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MarTech Series meets Gerstmann

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Robert Gerstmann, Co-founder and Chief Evangelist at Sinch recently took part in a Q&A for MarTech Series, read on for his thoughts on consumer messaging, RCS, CPaaS and find out what tech he can’t live without!

Tell us about your journey into enterprise communications

I’ve been working in mobile enterprise communications for over fifteen years. Prior to Co-Founding Sinch, originally named CLX, in 2008 I held Commercial Management positions at Mblox as Director of the Global Mobile Messaging business line and at payments service provider Netgiro/Digital River.

Tell us about the evolving state of the consumer message landscape

The rise of social communication has completely redefined how we communicate with our friends and family. Once the phone call was king. However, the emergence of SMS followed later by OTT-messaging applications like Facebook MessengerWhatsApp, and WeChat has laid the foundations for a more instantaneous and richer form of communication.

As a result, brands and businesses can now engage with their customers in a much richer fashion by embracing these new consumer messaging channels, which is where Sinch comes in.

How is personalized messaging finally making a huge impact on ROMI?

Personalized messaging leverages the unrivalled engagement and open rates associated with application-to-person (A2P) SMS, adds the rich media experience using images, audio and video provided both by MMS today and new messaging channels RCS and OTT tomorrow but does this in a completely personalized manner as opposed to the generic nature of much business messaging of today.

As a result, brands and enterprises are seeing significant ROI from these campaigns, particularly around customer retention. We currently work with many mobile network operators like AT&T and Comcast, who are using personalized messaging to offer consumers new and more rewarding mobile contracts, resulting in up to 17% annual reduction in churn.

Why should brands be excited about RCS?

Often billed as SMS 2.0, RCS represents a major upgrade to today’s business messaging experience. RCS enables brands to engage with consumers using color, images, audio, and video content. RCS also offers features and functionality such as real-time and group chat, as well as the ability to automate responses with a chatbot. Marketers can also see when and how a person has engaged with their message, providing a treasure trove of data through which to better understand customer behavior and help optimize communications.

This represents a major step-up to what is achievable with SMS and could ultimately replace apps as the primary channel for the brand to consumer engagement.

Are AI combined with A2P SMS still nascent in enterprise messaging? Can you share some use-cases?

Enterprises are beginning to understand how AI and enterprise messaging solutions can work together to enable a reduction in costs and improvement in customer service experience. For example, last year Walmart launched a text message powered personal shopper service called Jetblack – which uses AI to provide relevant product recommendations and thus save busy customers time. In many sectors, it’s these kinds of innovative solutions that are helping brands and enterprises to attract and retain customers.

The conversational nature of RCS and OTT are making AI-powered conversations between businesses and consumers all the more powerful with the prospect automatic many of use cases such as customer support to a large degree which will provide better customer experience whilst saving money for the business.

How is Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) driving the in-app Customer Service revolution?

In the last few years, there has been a major shift in what consumers consider to be good customer service. Consumers don’t want to wait on the phone to speak to their energy provider or queue at the bank to make a simple transaction. They want to access information whenever they need it, in the most convenient way possible. In most cases, this means via a mobile phone, which is why many new mobile-first businesses are prospering because when it comes to customer service they are typically able to offer something more innovative than the competition. For the more established businesses, this is a problem, as layers of legacy technology systems make this kind of app-driven customer service solution extremely costly to develop, with a long time to market.

CPaaS changes this, by providing a cloud-based communications layer through which brands and enterprises can easily integrate real-time communication services such as voice and in-app video calling, SMS, RCS and OTT into their existing applications, without having to build everything from scratch. As a result, CPaaS helps businesses to quickly roll-out innovative new in-app customer service solutions that keep customers engaged and retained, which is why enterprise spending on CPaaS is set to quadruple by 2022 to $6.7bn.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

We are doing this in a number of ways, but mainly we are working on making our data more available to our customers so that it can easily plug-in and support the next generation of AI-driven services and solutions.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Sinch is a technology company, so most of the people who work here already live and breathe it, so inspiring our people to work with technology isn’t really a challenge we face.

One word that best describes how you work

I lead by example, that’s three words.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

It might not be the most glamorous choice, but Microsoft Office Suite is an essential part of how I work, alongside email and SMS.

I’m also a big fan of Slack for staying in touch with the team, LinkedIn for networking, and Spotify for when I need some music.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading, The Savage Detectives by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t assume malice. As important with friends, family, and colleagues as with new people you meet. It makes it a lot more likely that you’ll end up with good relationships with most of the people you meet in life.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read?

It would have to be one of the executives at SalesForce, so let’s go with Marc Benioff.   Thank you, Robert! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.   First published in MarTech Series.