Amit Bendov (CEO) and Eilon Reshef
Cisco Investments, Norwest Venture Partners, Shlomo Kramer, Wing Venture Capital, NextWorld Capital
"All calls are recorded for purposes of control and improving the service." For most of us, this sentence, which precedes almost every call to a sales or support call center, goes in one ear and out the other. For Gong.io, it is only the start of a process, the aim of which is that the service really should improve, in a demonstrable way.
The startup, based in Herzliya and San Francisco, has developed software for recording, transcribing, and analyzing calls. Among other things, it examines the number of questions that the representative asks, the division of time between the representative and the customer (the ideal division is 54% for the customer, 46% for the representative), and the pause before the sales representative asks or answers a question (the right length of time is one second). It resembles soccer or basketball statistics, Gong.io CEO Amit Bendov's source of inspiration.
Bendov founded Gong.io in 2015 with partner Eilon Reshef, after they felt that they had identified an essential need with no solution. "Let's say that you called a communications company or banks and thought you were going to explode; is anyone going to do anything about it? After the sales representative hangs up, he or she writes a summary of the call in a few lines, which in any case won't reach management, so many deals are lost and no-one knows why," he says. "Our goal is to help navigate the call to the desired place. We're like a fly on the wall that listens, understands, and informs everyone one who should know. "
How do you do it?
Bendov: "Our system works through AI, which studies tens of thousands of interactions with customers. It gives the successful calls ending in a sale or a service a high rating and produces recommendations on this basis. These are suggestions such as asking more questions and listening, using certain words more frequently, and confining the call to a defined time span."
Doesn't this approach create formulaic sales calls?
"No, the recommendations vary from one company to another, one product to another, and one representative to another. The idea is to devise a personalized improvement plan for everyone in the enterprise. Not everyone can be an excellent salesperson, just like not everyone in soccer can be Messi, but if we take a middling sales representative and improve them by 10%, that's a lot.
"We identify the good representatives, define the 5-10% of what they do that is easy to teach, and thereby cause the others to improve. You're familiar with 'The Art of the Deal,' Donald Trump's book? We say that it's not the art of selling; it's a science. "
What specific recommendations have you given?
"One of our customers is a company that sells technological information to analysts. The system noticed that excellent salespersons talk more about privacy and security and less about integration or a sales point - and this is the recommendation that the rest of the salespeople received. With a different customer, which offers solutions for managing orders in restaurants, the system learned that successful salespersons talk first about the software and later about the hardware. When the rest of the employees applied this idea, sales went up 12%. These are changes that it isn't difficult to apply."
Gong.io also monitors e-mail conversations, and will soon begin analyzing Internet chats. "The way people talk is completely different from the way they write," Bendov explains. "A conversation is like a jazz melody full of improvisations, while a chat is a laconic dialogue. For the companies, the aim is to get sales by phone."
But consumers are switching to online all over the world.
"You don't need a conversation in order to buy a smartphone or a sports bracelet, but companies selling products like mattresses, hearing aids, or insurance policies prefer talking on the phone. Many websites publish a phone number in a conspicuous place so that you'll talk with them and not go to Amazon."
In addition to the satisfaction of the people phoning the call center, Gong.io also tries to make the service and sales representatives themselves happier. "This is a frustrating job, because they are between a rock and a hard place - between the customer's experience and management's expectations. Salespersons today are millennials - young people who expect you to help them succeed. There is 30% churn among salespersons and competition for talents, and training employees is a big investment. This is an angle that companies have to take into account. "
Do salespersons feel comfortable with having their calls monitored like this?
"When the atmosphere in monitoring isn't 'They're out to get us,' they like it. It's no different from what Fitbit trackers do when they measure pulse and movement. Maybe there's a little unease at the beginning, but they realize that it's for their good."
Gong.io is the fourth company led by Bendov, who was CEO of Sisense, a cofounder of ClickSoftware, and an executive at Panaya, sold three years ago for $200 million. At this stage, the company's system is only in English, with a focus on the US market, where it has huge customers such as General Electric, LinkedIn, and the Nasdaq stock exchange. In Israel, users of the system include startups like Monday.com and WalkMe, each of which was selected by "Globes" as the most promising startup in the past two years.
Bendov's company is not alone in this market. One of its competitors, Chorus, is also an Israeli company. "There are several startups working on an idea similar to ours, but the difference is in the technology and the market position," Bendov says. According to him, Gong.io's revenue is more than double that of its competitors combined.
What is the final goal of your system? To increase the enterprise's sales? To sell ice to the Eskimos?
"Selling ice to Eskimos isn't success. Success is selling them a heater and marketing ice to people in the Sahara. In the end, when the customer gives higher marks for service, he or she will be more inclined to renew the insurance policy or the cable television subscription. It translates into money."