Cloud-based software helped call centers remain open—from home
Kathie Johnson was only a few months into her role as Talkdesk’s CMO when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Before the crisis, Talkdesk was enjoying growth in a traditional industry, providing cloud-based software for contact centers—rooms filled with customer service representatives answering questions over the phone and via chat. Before the pandemic, more than 3 million people in the U.S. worked on location providing customer service. Now they had to do it from home.
There was no playbook for something of this magnitude, which Johnson knew was a challenge for Talkdesk, whose cloud-based solution could help. Convening a SWAT team from product development, operations and marketing, it took the company just days to develop a product that would help customers and other contact centers to continue operating.
How long did it take to get a new product offer in the market?
We looked at the capabilities we had within our own solutions and how we could package and bring these out to market to help companies. I pulled a team together and within 36 hours we were ready to go, which is pretty fast. We launched our first offer, Talkdesk Boost for Business Continuity, on March 4 to include the product, the implementation—everything. It helps organizations that want to move away from their on-premise solution and we’re able to, within two weeks, get their employees remote. We had it in the market one week before "business continuity" started trending on Google Trends. After that we launched Talkdesk Mobile Agent for our customer base: We could help them get their employees fully functioning on their phone at home within 24 hours without having to make costly hardware acquisitions.
How did you anticipate the business continuity problem?
As marketers, we all know that a company's brand is its most important thing, and that right now, consumers are terrified—they need to reach health providers, financial services, and so on. Contact centers sit at the epicenter of brand perception because they touch every area of the consumer life cycle. So if your contact center isn't operational, then you're not able to provide the experience that your customers expect, which then damages your business short-term and your brand long-term. We really wanted to think about how we could help companies.
How did your team respond so quickly?
Perhaps it helps that we work for a company that's super agile and our solution itself is highly flexible. We're constantly following the news, listening to what we're hearing from customers and prospects, and looking at their pain points, because there's no playbook for this. None of us have lived through anything like this before, so we’re always thinking about what else can we do to help the community at large, our current customers and those who aren't our customers today.
How have these moves affected business?
We're seeing incredibly shortened sales cycles. Where our sales cycle for large and small accounts might have been 150 and 30 days, respectively, now our sales cycles are sometimes just 3 days long. We've had to be super responsive in supporting all of this given five times the level of interest in our product overnight. Not only do we have this explosive interest but then we also have an opportunity to help companies who are struggling. As good corporate citizens—which is how many other companies are behaving—we have a lot of free offers for companies struggling financially.
How do you balance the opportunity to help while avoiding the perception of profiteering?
The language I use internally in the company is, “I don't want to be a vulture.” There's a fine balancing act between helping the community, in which I believe strongly, and taking advantage of it. This is a true leadership moment for leaders and companies, especially for those that have solutions that can help in this time of need. We take a holistic view of the whole business. It's about how we help companies get their own people safe by being remote, how we help companies find new talent that's trained and ready to run, and how we make sure that every marketer in my team is doing the right work to help that happen.
Did you need to make changes to your team?
We really had to think about marketing differently. All of a sudden there were no face-to-face events. How do you redeploy your team quickly from roles that are no longer relevant to roles that are? How do you take your event people and field marketing people and figure out what their other strengths are? I spent time working through each individual on the team and now we have a major business continuity program with individual owners for each stream within that. So that's part of how we really rallied and got everything out market so quickly. It's about finding that right balance between being there to support your people but also motivating them to keep going, to do this extra lift.