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Drips’ Conversational AI Platform Gaining Unprecedented Adoption
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – September 27, 2021
CEOCFO: Mr. Evans, what is the idea behind Drips?
Mr. Evans: The basic idea is that big enterprises need ways to communicate with their audiences on a one-
We find that customers want to communicate with these brands and with each other, and the primary form of communication these days is two-
CEOCFO: Is this available today? What is the state of this type of communication right now?
Mr. Evans: I would say that it is an emerging category, meaning that texting has been around for some time. Many companies use different texting methodologies, but it is generally limited to chatbots. You may have seen these with a dentist or a doctor or a beauty salon that says, “reply C to confirm,” or “reply P for price,” or perhaps you get a text message from your airline that is letting you know the gate has been changed. That is more of an administrative “Push” message. Then you have coupon code delivery like Chipotle, for example, that sends out messages for coupons for guacamole and things like that.
The category that we focus on, what we call “Conversational AI,” is none of those. It is meant to be an emulation of a human conversation with the primary purpose of informing some audience members of an action they need to take. It could be to pay their bill, renew their insurance, enroll in Medicare/Medicaid, or even show up to an appointment. It’s really an emerging category right now because, up until this point, the technology was not available to emulate human two-
CEOCFO: What went into creating the product and how did you know when it was ready for prime time?
Mr. Evans: I do not know if you ever know when you are ready. I am a Mid-
We ended up building a chatroom, essentially — a two-
In the beginning, we had to do it all manually — and we probably did this millions and millions of times. Today though, Drips has managed around 600 million conversations, and we can automate even more. We can now enjoy a level of automation that most companies cannot get because they have not had all those conversations. Therefore, the more volume we do, the smarter the system gets; the smarter the system gets, the more volume we can do.
CEOCFO: What types of companies, what types of industries, are using your services today?
Mr. Evans: That is a great question. It is almost all in what I would call the “Services Industries,” like home services, or home security companies, financial services like credit repair, mortgages, etc., and insurances including carriers and agencies that support them. Healthcare is now becoming very big for us as well, which includes things like patient care coordination, reminding people to pay their bill, reminding them to enroll in Medicare/Medicaid, etc. All of these categories fall under a category that I like to call “Considered Purchases.”
Other SMS companies focus on shopping cart re-
CEOCFO: Would this be for conversations that the company generates, or could a customer or a potential customer start a conversation and be in the same system?
Mr. Evans: Yes, both. We do inbound as well. For example, if you send out a direct mail that says, “Call us at 1-
If an inbound text came in, we would know, based on the number that that person is texting, that they are interested in whatever the offer is associated with that number, and we can hold a conversation right then and there. Therefore, it could be customer acquisition, customer retention, upsell, or administrative. All in all, it is really focused around longtail asynchronous conversations. When people need to shop for the product or are unsure or have got questions, that is where we shine.
CEOCFO: Are you able to take the ornery customer and respond? Can it be understood if a customer says, “Please do not keep telling me ‘Thank you for that information,’ just answer my question?” Can the system respond? How do you handle the customer that may not be as pleasant as some of the others?
Mr. Evans: We do not have that exact problem because of its medium — SMS versus a call center. I know what you are talking about, though. The more common thing we see is over-
Depending on how bad it is, for example, if it says, “Leave me alone today, call me tomorrow,” there is no problem; we will schedule that. However, if someone said, “This is annoying, I do not even want insurance anymore,” our system would automatically detect that and remove them from the campaign. The response is binary — it’s either a negative, meaning that we need to remove the person from the campaign, or it’s positive affirmation where we will look to schedule the call, answer the question, or whatever else it may be. However, you have to remember that these conversations are over texting, and they last days or weeks, it is not necessarily the same as a live body.
CEOCFO: How do you reach out? To whom would you reach out in a company? When you are talking to the right person at a prospective new company, do they understand quickly? What do you say? What do you need to show them, so they recognize the value?
Mr. Evans: It depends on the industry. We will do much of the work for you depending on your business’ particular vertical, social proof, authority, case study, or testimonials in that vertical. It is much easier in many of the verticals that we operate in because companies know of us. For example, we are known as the leaders in this space in the insurance industry, so any insurance company looking for a solution will understand exactly who we are and what we do — because they have seen their competitors doing it.
With something like healthcare, which we are a little newer in, we have to go in and do the selling and do the analytics and get the case study and testimonials. The right person to talk to is generally someone that already works in consumer experience management. That could be the call center, CRM, sales, renewals, or administrative billing, but it is all about finding the correct use case that aligns with the stakeholders with whom we are communicating. For example, if it is one person’s job to get more appointments for 3-
CEOCFO: Why was this the time to engage healthcare?
Mr. Evans: It is the next obvious evolution for us. I think that verticals, when it comes to technology adoption, generally move at their specific speeds, and the bigger the vertical and the older the vertical or industry, generally the more risk-
CEOCFO: What comes after health? Is it too early to decide?
Mr. Evans: We are looking hard at global, meaning if we are doing it in America, there is no reason that we can’t do it in other countries. We are also looking hard at doing more with all of the verticals that we are already in. That means that if we are only doing acquisition, why not do retention? If we are doing retention, why not do administrative? If we are doing administrative, why not do resells?
CEOCFO: What has changed in your approach over time? What have you learned as more people and more industries are embracing Drips?
Mr. Evans: I have learned that subject matter expertise is key with these bigger verticals. Social proof is essential with these bigger verticals, so much of it is understanding the lingo — understanding what matters to the business, solving bigger problems versus just trying to tell people what Drips does in a way that makes sense to the enterprise. Instead of saying “clients,” maybe we say “members.” Or instead of “policy,” perhaps we say “term,” etc.
There are very different vocabularies that all these industries use. If you can have real subject matter expertise and speak their language and understand their problems, you have a much better chance of winning those businesses. However, if you go in and try to pitch, “We do conversational texting,” they are just going to say, “What does that even mean? What does that mean for me?” It has been a good learning experience talking about why it matters to the client, not why it matters to Drips.
CEOCFO: What is involved in an implementation?
Mr. Evans: Implementations are pretty straightforward for us. That is probably one of our biggest key differentiators versus some of these bigger omnichannel companies. We sit between the CRM and the call center, so all a client has to do is send us a person’s first name and zip code so we can target the correct time zone. That way, we’re not texting people at 6:00 a.m., for example.
As long as we know who that person is, what they want, and what the enterprise needs them to do, we can do everything we need to do. We can get going in a matter of weeks, whereas many of these types of AI chatbot systems often take large builds to get implemented.
CEOCFO: You talked about going global. What are some of the challenges in learning the language, not just only of the industry, but the idioms in a particular country or a particular section of the country that you might be entering?
Mr. Evans: As you said, it is the idioms, the regional dialect, and things like that. There are some general big swaths that we would tackle first, such as countries like the UK or Canada, but when you start getting into Latin America and others, there are many different regional dialects and linguistic nuances that will present a challenge.
The good news is that we have seen all the different ways, again, to say, “I am at the office,” including, “I am with my boss,” and “I am stuck in a meeting,” so much of it would be a manual transcription effort, where we would work with native speakers in different countries. We would work through our NLP model and automate most of it, but then the human piece would be a back check to ensure that the nuances are captured.
CEOCFO: When you are introducing Drips to a new client, do they understand the ROI? How do you project ROI for a system like this?
Mr. Evans: Our account executives look at the use cases. There are three categories: performance increase (how many more people will renew, buy, enroll, etc. due to our added benefit), cost savings (op-
The case studies are driven with a cost-
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“We find that customers want to communicate with these brands and with each other, and the primary form of communication these days is two-