, E-Commerce Capitals: You are the co-founder and COO of Aircall, a cloud-based phone system and call center software. What are the origins of this idea? Was it born in the Eureka-type circumstances – or is it the result of months or years of hard work and thinking?
Jonathan Anguelov, Aircall: A little bit of both. My co-founders and I were always astonished at how complicated it was to set up a basic phone system at our previous companies. I used to work on a trading floor in a bank, and I’d see IT teams spending hours getting a single phone line ready for an employee’s first day. And the work obviously didn’t end there. The maintenance was so constant that we were hiring additional personnel just to handle it. That made no sense to me.
So after agreeing on this initial inefficiency, we started asking more questions about business phones. How come when you call a company’s support line they never know who you are? Why do you constantly have to repeat your information to several agents? How, in the digital age, has no one developed a better experience? And that’s where the idea of Aircall was born.
We wanted a system that any company could set up in minutes. A phone that could be used for support teams, sales teams, or the entire company. One asset integrated with all the critical tools each team depends on (CRM, Helpdesk, ATS, etc.).
How fast did the company grow? How many employees were there at the beginning – and how many are there now? What were the milestones of your growth?
Extremely fast (once we started). It was just the four co-founders at the beginning and throughout our first year. But we hired aggressively over the next two years, opening offices in New York and Berlin. Today Aircall is approximately 100 people and counting.
Aircall provides a phone system solution for call centers, sales teams and customer support teams. From the point of view of your products, are these three areas different from each other or maybe they’re similar? All in all, they’re all meant to support effective, conversion-driven conversations?
They are very similar in the sense that they’re designed around the customer. One is to acquire customers, one is retain customers, and the other is to do both at scale. We think the best companies have both sides of the conversation not just covered, but connected. And our product helps all of their teams to have smarter, more productive interactions.
Aircall also integrates with CRM and Helpdesk apps or products such as Zendesk, Intercom, Salesforce, Helpscout, and many others. This is possible through CTI – Computer Telephony Integration – but how does it exactly work?
It’s a real problem when your phone is isolated from your everyday apps, so we found a solution for that. We developed a deep API that allows us to easily connect to any software we think could add value to voice conversations. These bridges help us push relevant info back and forth between tools, which ultimately makes lives easier and conversations smarter.
What makes Aircall disrupt the traditional professional phone system industry?
Our vision is to take away the pain of managing traditional professional phone systems and help companies focus on what really matters: their productivity and their customers’ experience.
We are disrupting the industry by offering a solution that’s simple to set up and flexible enough to meet the demands of any employee. This is made possible by our promise of easy operation and endless integration.
You have a strong educational and professional background in Finance – with roles in banks and Asset Management. How did you land in eCommerce and the SaaS segment? What was your way to the current point in your professional life?
At some point I was just bored of being in an industry where everyone complains about the market and insists everything was better in the past. It just wasn’t an environment I could be inspired by anymore. I can’t imagine what today’s recent graduates feel like starting their careers in such a discouraging setting.
But I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit burning below the surface. Even while I was preparing for a career in Finance, I was paying for my studies by running a mobile recycling side business. So I’d say my Aircall story is more the result of connecting with the right people at the right time than me trying to find a way into SaaS or eCommerce.
You’ve appeared on a number of industry events – according to your Crunchbase profile, there’ve been as many as 50 so far! Did you speak everywhere? How many talks have you given so far?
Every time we went to an event in the early days of Aircall, we either pursued or were offered speaking slots. We probably spoke at about 30 events in the past 3 years — so maybe 60% of the time.
What does speaking at industry events give you as a person – and Aircall as a brand?
First and foremost, awareness. We’re still a growing startup that needs to raise attention. Our solution is relatively new to the market, so IT specialists and telecom industry veterans still need help understanding how things can be so simple. It’s always interesting to explain what we are actually changing, how we do it, and why switching to pure software is such an advantage.
As for me personally, I know some of the sharpest business advice I’ve heard in recent years has come from the casual conversations I’ve had with other speakers off stage. There’s also an energy and excitement at events that you obviously can’t get sitting in your office.
‘The customer support, from ticket centric to customer centric’ is the title of a talk you will give during the Ecommerce Berlin Expo 2018. Can you reveal more details about this? What will be the key message of your presentation?
The idea of this talk is to explain how the best customer support teams in the world are changing their way of working. Basically, we’re in the middle of a mind shift away from handling tickets and toward understanding the people who submit them.
If executed correctly, this more personal approach can turn customer support into a profit center through increased loyalty and retention. But it all starts with equipping employees with the information they need to effectively tailor the conversation to the customer.
Why did you decide to pick this specific topic? How long will it take for you to prepare this presentation?
I chose this topic because I believe customer experience will continue to be the best way to differentiate an eCommerce brand. It is not all about creative marketing campaigns, it’s about delighting real people with the service you provide. That’s what launches the virtuous cycle of satisfying existing customers and attracting eager new ones.
Both good and bad experiences travel fast in the digital age, and you can only build a sustainable business off the former.
What do you want your audience to learn from your talk?
First, how the dynamics of power have shifted between brands and customers. Second, how support team performance impacts your entire business. Third, how to build the foundation for better customer experiences.
All Photo credits: Startup Begins